green products

Ever since Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published in 1962 (sparking people’s awareness of health threats from chemicals, and leading to the ban on DDT 10 years later), an array of scientific studies have shown that various toxic chemicals and pollutants—in our air, water, soil, food, yards, indoor environments (homes, schools, and workplaces), and household and personal products—are causing or contributing to a myriad of public health problems. Such problems Basic RGBrange from asthma, allergies, headaches, and skin and respiratory conditions to serious reproductive/endocrine (hormone) problems, neurological problems (including learning disorders and lower IQ), birth defects, infertility, heart conditions, and many types of cancers. Recent studies have also linked chemical exposure to diabetes and obesity. Children and babies are particularly vulnerable to toxins, including through pre-natal exposures. And people in certain occupations (such as janitors, farm workers, and nail salon staff)—who have jobs in which they are regularly exposed to a stew of toxic chemicals—suffer from higher rates of certain health conditions than the general population.

Unfortunately, many toxic chemicals remain virtually unregulated, and existing regulations are not adequately enforced. Most products and chemicals that are used in products are considered “innocent until proven guilty;” they are assumed to be safe until it’s proven that they’re dangerous. But even when there is strong scientific evidence of the toxicity and harmfulness of certain substances, they are not always banned—or it can take many years of battles to get them banned. Known, probable, and suspected carcinogens and other harmful chemicals are in products that we all use every day. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the main chemical safety law in the U.S., but it is weak and outdated; it desperately needs to be updated and strengthened, but some members of Congress are currently trying to weaken it further, putting the profit interests of the chemical industry over public health.

A few of the most toxic chemicals/elements, many of which are still commonly found in products, CradletoCradleCertified-NoLevelinclude: mercury, lead, arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, PVC (poly-vinyl chloride—dioxin is a by-product), phthalates (plasticizers), flame retardants (PBDEs, TDCP, TCEP), cadmium, chromium, hexane, PFCs, trichlorethylene (TCE), and asbestos. And there are many other toxic chemicals and ingredients. See the Cradle to Cradle product certification’s Banned Lists of Chemicals.

Bear in mind that chemicals and pollutants that have negative effects on human health usually have (even more) negative effects on other species (pets, wildlife, fish, etc.) and on environmental health overall. Our air and water and soil are shared resources, and all living things depend on them for their survival and health. Some of the worst chemicals are classified as PBTs: Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic; these are toxic chemicals that are known to persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in people and/or wildlife (increasing in concentration as they go up the food chain).

All public health—and especially preventive health—efforts should start focusing on reducing environmental (and fetal) exposures to toxins, which means minimizing the production of toxins and pollutants at their source. The World Health Organization estimates that outdoor air pollution alone causes 7 million premature deaths (of humans) each year. If something else were killing that many people, it would be considered a public health epidemic.

The following organizations focus on health issues related to environmental exposures to toxins. Visit their websites to learn more about their efforts and ways that you can get involved:logo-ewc2

Center for Environmental Health 

EWG (Environmental Working Group)

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families

Silent Spring Institute

Coming Cleanschf_logo_site

Physicians for Social Responsibility

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX)

EPA’s Safer Choice product label

Union of Concerned Scientists

Several other broad-based sustainability organizations—including Earthjustice, EDF, Greenpeace, and NRDC—also address health and toxics issues, among other issues.

Among the many types of toxins that people are exposed to on a regular basis, some of the worst sources include: power plant emissions, and other oil, coal, and gas industry inputs, by-products, and emissions (including fracking chemicals); nuclear radiation; pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides (including atrazine and Roundup/glyphosate); building materials, finishes, furniture, and furnishings; electronics (manufacturing and disposal hazards); and personal care products (e.g., shampoo, sunscreen, toothpaste, etc.).

These groups are working to reduce harmful exposures to chemicals from the following, specific sources:

Pesticides / food:

Nuclear radiation:

Building materials:

Interior products (and building materials):

Electronics / tech:

Healthcare:

Cosmetics:

 

Books and Films

Living Downstream (book and film; book written by Sandra Steingraber)

No Family History (book and film; book written by Sabrina McCormick)

Other recent films on topics related to health, toxins, and the environment include: The Human Experiment, Unacceptable Levels, Toxic Hot Seat, The Atomic States of America, Hot Water, Blue Vinyl, and A Will for the Woods. You can find links to these and other films via the following posts:

 

Other health-related posts:

Share

March 16, 2015
1 comment

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, independent, 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, or 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. This is not an exhaustive list:

General: Multiple-issue / multiple-attribute

Certifiers/Eco-Labels:

