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Question of the Week: What do “green” products mean to you?

2009 November 16

Environmentally friendly “green” products can help protect the environment more, and pollute less than other, equivalent products. Share how and when you look for green purchasing when you are shopping.

What do “green” products mean to you?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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46 Responses leave one →
  1. LittleMiss permalink
    November 16, 2009

    Anything labeled as “Green” should have a positive health impact on both a human and environmental level and should also help conserve resources for future generations. That being said, unfortunately, it is often just used as a marketing term or as a synonym for general environmentalism. In order for the definition to become more clear, there must be consistent national, even global, certification & regulatory programs. That is why, as a green consultant I am working with the Green Business, Homes, and School certification program.

  2. Ben Wilson permalink
    November 16, 2009

    Eco-friendly household products are great goods to protect America’s families and environment from hazardous exposure, but LittleMiss brings up a good point. Companies now market green products because they’re profitable. How do consumers know if they are quality products without any regulatory certification? Protecting the ‘green economic market’ is essential to its proliferation.

    Also, I believe American families would be more attuned to purchasing green products if costs wasn’t a barrier. Is there something we can do in that regard?

  3. Manoj Krishnan permalink
    November 16, 2009

    The substances which are made from the natural things(plants).If we are following this then we can protect our plant.

  4. Kevin R permalink
    November 16, 2009

    A green product should be one designed cradle to cradle. Interface carpet is as close to this concept as I know of now…they lease floor covering instead of selling carpet. They pick up and recycle their own floor covering when they replace worn patches. They are trying to capture and recycle all their process materials including chemicals and gasses. They are trying to close their production loops and minimize their impact on the outside environment. They work towards sustainable production as well as sustainable human resource management.

    Green to me is a whole-system approach that starts in the design phase and must involve high-level management to work properly.

  5. armansyahardanis permalink
    November 16, 2009

    Every Sunday, me and my wife go to traditional market to buy our need for a week. We buy chickens, vegetables, fish,etc. All things use plastics for the pack.

    Once a month, my wife and my daughter go to Mall to buy our need for a month. They buy palm-oil, butter, toothpaste,etc. All things use can and plastics for the pack.

    Antagonistic !

    Here, the people are losing done to product green idea. So far, need an angels to change our cultured. We hope !

  6. Thomas Cochran permalink
    November 16, 2009

    We must all try to save the earth, and do all we can, be for it to late.

  7. Hoosier Guy permalink
    November 16, 2009

    It means I am going to pay more for a product because of some claims of eco friendlyness that I am not sure anyone actually verifies.

  8. ECC permalink
    November 16, 2009

    “green” products to me means climatic “footprint”
    We are seeing a lot of “greenwashing” these days, where companies are marketing their products as if they were “green”.

    Green should be a fundamental business principle for a company … “great first, green second”, in that lies that great is always green if you use your head.
    The challenge is to develop new green business concepts that will change our use patterns and eventually our cultural norms.

    Green: the goal should be to create new standards for products.

    Greener: the goal should be to get the consumer involved through participation and enthusiasm.

    Greenest: the goal should be to develop new markets by creating new trends and behavioral patterns among consumers.

  9. Lee Huang permalink
    November 16, 2009

    Energy saving of the ‘green’ products should be easily verified if the product is tested by independent third party, and preferably regulatory facilities.
    Biodegradable, recyclable material can also be easily certified by the regulatory facilities.
    It is more difficult to quantify the green practice and its impact to the environment. it will be up to the individual business to carry out the green practice.

    cost barrier is one of the issue in this bad economic time, however, there are some green products has very little barrier and payback time is short. One can start those items first. May be EPA can have a list of those items to promote the use of the green products.

  10. joan permalink
    November 16, 2009

    I’m willing to spend a few pennies more on “green” products for my home. However, I think a lot of products use “green” as an advertising gimmick. So before I buy, I try to look on the label and see exactly what they are claiming and why that makes the product more environmentally friendly.

