The Green Spotlight
Some readers might wonder what I do when I’m not preparing posts for The Green Spotlight, as I almost never mention my (other) professional work in my blog posts. I am a sustainability writer, editor, and advisor, and I work on projects for a wide variety of clients.
This is a partial list of organizations and companies that I’ve worked with in recent years. For most of these clients, I have done writing, editing, and/or research (for printed materials or online content) related to some aspect of sustainability. Click on the links below to learn about the important and interesting work that these groups are doing.
- Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council
- Global Green USA
- Enterprise Community Partners (Green Communities program)
- U.S. Green Building Council, Northern California Chapter
- Partnership for Sustainable Communities
- Environmental Defense Fund
- David Brower Center
- New Leaf Community Markets
- Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery
- Industrial Economics
- Simon & Associates Green Building Consultants (now part of Thornton Tomasseti)
- Lehrer Design
Before I formed my own communications and consulting business, I worked for a public radio program (as a producer and reporter), a green building consulting firm (as senior associate), an architecture firm, and several environmental non-profits:
- Living on Earth public radio program
- Simon & Associates Green Building Consultants (now part of Thornton Tomasseti)
- Global Green USA
- Mostue & Associates Architects (now Davis Square Architects)
- Resource Renewal Institute
- ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability
I also used to regularly do freelance writing, and my pieces were published by the San Francisco Chronicle, Natural Home magazine (now Mother Earth Living), KQED.org, GreenHomeGuide.com, GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, and other media outlets. In addition, I authored a chapter of a book: Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing, edited by Global Green USA (Island Press, 2007).
For the past few years, my blog posts have been published on MotherEarthNews.com, as well as here on my own blog (The Green Spotlight). If you’d like more information about my writing, editing, and publications, please see Green Writing and Published Work or my Publications page.
It’s not always easy to tell which products are green, how green they might be, or in what ways they are green. There are no standard, universal definitions for the terms “green,” “environmentally friendly,” or “natural.” However, the FTC has recently created more stringent guidelines to prohibit marketers from making fraudulent environmental claims about their products.
Finding products that have achieved green certifications (from groups that have rigorous standards) can help you separate true green claims from “greenwashing.” So look for eco-labels from legitimate, third-party certifiers (as opposed to industry- or self-administered programs); several third-party certifiers are listed below.
Manufacturers that have had their environmental product claims independently assessed, verified, and certified by a third-party group can feature the corresponding eco-label on their certified products. Be aware that some certifications only verify specific single-attribute claims (e.g., energy efficiency, organic status, recycled-content percentage, indoor air quality/emissions, biodegradability), while others review multiple attributes related to a certain kind of product (e.g., forest products, paints, cleaning products, etc.). Green attributes can relate to the design, manufacturing, and/or operational (use) impacts of a product, or they can address the full lifecycle impacts of the product: from raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal/recycling/reuse.
Bear in mind, though, that many small companies can’t afford to put their products through a costly certification process, so there are some very-green products that do not have green certification labels. Therefore, it can also be helpful to look carefully at product ingredients and read up on the company’s claims and any outside analysis of those claims. But first, you should have a basic understanding of product stewardship and the criteria and attributes that might make a certain product greener than others of its kind.
Products’ green attributes tend to fall into these four general categories:
- Public / Environmental Health: pollution reduction during a product’s lifecycle (e.g., reduction of toxic inputs and by-products, and reduction of fossil fuel/energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing, etc.); protection of air, water, and soil quality and climate stability
- Individual / Household Health: minimized exposure to toxins/hazards for product users’ health and safety
- Resource Conservation: conservation of natural resources, including water, raw materials (e.g., trees, minerals), land/habitat, soil; reduction of resource extraction, resource use, and waste
- Social Responsibility: supports safe, responsible, and equitable labor practices, local economies, fair trade, human rights, humane treatment of animals, community vitality
[Note: I’ll be adding additional examples of specific product attributes within these categories soon.]
