Friday, April 08, 2011
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No doubt you’ve seen products marked natural, organic, or even eco-friendly. It’s hard to tell if the claim means anything. And indeed, sometimes it’s more than a bit of greenwash advertising. Fortunately, there are a few programs out there that you can trust. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been certifying organic products for quite some time, and now they’ve introduced certified “BioPreferred” products.
The goal of the program, according to the USDA, is:
…the increased purchase of biobased products may be expected to reduce petroleum consumption, increase the use of renewable resources, better manage the carbon cycle, and, may contribute to reducing adverse environmental and health impacts. The program is also expected to promote economic development, creating new jobs and providing new markets for farm commodities.
Biobased products are made from (or mostly composed of) renewable agricultural materials: plant, animal or marine and used both by consumers and industries. Of course food is not covered under this program (that’s what the organic program is for). The UDDA BioPreferred program covers products like bedding, disposable containers, cleaning products, lubricants, and even disposable tableware.
As of now, the USDA has identified 50 categories covered by the program. The minimum amount of biobased content varies for each one. For example, a disposable fork must contain at least 48 percent biobased materials, while a one-time-use plate needs to have at least 72 percent renewable content to quality for the program. The “USDA Certified Biobased Product” label will have a percentage listed, so you can see how much of that item’s content is from renewable sources.
If the product doesn’t fall into one of the existing categories, and the manufacturer would still like to apply for certification, they have to ensure that the item has at least 25 percent biobased content. Of course, more categories are being added, so we hope that low number will rise as the USDA and consumers begin to understand what’s possible when companies look for alternatives to oil-based compounds.
The USDA even has an online catalog to help you find BioPreferred items. But not everything in the catalog has been certified. We called the department and they said that companies can apply to be in the catalog, but only those products that have been certified will have a checkmark in the “Biobased Content” column. Many of the products also have additional information such as how much biobased content they contain, or if the agricultural base is not genetically modified (non-GMO).
Of course, biobased does not mean the plant, animal, or marine content was sustainable sourced. But when you see the label, you’ll know that the item is not made from petroleum, and has at least the minimum amount of renewable content required for product certification.
Original post at AirDye: Good for Water by Robin Bertelsen