Organic, natural, sustainable...who can keep all the eco terms straight? Here's your easy green cheat sheet.
— The certified organic label is regulated by the USDA and indicates the absence of most conventional fertilizers and chemicals. A processed product (one that contains more than two ingredients) must have at least 95 percent organic material.
— The Demeter-certified Biodynamic designation means that farmers use practices emphasizing a holistic connection with nature. The nonprofit has been certifying produce and wine since 1982 and bans harmful chemicals and synthetic fertilizers.
— Fair-trade products like coffee and chocolate are certified by the Fair Trade Federation, an international group working to relieve poverty. They ensure that producers receive a fair wage and that production practices promote long-term environmental sustainability and community development.
— Green Seal is an independent nonprofit that promotes the manufacture, purchase, and use of environmentally responsible products. The seal accredits everything from hand soap to hotels.
— Local generally refers to products grown within a 100-to-150-mile radius. Transporting goods locally uses fewer fossil fuels than shipping them from around the world. Plus, buying local supports your community.
— Natural means that the product contains no artificial colors or flavors, but the term can be misleading (and misapplied!) because it isn't certified or regulated.
— Post-consumer recycled means the material has been sold, used, and then recycled. It's the gold standard for recycled products.
— Sustainable forestry paper products are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and come from forests that are managed for long-term productivity and biological diversity.
Even if you can't buy a strictly green product, you can still make any purchase easier on the environment:
What you can do:
— Choose items with minimal packaging, or buy in bulk.
— Bring your own bag.
— Donate the item you're replacing.
— Buy secondhand.
— Wash your clothing in the cold-water cycle—and cut roughly 85 percent of the energy used.
— Use rechargeable batteries, and unplug chargers and appliances.
— Choose household cleaning products that have an ingredient list. Products with harmful chemicals are less likely to have one.
From the April 2009 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!