  • Green SealGreenSeal
    standards and certifications for numerous types of household and institutional products; see list below
  • SCS Global Services
    4269numerous types of certifications, including “Environmentally Preferable Product” lifecycle assessment; FSC; FloorScore; FairTrade; specific product claim certifications, e.g., recycled content, etc.
  • UL Environment
    CradletoCradleCertifiedECOLOGO lifecycle certifications, as well as Greenguard chemical emissions certifications and single-attribute claim validations

Other general green product standards and ratings:

  • GoodGuide product ratings (website and app)ecologo-logo

Issue-specific

Certifications/Eco-Labels:

es_logo

WS-Meets-Logo[1](1)

untitled-1_37

 

 

 

 

130px-USDA_organic_seal.svg fair_trade_certified_logo-cmyk

lbLogo-facebook

 

 

 

 

Industry- or Product-specific

Certifications/Eco-Labels:

  • Green Seal (see logo above) 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.) fsc
  • Electronics: EPEAT registered products (managed by the Green Electronics Council)
  • Flowers and Potted Plants: Veriflora “Sustainably Grown”

There are also green certifications for services. While this post is focused on products, rather than services, here’s one example of a green service certification: the Green Shield Certified certification for pest control companies that use good Integrated Pest Management practices (including avoiding use of the most toxic pesticide products).

Other industry-specific green product standards, assessment tools, directories, and other resources:

 

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:

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: Businesses for the Common Good
Beneficial Businesses: Top B Corps of 2014

 

Related posts:

For additional information on green products, see:

Share

December 26, 2014
4 comments

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
  • TheRainforestSite.com
  • 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.
Share

November 29, 2014
[Click here to comment]

The following are the posts on The Green Spotlight that provide information and links that are related to energy, power, fuel, and/or climate change—with a strong focus on solutions.

SLB102_Blk_LimeGrThese posts are the most directly related to such topics:

And these posts are also related to energy and climate issues, in ways that might be less obvious but are equally important:

In the near future, we will add posts on fossil fuel divestment and renewable energy investment; local power (local renewable electricity utilities, Community Choice Aggregation); reforestation and carbon sequestration initiatives; and other important efforts to slow/mitigate the progression (and severity) of climate change.

Here are a few other online resources for good information related to climate change and climate solutions:

Share

September 21, 2014
[Click here to comment]

Many new electric vehicles have hit the marketplace in the past few years, and their popularity is growing fast. This post lists some of the non-car—two-wheeled or three-wheeled—electric (or hybrid) vehicles that are now available or are expected to be available soon. These vehicles have a wide range of prices, from very affordable to pretty pricey. Think of how much gas you could avoid buying (and burning) if you were to use one of these instead of driving a car!

The following vehicles are currently in production and are available to buy:

BMW
C Evolution electric maxi-scooter
(only manufactured and sold in Europe, so far)

Brammo
High-speed electric motorcycles: Empulse and Enertia models

KTM
Freeride E off-road electric motorcycle

Mission Motorcycles
Mission R and Mission RS models: High-performance, high-speed, high-priced electric motorcycle

Segway
Two-wheeled, standing, “Personal Transporter” electric vehicles
(an off-road version is available; and a three-wheeled version is available for law enforcement patrol use)

Switch Vehicles
Three-wheeled electric vehicles

Trikke
Three-wheeled, electric “carving vehicles”—essentially standing scooters (but with sort of a roller-blade or ski-like feel)
(Trikke also makes non-electric, human-powered scooters)

ZAP Jonway
Various electric motorcycles, scooters, and foot scooters
(as well as electric cars, trucks, and a minivan)

Zero Motorcycles
4 models of high-performance electric motorcycles

 

In addition, there are also many brands of electric bicycles and electric bike DIY kits. (Click on that link to see listings of a wide range of other Light Electric Vehicles (LEVs), as well, including other motorcycles and scooters, and various types of velomobiles.)  The ELF is a particularly cool, solar-electric and pedal-powered hybrid, covered tricycle that has cargo room.

 

The following are alternative vehicles that are currently in development; they’re in the prototype phase, and they’re expected to be mass-produced in the near future. Some of these companies are currently taking reservations from people who want to be the first to buy these vehicles when they become available.

Elio Motors
Three-wheeled, enclosed electric vehicle

Green Lite Motors
Three-wheeled, two-passenger, 100MPG, enclosed, hybrid vehicle

Harley-Davidson
Livewire electric motorcycle

Lit Motors
Two-wheeled, enclosed electric vehicle: C-1 and Kubo (cargo) models

Sparrow Motors
Three-wheeled, enclosed electric vehicle

Sway Motorsports
Three-wheeled, tilting, scooter-like electric vehicle

Toyota i-Road
Three-wheeled, enclosed electric vehicle
(currently in limited production in Japan and being used for a car-share fleet in Europe; not for sale to individuals at this point)

 

Have you tried riding/driving any of these yet? Do you know of other two- or three-wheeled electric or hybrid vehicles?

