What You Need to Know About Buying Green and Organic Products

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With a complicated maze of products and confusing labeling practices, it can be difficult to determine what really falls under the category of green, sustainable, eco-friendly, clean, or natural. The sad truth is there are no international regulatory bodies that oversee the labeling of green and organic products, and brands have taken advantage of that fact by a process called “greenwashing”, a deceptive marketing practice by which companies label even synthetic materials as organic, trusting that their products will never be tested.

However, by learning these helpful tips, you’ll have the knowledge to make informed consumer choices and gain insight into how to shop for products that are better for the environment and your body. Like Kenzo pointed out in its environmentally conscious Fall/Winter 2015 show: “There is no Planet B.” We have to work together to make the world a better place, and it starts with making smart choices when shopping for food, clothing, beauty products, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, and more.

Buy from a Trustworthy Source Country

The beauty and cosmetics industry in the United States is responsible for $60.58 billion dollars out of roughly $200 billion dollars globally. This represents a huge slice of the pie and hundreds of brands that eagerly push products aimed at making you look younger and feel better.

By 2018, the sale of organic products reached $13.2 billion. For that reason, more than ever, brands are looking to incorporate the “green” label into their lines. However, in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts no pre-market testing of products. According to the Office of Cosmetics and Colors, “A cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from the FDA.”

Scary, right? If you’re buying a product manufactured in the US, you will want to look for those certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), not the FDA. The USDA is the governing body tasked with ensuring product quality and production practices. If you’re shopping for cosmetics, hair products, or even home-cleaning supplies that bear the USDA Organic seal, you can rest assured that they have been verified to be organic.

Canada also has strict oversight of the organic industry and is a great country of origin for products to invest in. In Canada, all cosmetic products are required by law to list ingredients, and all products that boast the “organic” label must be assessed according to Canadian Organic Standards. Additionally, Japan has arguably the best practices when it comes to regulating, and the country prides itself on having the highest standards when it comes to the assessment and labeling of products.

This is great news for Asian beauty and skincare junkies; not only does Japan have some of the best products, but its guarantee of quality is one you can trust. If you’re shopping for Japanese products, look for the Organic JAS sticker. In Europe, NATRUE was developed in 2008 to address the lack of standards and mislabeling seen throughout the continent and now oversees the stringent labeling of products. When it first launched, it had only certified 400 products, but it now certifies over 4,000.

Look at the Label

While national governing bodies like the USDA, JAS, and NATRUE are important for pointing consumers in the right direction, there are other factors that will help you determine whether or not to invest in an item. First, if claims are printed straight on the box, an alarm bell should sound in your head. Brands can easily claim to be “100 percent organic”, “all natural”, “green”, or “eco-friendly”, but a label by the likes of USDA, JAS, Ecocert, NATRUE, or NSF is your ticket to true authentication. Additionally, if you find a leaping-bunny label, that means the item is cruelty-free.

If you’re reading the list of ingredients, pay attention to asterisks (*), which could indicate the true origin of ingredients and – surprise, surprise – they’re not organic. This is a shady, but far too common labeling practice. When in doubt, hop over to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Guide to Cosmetics (or download the app), where you can search for and screen more than 80,000 products.

Finally, just because a product is safe for human use doesn’t mean it’s safe for the Earth. In fact, in the United States, former President Barack Obama banned the use of plastic microbeads in products like exfoliating scrubs and toothpastes due to the fact that these small particles do not break down and are responsible for polluting lakes, rivers, and oceans and therefore harming aquatic life. At the beginning of 2018, the UK also started enforcing a ban on products containing microbeads. If you’re buying a product with abrasive properties, be sure to look out for dangerous microbeads.

Ask More Questions

Buying from credentialed labels and high-quality brands is one thing, but it takes deeper research to truly understand the impact of these products on the environment. If you’re going to delve deeper into the origins of the things you buy, ask the following questions: Does the company strive to minimize waste during the production process? Is the product made from recycled materials? How far did the product travel to arrive on a shelf near you?

Fortunately, we live in an era during which unlimited knowledge is at our fingertips at all times, so make research your new hobby. By investing the time and buying items that do not harm the environment, you are helping make the world a better place for generations to come.

Promo Photo: Courtesy of @NoreenWasti

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