The Washington Post has an infographic on the incredible number of green labelsflooding the marketplace in recent years. Fair Trade, CertifiedNaturally Grown, Energy Star, FSC, LEED, OTCO, EPEAT…. How do you keep it all straight?
You don’t. Based on a survey by the World Resources Institute, Duke University and the green analyst BigRoom Inc., 600 labels worldwide dispatch some sort of eco -benchmark; 80of those are in the United States. As the chart shows, topping the listare food (90); retail (74); buildings (64); and miscellaneous industry(79), including things like pest control. This has spawned all sorts of turf wars between environmentalists about whose label reignssupreme.
More importantly, we no longer have any easy way to tell between honest intent and greenwashing. Most certification systems aren’tregulated at all, so unless you have a lot of time on your hands, it’simpossible to determine which are best. Coffee that’s USDA Organic orFair Trade? Wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or theSustainable Forestry Initiative? Even if something has a green cert,how do you know it actually meets the standard? And with so manydifferent labels on the books, how could you possibly keep track?Systems that were supposed to make it easier for us to consumeresponsibly have actually made it harder. And while rating groups like the Good Guide cut through all the B.S., there’s still no obvious solution for the store shelf, where decisions are actually being made.