The following are some of the major certifiers of green product claims, as well as some other relevant standards, rating systems, and online assessment tools and resources:
General: Multiple-issue / multiple-attribute
- Green Seal
standards and certifications for numerous types of household and institutional products; see list below
- SCS Global Services
numerous types of certifications, including “Environmentally Preferable Product” lifecycle assessment; FSC; FloorScore; FairTrade; specific product claim certifications, e.g., recycled content, etc.
- Cradle to Cradle
comprehensive, multiple-attribute certifications
- UL Environment
ECOLOGO lifecycle certifications, as well as Greenguard chemical emissions certifications and single-attribute claim validations
- EPA Design for the Environment (DfE) Safer Product labeling program
Other general green product standards and ratings:
- GoodGuide product ratings (website and app)
- Consumers Union’s GreenerChoices.org tests and reports
- Energy Efficiency: ENERGY STAR
- Water Efficiency: WaterSense
- Chemical Emissions (offgassing): Greenguard
- Organic: USDA Organic
- Fair Trade: Fair Trade USA and Fair Trade International
- Animal Testing (Cruelty Free): Leaping Bunny (for cosmetics, personal care, and household products)
Industry- or Product-specific
- Forest Products (wood & paper) and Agricultural Products (including coffee) growing/harvesting practices: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifications, by Rainforest Alliance, or SCS Global Services
- Carpet and Rug Products: CRI Green Label Plus
- Green Seal (see logo above) also has certifications and standards for numerous types of products (e.g., household/cleaning products, hand soaps and cleaners, institutional cleaning products, personal care products, paints and coatings, printing and writing paper, windows, adhesives, paper towels and napkins and tissues, food packaging; cleaning services, hotels and lodging, and restaurants and food services, etc.)
- Flowers and Potted Plants: Veriflora “Sustainably Grown”
Other industry-specific standards, assessment tools, directories, and other resources:
- Building Materials: Pharos Project evaluation tool, and BEES lifecycle assessment software
- Electronics/Tech: Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (electronics, including solar technologies) and the Sustainable Electronics Initiative
- Clothing/Apparel: Sustainable Apparel Coalition/Higg Index, and the Global Organic Textile Standard, and Greenpeace’s Detox fashion campaign
- EWG (Environmental Working Group) publishes various consumer product guides (on food, cosmetics, sunscreen, cleaning products, etc.)
- Seafood: Seafood Watch
- Flea and Tick Products (for pets): NRDC’s GreenPaws Product Directory
Also keep in mind that companies that are greener than others (e.g., companies that have greened their internal operations and have active green commitments) are more likely to make and use green products. So also look for products (and services) from companies that have been certified as green:
- Green Seal certified companies (restaurants, hotels, cleaning companies)
- High-Efficiency, WaterSense Plumbing Fixtures
- ENERGY STAR Products for Homes and Businesses
- Less-Toxic, Low-VOC Paints and Coatings
- Sustainable and Responsible (Organic, Fair Trade) Clothing
- Flea and Tick Treatments that Won’t Poison Your Pets
- Green Goods: Beneficial Products and Gifts
- Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility
For additional information on green products, see:
- Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things [book], by William McDonough and Michael Braungart
- Greener Choices’ info on eco-labels and certifications
- Good Guide post on “Seals of Goodness”
- FTC green claims guidelines
- Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (for institutional/governmental/organizational product procurement)
- Buycott app
We post morsels of illuminating information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page every day. Anyone can view the page, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. But if you do have an account, we hope you’ll click on the page’s Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” the page).
Please visit the Page to get a sense of the wide variety of topics that it covers. You are welcome to comment on the posts and we hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your Facebook homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.
Here’s a sampling of topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last couple of months:
- SoKind gift registry / wish list website
- Fresh Cab: safe, natural rodent repellent (repels mice and rats)
- ELF solar-electric hybrid cargo tricycle
- Mosaic: Solar energy investment platform
- Solar power’s exponential growth and grid parity (cost competitiveness)
- New films: Disruption; Mission Blue
- Resilient: Soil, Water, and the New Stewards of the American West (short film)
- Global human population has doubled over the past 35 years (approx.)
- Drop-a-Brick: toilet-tank water-saving product
- Air-to-water technologies
- Indigenous Environmental Network
- International Dark-Sky Association
- Quotations, photos, videos, etc.