Share

July 31, 2014
1 comment

B Corporations (known as B Corps, for short) are “a new type of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” As of May 2014, there are now more than 1,000 certified B Corporations, in 33 countries and 60 industries. Among the most well-known companies that are certified B Corporations are: Patagonia, Ben and Jerry’s, Method, and Seventh Generation.

Each year, B Lab recognizes a group of B Corps as “Best for the World” honorees for creating the most positive social and environmental impact. These companies have earned an overall score in the top 10% of all Certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of a company’s impact on its workers, community, and the environment. These are businesses that go beyond simply being benign or reducing their harm to society; they strive to be beneficial and could even be considered benevolent. (For more information on B Corp certification, see our previous post on this topic.)

I’d like to highlight a small selection of this year’s “Best for the World” companies, within a few types of industries:

Financial

Energy/Solar

Consumer Products

There is also an Environment sub-group of Best for the World honorees, for the companies that scored in the top 10% of all B Corps within the environmental impact category. And there are sub-groups for the top 10% companies for worker impact, as well as community impact.

Click here to find other B Corps (you can search by location, name, industry, keyword).

Note: B Corporations and “benefit corporations” are similar but different things. For an explanation of each and the difference between the two, please see our previous post on this topic:

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: Businesses for the Common Good

You might also be interested in this post on green and socially responsible business:

Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies

 

Share

May 5, 2014
[Click here to comment]

If you want to avoid buying clothing that was made in sweatshops (characterized by unsafe conditions, unethical labor practices, and poor wages); and/or you want to buy clothing that is made from natural and organically grown fabrics, rather than from synthetic, petrochemical textiles or from fibers grown with toxic pesticides, you should probably—at least for the time being, until the industry shifts—avoid buying most of your clothing from major retailers, especially those that sell clothes for super-low prices. Those “fast fashion” clothes are not just cheap in price. In most cases, they’re also cheaply made (so they’re not durable), and the people who make them aren’t making a living wage. As President Benjamin Harrison said, “I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.”

Furthermore, those workers work long hours in dangerous factories: facilities without proper health and safety standards, audits, or enforcement. (For example, in recent years, more than 1,800 garment factory workers have died on the job in Bangladesh, mostly due to unsafe buildings that collapsed on them. Some clothing retailers, such as Walmart and the Gap, have so far resisted signing onto a new building safety agreement, and instead have proposed weaker initiatives of their own.)

Look for well-made and durable, certified Fair Trade or domestically made (Made in the U.S.) clothes, made of certified organic, natural materials (such as organic cotton, wool, hemp, bamboo) or recycled materials, by ethical and sustainable brands [follow the links below to find some]; or buy clothes second-hand. And most importantly, don’t buy way more clothing than you need, and be sure to donate your unwanted/extra clothing.

Apparel Product Assessments and Vetted Brand Listings:

Check the Apparel section of GoodGuide (which also has a mobile app):

…and look for clothing labels that indicate certification with the Global Organic Textile Standard, as well as Fair Trade Certified,

…as well as clothing companies that are Certified B Corporations.

Also check out the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and its preliminary Higg Index, which aims to measure the environmental (and, in a later phase, also the social) performance of apparel products. In addition, there is Greenpeace’s international Detox fashion campaign, which has challenged major clothing brands to get their suppliers to make non-toxic clothes and to eliminate their release of hazardous chemicals, especially those that are contributing to water pollution.

Selected Companies/Brands:

These are a few brands that take the environmental and social impacts of their products more seriously than most other brands. Most of the following companies offer organic and/or Fair Trade clothes. Be sure to check out their “Sale” (or “Specials” or “Clearance”) pages to find discounted products.

  • Coyuchi  (see their pajamas and robes)

If you know of other relevant brands and you would recommend their products to others, please mention those brands in the Comments section.

 

For further information on this topic, you might want to read this book:

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth Cline. (Also check out the author’s Shopping Directory.)

 

Other recent posts on green products:

Share

October 31, 2013
3 comments

Benefit corporations and Certified B Corporations aim to benefit society and our shared environment—rather than just the company’s traditional “bottom line.” More and more companies are choosing to be triple-bottom-line benefit businesses.

Benefit Corporations are “a new class of corporation that:

  1. creates a material positive impact on society and the environment;
  2. expands fiduciary duty to require consideration of non-financial interests when making decisions; and
  3. reports on its overall social and environmental performance using recognized third party standards.”  (Source: BenefitCorp.net)

Benefit Corporation status affects requirements related to corporate purpose, accountability, and transparency. It does not affect a company’s tax status.  To learn about the legal basis for benefit corporations, click here.