  11. Jon permalink
    November 16, 2009

    A “green product” means that it’s of natural, non-toxic, won’t kill me if I decided to drink it. HOWEVER, like ‘littlemiss’ initially stated, companies think that slapping a “I’m Green” sticker on their product means that it’s safe and good for the environment. Not so fast. Ammonia is a natural compound, and therefore could be “green” if you’re under the “natural” definition of “green,” but we all know if you drink this, you’re seriously going to hurt yourself! I’ve found that Method products are actually “green, non-toxic” products. Not to say I would make a cocktail out of this, but it’s safe(r). Also, I like to use products that are biodegradable. Most of the “green” products aren’t and make just as much garbage as the non-green products. I won’t buy the “green products” that clorox manufactures…chlorine = natural substance. Not considered “green” in my book. It really comes down to, what’s your definition of “green?” Answer: won’t hurt/kill me if I accidentally drink or inhale it.

  12. ken beets permalink
    November 16, 2009

    Dear Little Miss: You would not believe how hard it is to change a
    system from chemicals to green. We use reverse polarity in water
    to change its charter. We de scale water pipes, boilers and other
    appliances without chemicals and the people who write the specs
    have a hard time listing or even taking a demo. I can tell you what
    think!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Caitlin permalink
    November 16, 2009

    Whenever I go shopping, it is hard to find what appear to be ‘Green’ products for reasonable prices. Upon further inspection of these products, most of them are falsely advertising their own materials anyway!
    This being said, I’m sticking to my ‘Pick 5 For the Environment’ by replacing all of the light bulbs in our house with energy saving ones (You can usually find bulk packages of these on sale at 3/$5 or 5/$7, etc.). I’ll buy cleaning products that have replaced harmful chemicals (i.e. ammonia) with far less harmful ones (like vinegar). Other ways to ‘go green’ and money include: Using cold water detergents to clean your clothes, and air drying them instead of using a dryer; buying items that have a high recycled content (paper products, clothing, etc), and if buying filtered water in plastic bottles, buying them in larger quantities (Liter or gallon sizes) and then recycling them when done with the empty plastic container or reusing it.
    I was raised by a chemist who works for the Environmental Protection agency, so I’ve been recycling every thing possible since I can remember! I have continued to do so even if recycling services aren’t offered in the area I live in by making a trip to the closest recycling center once a week or bi-weekly.
    Being a chemist myself, I support the Green Chemistry practices I’ve been taught, and try to spread this knowledge on a daily basis!

  14. Dave Stevens permalink
    November 16, 2009

    A green product is one in which the components/ingredients are sustainable, the environmental impacts of the entire lifecycle of teh product are considered and at the end of life, can be reused, recycled or upcycled.

  15. Joseph Zummach permalink
    November 16, 2009

    I’m very glad this is a hot topic of discussion, I consider the source of the product along with the claims of a given manufacturer. I shop at a local food coop because the level of accountability is higher, I know the board members etc. I like to support local growers and manufacturers and services, because the accountability factor, the transportation footprint of local products is lower, and it keeps jobs/profits close to home. Lastly I look for green labels if there is a choice.

  16. Betty Hansen permalink
    November 16, 2009

    Amen, to all of your comments. I am glad to see so many people aware of what companies are trying to pass off as green products. We must do our research before we buy. I want to tell you so bad about a company I have found that is truly 100% non-toxic cleaning products. They are enzyme-based and they really work. So safe you could drink it, but you wouldn’t. I know I’m not suppose to mention company names on this blog.

  17. James Adcock permalink
    November 16, 2009

    A green product is one that *I* can identify as being a product which uses less fossil fuel than other products, or which results in less green house gases than other products, or which results in significantly less pesticide exposure to my family. I’m not much interested in products that self-identify as being “green” unless its via a well-known environmental certification program. I’m not much interested in self-scoring, for example, unless I can go online and see how the score for a particular product was derived. I’m also not interested in “Buy this Candy Bar and we will donate 1% to save the Polar Bears” — thank you very much I am already donating 1000s of times more than this to try to save Ursus maritimus — not to mention Homo Sapiens!

