More companies than ever before have discovered that an eco-conscious business model is not only profitable but desired by consumers as well. While Energy Star and USDA organic labeling may be a tiny piece of the overall presentation of a product, they and a company’s dedication to a cleaner world, can make all the difference in terms of a purchase. But what do these labels actually mean, and what do green companies do to decrease their carbon footprint? Here’s a look:
The United States Department of Agriculture reviews all organic labels, considering both the presentation and the information or ingredient panel typically found on the back of a product. The phrase “100 percent organic” can only be included on products made from completely organic ingredients — salt and water are exempt from this as they are considered natural ingredients. The term “organic” can be used on any product that is made from at least 95 percent organic ingredients. If the product is at least 70 percent organic, the product may use the phrase “made with organic … ” For companies that sell less than $5,000 of their fully or partially organic product each year, organic label review by the USDA is not necessary, though all guidelines must be followed.
Seventh Generation is a home cleaning supply company that centers its business model around sustainability and a reduced carbon footprint. Seventh Generation earns more than $200 million each year, yet invented the “benefit corporation” model, in which profits to the owners are slimmed down for the benefit of the employees and the environment. FTD, a flower delivery service, has prided itself for years on a Fair Trade policy and works closely with growers and suppliers to ensure human rights come before product and profit. New Belgium Brewing is one of the largest craft brewers in the United States, but this doesn’t stop them from being eco-conscious. New Belgium Brewing monitors all energy use and waste production, and recycles, reuses or composts 75 percent of the materials used in production. They also make bicycles and Priuses available for employee use to cut down on carbon emissions.
Energy Star is a government-awarded emblem of energy efficiency. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awards Energy Star labels to products that follow key guidelines such as nationwide energy savings by product, comparable quality to non-Energy Star products and cost effectiveness for consumers through initial investment, for example, light bulbs that cost more per unit but use less electricity. Energy Star products cannot be proprietary technologies, meaning there must be competition, which drives the cost down. While these guidelines must be met, the EPA can change them as technology advances or for a variety of other reasons, such as a change of minimum energy efficiency at a federal level, consumer expectation of energy savings or more rigorous testing.
In an age of excess, many companies and government agencies have taken steps to promote environmentally-conscious products. And with the help of each individual consumer, the market will only become more tailored and dedicated to eco-friendly products, especially as they become more profitable.