The Benefit Corporation corporate status is now (as of June 2013) legally recognized by 17 states and the District of Columbia.  Benefit Corporation legislation has passed in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont, and New York (as well as DC), and legislation is currently moving forward in at least nine other states. For state-by-state information, click here.

Here is a searchable list of some of the businesses that have registered as benefit corporations.

Certified B Corps                                       

A non-profit organization called B Lab certifies corporations as Certified B Corporations (or B Corps). Note: Benefit corporations and Certified B Corporations are similar, but different. Benefit corporation is a legal status administered by the state, and benefit corporations do not need to be certified as B Corporations or certified by any other third party. Some benefit corporations choose to become Certified B Corps, and some (but not all) Certified B Corps have the “benefit corporation” legal status, as only some states and countries currently recognize and grant that status.

Certified B Corporations have been certified as having met a high standard of overall social and environmental performance: they have achieved a verified minimum score on the B Impact Assessment.  They also have access to a portfolio of services and support from B Lab to help them with marketing, sales, raising money, and learning from and doing business within the Certified B Corps community.

As of June 2013, there are 775 Certified B Corporations, in 27 countries, and in 60 industriesClick here to find a B Corp (search by location, name, industry, keyword).

These are a few of the top-scoring, “Best for the World” B Corp companies of 2013:

  • Preserve personal care products (toothbrushes and razors) and housewares

And companies like Sun Light & Power, Sungevity, Better World Books, and other B Corps companies have been deemed “Rockstars of the New Economy” by Fast Company magazine.

Newer post on this topic [added May 2014]: Beneficial and Benevolent Businesses: Top B Corps of 2014

Related post: Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies

Share

July 2, 2013
[Click here to comment]

Saving energy saves money. Reducing your energy use will reduce your gas and electricity bills (which frees up funds for other, more meaningful things). It also benefits the environment and your health in a variety of ways. For example, using less electricity reduces power plant emissions from burning fossil fuels, which reduces air and water pollution, and that helps protect everyone’s health and our shared natural resources. It also reduces the emission of greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change.

This checklist outlines a number of ways that you can conserve energy at home (or at work), by changing your household (or workplace) products and practices related to Heating and Cooling, Appliances and Equipment, Lighting, etc. Most of these strategies are easy and low- or no-cost, and saving energy helps save you money down the road.

HEATING AND COOLING

  • Program your thermostat to provide less heating or cooling at night and during the daytime hours when your home/building is not occupied. If you don’t know how to change the settings on your programmable thermostat, read the manual or ask someone for assistance. (If you’d like to have an easy-to-program, energy-saving thermostat with an elegant design, take a look at the iPod-like Nest thermostat.)
  • On hot and sunny days, cover your windows by closing the shades, blinds, opaque curtains, or shutters; and turn off any lights that aren’t needed (especially any lamps that are using conventional incandescent bulbs, as they emit a surprising amount of heat). And if you live in an area that regularly has hot summers, consider adding shade trees, awnings, or overhangs (particularly outside of west-facing windows) and putting a light-colored roof on your home when it’s time to replace the roof.
  • Avoid or minimize your use of air conditioning, when possible. Air conditioners use a lot of energy, making them expensive to use. In warm weather, try using ceiling fans, floor fans, or a “whole house” attic fan (or in dry regions, an evaporative cooler) instead of AC. These options can often provide adequate cooling.
  • Follow the recommended maintenance procedures for your heating and cooling systems. Replace or clean air filters as specified in the owner’s manuals. Have your furnace or air conditioner serviced if it isn’t operating properly or efficiently.
  • Keep your heating/cooling vents dusted.
  • Keep furniture, curtains, and other objects away from heater/air conditioning outlets, to allow conditioned air to flow freely into the room.
  • Make sure your windows close properly. Fix any broken window panes, seals, or latches.
  • Don’t leave the heat or air conditioning on if you open a window.
  • Weatherize your doors and windows by using weather stripping or seals to minimize air leaks and drafts.
  • Make sure your home is well insulated. Insulate your hot water pipes and water heater, and add insulation (if needed) to your attic, walls, or basement.
  • Hire a home performance contractor to do a home energy audit; they will inspect your home and identify any inefficiencies and seal up air leaks. In many homes, fixing air leaks can save more energy and money than installing a high-efficiency furnace. (One very experienced company that offers these services in California is Advanced Home Energy, formerly called Recurve.) You can search here for a contractor near you who has been accredited by the Building Performance Institute. If you live in California, check out the information provided by Energy Upgrade California.
  • When purchasing a new furnace, air conditioner, ceiling fan, water heater, windows, or doors, choose products that have a high Energy Star efficiency rating. (For windows, at a minimum, make sure you choose double-paned glass.)

Please continue reading. The rest of this post includes tips on lighting, appliances, electronics, and more:

[CLICK HERE to CONTINUE]

Share

May 29, 2013
1 comment