Once upon a time, people didn’t have to read food labels. Food didn’t have labels. It was just…food.
As time marched on, food and consumer goods have become increasingly complex, deviating dramatically from what our great grandmothers would have know. We had to become savvier and more informed to make good choices. We needed to get our Bachelors in Label Sciences.
Not really. But knowing a little about where your food and clothing come from can help you participate in conscious consumerism.
Be aware of green-washing
An eco-friendly label may not be regulated. You may wish to find out more about the company’s policies and practices through direct communication with the brand to be absolutely certain of their ethics and footprint.
When shopping for clothing it is best to stay away from terms that the clothing company gave themselves. If they say they are “environmentally friendly,” “eco” or “nature safe,” that’s all well and good, but where is the accountability? It is basically like you giving yourself a plaque as employee of the month while working for yourself. (Not a bad idea…)
It gets similarly confusing with grocery shopping – especially food that is labelled as “healthy.” In fact, the FDA is working on redefining exactly what this means, especially as it is a pretty ambiguous term. What was healthy in the 90s – low fat – has given ways to avocados galore and the rise of gluten free. Healthy can be synonymous with trendy. Therefore, we need other verbiage to turn us into informed and conscious consumers.
In Canada, nutrition content claims and health claims must follow rules from Health Canada to ensure that they are not misleading.
Here are some Third-Party certifications that will give you some real information:
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) reviews every stage of the manufacturing process. If it is graded as organic, it has at least a 95% organic origin. It will not certify any manufacturer that uses heavy metals, formaldehyde, GMO enzymes or carcinogenics.
This company is one of the first for humane working conditions. The standard expectations are based on the UN Declaration of Human Rights and are very elaborate to protect the people behind your clothing.
The Canada Organic Regime
The Canada Organic Regime is the Government of Canada’s system for domestic organic products. If a food is imported, it must follow the certification body accredited by that country.
USDA Organic requires not only adoption of organic practices, but also accreditation by a certifying agent, who performs an inspection. The food must be produced without synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, GMOs or irradiation. Food grown in Mexico often has this same label in order to be able to be sold in the United States.
Non-GMO Project Verified
Non-GMO Project Verified label with the butterfly assures that no more than 0.9% of the product is genetically engineered. Without the seal, even if a product declares that it is GMO-free, there may not have been independent verification.
Other products also have ways of keeping you informed if you are dedicated to a green lifestyle. These include:
Green Seal provides an environmental certification that is scientifically based in order to help consumers to make informed decisions. They monitor companies regularly to assure continued compliance to their strict green standards. Their checkmark label can be found on everything from paint to cleaning products, and even hotels and restaurants.
Energy Star certifies products that are energy efficient. Home goods are independently certified, from washers and dryers to electronics. The test is if they save energy without sacrificing functionality or features. More than 45% of US homes have purchased one of their products.
Every day we make purchasing decisions, and when we know more, we have the power to make these labels the norm rather than the exception.
We can only hope that our grandchildren will be granted the same futures that our grandmothers had in the past.