If you browse the green aisles, you may easily be confused by the variety of seals, certifications, programs, emblems and crests that adorn products. These often feature globes, trees, leaves, water droplets and all manner of other folksy earth-like graphics, and usually make claims such as ‘earth-friendly’, ‘100% Organic’ or ‘Approved by Such-and-Such Organization’.

So how do you sift through this certifiable confusion without becoming certifiable yourself?
I always recommend that people do their own online research, but not everyone has the time or web-searching patience to take on that task. So here are a few thoughts and comments on two types of certifications.

Corporate Eco-Labels

Many companies decide to create their own certifications or programs internally. These vary widely in their scope and believability. Some go as far as offering written commitments and products with strong eco-benefits. With HP’s Eco Highlights Program, for instance, they are pledging a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from their operations by 2010, and featuring their HP Deskjet D2545 Printer which is made of 83 percent recycled plastic. Not bad.

Other manufacturers’ green labels may be less specific. The claim of ‘Natural Ingredients’ for example, is not really a viable indicator of green benefits. And some green labels say so little, they appear to simply be greenwash (regular products dressing themselves up in eco clothing). Boooo.

Recognized Third Party Certifications

These represent a higher standard of green labeling, where a company or product must meet certain criteria to qualify. These third parties may be governments or organizations that are independent of influence from industry, and with these labels you can usually be sure some product testing or qualification has taken place. Requirements and processes are also usually quite transparent.

Below are some of the third-party certifications we look for when reviewing products for What’s The Green Deal. If you see these labels on products, you can be pretty sure they are believably greener in some way or another:



Fair Trade:

Paper and Wood Products:

So when you see green labeling, be critical. Read the ingredients and do your own online research when you can. Because when it comes down to it, we each need to decide what’s green for ourselves.

For more research on certifications, check out ecolabelling.org – here you can browse over 200 eco-labels from around the world.