We asked Elizabeth Rogers, coauthor of The Green Book , to define key terms so you'll know what you're buying.

Fair Trade refers to products created ethically—with sustainable (see below) farming methods, support for local communities' economic development, and safe, equitable working conditions.

Organic foods and fibers must be certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose standards prohibit the use of most conventional pesticides or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients. (A "pesticide-free" label alone, however, doesn't qualify something as organic.)

Reclaimed or recycled materials are rescued from the garbage dump and turned into new products (plastic bottles reborn as fleece jackets; old magazines become packaging).

Renewable resources can be replenished, so they're not permanently depleted—alternate-energy sources such as solar or wind power instead of nonrenewable oil, or fast-growing plants like bamboo.

Sustainable practices do no lasting harm to the Earth's resources, valuing the survival of future generations over immediate needs.

Vegan is a form of vegetarianism that excludes all animal ingredients or by-products such as leather and wool.

Plus: How to decode green seals on beauty products


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