  18. Blue Oblivion permalink
    November 16, 2009

    Green means leaving out the fluff and just doing the job. I don’t really find that fresh morning breeze scent in a bottle too convincing. So, don’t put dyes in my shampoo, perfume in my detergent. Just help me to get clean when it means the difference between washing my favorite blue jeans or buying a new pair. And don’t try to sell me on the idea that my home should sparkle like the Chrysler building or that my meals should be prepped to finish in 5 minutes flat so that I can have time to watch TV with my family instead of having someone chopping vegetables for tomorrow’s planned meal. On that note, stop putting my food in plastic single-serving trays and promoting “portion control” as the reason. I can just as easily subsist on PB&J could I just get over my need for gravy and pepper on demand. And feed our kids on plates with silverware at school for crying out loud. What example do we set by having many schools serving plastic wrapped food on disposable dishes with plastic utensils! I think Vonnegut said it best: … (or was that Snoopy?)

  19. jesse 9 years old permalink
    November 16, 2009

    green products are things that can help the earth

  20. Jimmy McCurry permalink
    November 16, 2009

    I live in a rural area. My county’s main products are agricultural in nature. We grow everything from vegetables to cotton and sheep to cattle. First of all, the United States of America has the safest food supply in the world. We have accomplished this with technology as well as safe practices in growing this food and fiber. Green to me means some environmental person or organization that does not know what it is talking about. If the public wants green products we will have to give up 75 years of advances in science concerning the production of food and fiber. The public as well as the farmers cannot afford this. If we put the farmers out of business we will have to import our food from other nations. Most of these imported foods are not safe to eat. Would you like a bowl of strawberries that was irrigated with sewer water? This is what you would be getting. Mexico still uses 2-4 D herbicides that have been linked to birth defects in humans as well as animals. Do you know that there were more U.S. citizens killed by imported food in 2011 than were killed in the twin towers? It is time for the public to wake up and see that the environmentalists are just trying to scare us so that they can get their donations up to pay for the CEO’s of their individual groups. It is good to be concerned about the environment but be smart about it too. Most “green” labels are just a marketing trick to get extra money. Our food and fiber is safe, we do not need to be regulated any more by the secular humanists and Holley Wood elitists.

  21. webcam permalink
    November 17, 2009

    Hi,
    Green products can be defined as which are not damaging the human health.These products make you feel better,saves you from many diseases.These products make it easy to save energy and reduce the effects of climate change.

  22. Johnny R. permalink
    November 17, 2009

    The Earth could absorb and recycle the chemicals we use if only there weren’t so many and so much of them demanded by the growing population and its growing economy. A carefully and sensitively planned reduction of the human population and the safe recycling of all waste and garbage would leave plenty of resources for everyone. We need balance and moderation in all the things we do, wouldn’t you agree?

  23. Johnny R. permalink
    November 17, 2009

    A green economy is one that does not damage the life-support systems we must have to survive. The Earth provided fresh spring water, but we have turned it into a mass market to supply an ever-growing population. If we peacefully reduce our numbers and safely recycle all our waste and garbage we can live in peace and balance on a healthy planet. Instead we are dumping tons of garbage into the oceans and building mountains of “landfill”, more and more until the Earth reaches its saturation point and a toxic collapse is the final result.

  24. Valerie permalink
    November 17, 2009

    A green product should be able to biodegrade and decompose in the environment. And it should not contain harmful chemicals.

    A product SHOULD NOT be labeled green if it is not. “Greenwashing” is a disgusting advertising concept, and consumers should be aware of it.

  25. sharon permalink
    November 17, 2009

    It means disappointment. If the products are made from old, used, recycled items not created from scratch, why do these items cost two to three times more than products made from scratch? Green Products means “green” as in dollars. If we are serious, green products would be affordable then more people would be doing it. This economic situation especially can’t support green greed!

  26. Johnny R. permalink
    November 18, 2009

    Many corporate executives are addicted to a growing economy, so all they care about is their quarterly earnings, and if that requires “greenwashing”, so be it, whatever may grow their short term profits – long term is some other planet. This attitude is a prescription for toxic collapse and ecocide, after which there would be no profits and no life for anyone.

  27. Johnny R. permalink
    November 18, 2009

    Is it true then, recycled products cost more? If so, that follows the law of economics that prices will be set by “whatever the traffic will bear.” Over a number of years as most of the people able to pay have done so, and the cost of production comes down, the price falls to attract the lower levels of the mass market. The only way a green economy could be immediately available to everyone at affordable prices is with government subsidies, but as we see, it has its foreign entanglements to attend to first.

