26 January 2011

New USDA label will make buying green easier

Buying green will now be just a little easier for consumers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created a labeling system that will notify buyers as to which items are made with bio-based ingredients. This will certainly take the guesswork out of buying green.

The label will be similar to the seal that is seen on organic foods, a seal that is affixed by the same agency. It is being used with the same intention that the Energy Star program has used: to inform shoppers of their [smart] decisions.

The label will read "USDA Certified Biobased Product," and a number on the label will provide a percentage for the bio-based ingredients of the product. Ingredients included are corn, soy, and other biodegradable substances.

One company eager to affix their products with the label is Totally Green, who sells water in corn-based bottles, which are created specifically to be biodegradable. Totally Green's CEO, William Horner, says the company is ready to turn in an application for the seal as soon as they are being accepted. Horner also says he "thinks it's [the seal is] going to resonate."

This new program is a by-product of the 2002 farm bill, which sought to advocate for a greater use of bio-based products. Before the seal of approval was introduced, the focus was on "converting" government agencies to use greener products.

Just because an item may appear green it is not guaranteed a label. The program was created to "promote rural economic development and new uses for agricultural commodities." Such items that don't apply are things like cotton blouses and wool socks. The USDA figures the majority of the products will be skin-care products and household cleaners.

"The first products with the seal are expected to reach shelves this spring. To qualify for the seal, products have to meet minimum bio-based content standards."

Geanna Marek | @greenvegnliving
Geanna was born and raised in veg-friendly Portland where she currently works as a freelance writer and librarian assistant. She is also currently acquiring the pre-requisites needed to apply for a Master’s degree in nutrition. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, exercising, reading, knitting, and cleaning. Find Geanna at greenveganliving.com.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/afagen