  28. Maggie permalink
    November 18, 2009

    Being a poor college student, it is difficult to make environmentally responsible choices because ‘organic’ products DO cost more. Sometimes it is a matter of balance. If I had more money, I would live a “green” lifestyle fully. However, I pick and chose “green” products according to environment impact. When purchasing produce, I try to buy local. However, a box of organic mac n’ cheese that is 3 dollars more than regular mac n’ cheese might not fit into my budget. Many processed ‘organic’ foods might be a little bit more environmentally conscience, but many of them leave a significant environmental footprint as well.

    Many “green products” are marked up just for bearing the name “green” and having some trendy green colored cool logo on them.
    Some cheap, “green” products include:
    -using vinegar and hot water as a cleaner instead of purchasing ‘Green Source” or 7th Generation cleaners
    – riding a bicycle instead of a car
    – shopping at thrift stores
    – purchasing re-usable bags at groceries
    – reducing your “produce” consumption in general

  29. christi permalink
    November 18, 2009

    Green products are equitable to a messily confusing, unregulated (i.e. unmanaged, untruthful to a large degree) bunch. It is nearly impossible for the typical consumer to track it all down and yet there is little being done to determine “what is green”. Can you say you are a business who has gone green when your business chooses to purchase 10% post-consumer paper that year? Yes. (Don’t worry that the product you are selling is 100% hazardous chemical.) And, it works, people buy into the greenwashed campaign. The market is overwhelmed by this type of campaign. Meanwhile, changes in the products are the same ol’ stuff. Just re-packaged.
    And, I recognize I’m making some generalizations, but I think that is the increasing perception. That it’s the same old business, just a different suit. Sorry to those who really have changed business. Unless more is done sooner to undo the greenwashing, you will get swept up with the rest of the trash.

  30. Charles permalink
    November 18, 2009

    I read about “greenwashing” awhile ago. People definitely need to be aware of corporate marketing and overstatements, if not outright lies, as they just to make a buck on the trendy phrses of “green.” They don’t all do this of course, some actually do try to make good products. But some will say anything.

    I bet a lot of people don’t really pay attention if something is actually safer for the environment or not, just as long as some company says so! This is scary, their careless attitude to believe what some advertising says. Advertising is SUPPOSED to hook you, duh.

  31. Pepper Evans permalink
    November 19, 2009

    Those that are not hazardous to the health of people. It can also be recyclable items like old vehicles such as a corporate limousine service in Westchester that is no longer utilized.

  32. bamboo permalink
    November 19, 2009

    i am writing the blog about bamboo home decor, environmental for me is more close to the natural and ancient culture.

  33. Camille Dantzler permalink
    November 22, 2009

    l believe green products are products that do not emit toxic materials into the environment. It can be purchasing organic products, shopping at vintage/consignment stores, or taking the metro instead of driving. I do also believe that the ‘green’ phenomenon is a marketing scheme that plays on our insecurities as individuals and collectively. Labels titled ‘all natural’ and ‘eco-friendly’ are used all over to draw in consumers. It has become hip to be green which has both positive and negative effects on how people interpret the world.

  34. kaden permalink
    November 22, 2009

    i search for a product that is at least 80% post recycled mattieral then a fter i am fin ished with this poducted ithrow it away because a local community got rid of the recycling center

  35. Emilio Malaguti permalink
    November 23, 2009

    All materials used should be safe to viving organisms, recyclable and very easily absorbed /degraded into the environment; ( low oxygen demand).

  36. Jordan S. permalink
    November 23, 2009

    When discussing the issue of “green” products an individual needs to look beyond the small purchasers and focus on one of the largest purchasers of products in the country, the US Federal government. “Green procurement” is a new term floating around that relates to government acquisition of products. So far green procurement is really only a trendy phrase that has very little action behind it. The EPA has made great strides in areas of appliance purchasing with the Energy Star program, but there is no system in place that informs a government purchaser if a product is green or not. A federal employee with a government credit card is in the same position as an individual consumer when it comes to the question of weather a product is green or not. If the administration wants the government to “lead by example” green procurement must be addressed. Perhaps this question forum is a sign that the EPA is looking into this issue. Like the Energy Star program the EPA must develop guidance to assist government purchasers, and define “green product” to assist in a purchaser’s decision making process. I predict that in the future almost every product will have a carbon indicator label on it. Similar to a price tag this label will inform a consumer of the products overall carbon footprint. This carbon tag might not be a government mandate, but rather arise as a demand in the free market economy.

  37. Sally Gellert permalink
    November 23, 2009

    i agree, and there are some “go-to” companies whose products I look for when they are on sale, particularly Seventh Generation and Burt’s Bees (though Burt’s has been out by a multinational [Unilever, I believe], so I’ll have to watch more carefully]). Tom’s of Maine used to be on this list, until they, too, were bought out. I notice that Seventh Generation products seem to be less expensive since Clorox’s GreenWorks line came out—competition does help! I also try to keep awarer of labor practices when I can.

  38. Sally Gellert permalink
    November 23, 2009

    Hear, hear! I have been getting my congregation to actually use the dishes we own, stainless flatware in the cabinet, and dishwasher that sits idle so much for coffee hour—and it’s working. Even when someone else is in charge, I no longer have to stop in at the kitchen to set up trays of cups—they’re all doing it as a routine. Still working on training others on how the dishwasher works (commercial, so not exactly like home, but very easy). I refuse to buy anything in individual-serving packages (with the rare exception of granola bars, as I don’t know of any that are not individually wrapped, and hot chocolate for Sunday coffee hour, as people are still afraid of the mess kids would make, but I’m thinking of experimenting even there. . . .)

  39. Sally Gellert permalink
    November 23, 2009

    I understand your perspective, but I remember reading in Michael Pollan’s “The Botany of Desire” about a potato farmer who decided to switch to organic methods when he became fed up with having to remove his protective garments and take a shower before being able to hug his young child. Also, I found “The Real Dirt on Farmer John” quite an interesting case study. If the FDA was doing a better job of inspection, new regulations wouldn’t be needed. If we still had thousands of slaughterhouses instead of less than 20, our meat supply would be safer, and we probably would have fewer E. coli meat recalls. If smaller, more local processing plants were used for vegetables, jobs would be more spread out and any salmonella outbreak would be more easily contained. do you save seeds, or know a seed cleaner? One particular seed company is doing everything possible to patent seeds and make saving illegal based on intellectual property laws. One executive from that company has a revolving door at the highest FDA level. These practices hurt American farmers other than the agribusiness corporations, and these are the practices I would like to see challenged and prevented.

  40. Sally Gellert permalink
    November 23, 2009

    There is some truth to “what the traffic will bear” in pricing of recycled products, but also the cost of collecting recycled materials, sorting “the wheat from the chaff”, so to speak, and processing the old products into useable materials, which without economies of scale, can cost more than using new materials. there is one particular New Jersey company that is dedicated to making products and packaging from garbage, and also to keeping their products affordable for all, selling in big-box stores. The founder had the courage to turned down a million-dollar grant in their start-up days because it would have meant selling out his concept, leaving it vulnerable to greenwashing. One particular outdoor-products company also provides amazing guarantees, which is probably a factor in their product prices, but theirs are designed to last many times longer than the cheap, “planned-obsolescence” version, so sometimes you do “get what you pay for”. Labor practices also sometimes affect the cost of green products, and those with disposable income can choose to support companies that treat their employees well.

  41. Sally Gellert permalink
    November 23, 2009

    I agree about the cost of organic mac & cheese compared to the “regular” version, but what about a simple box of macaroni and some milk and cheese soup for sauce, or even grating your own cheese? Much less packaging, fewer preservatives, you probably are buying the milk already, you’re probably young enough to be able to snack on the cheese without fear of cholesterol, gaining weight, or lactose intolerance—something to consider (particularly if your dorm has a kitchen or if you live in an apartment—difficult if all you have is a microwave).

  42. Sally Gellert permalink
    November 23, 2009

    The problem with bamboo is, where is it grown? What is the cost in freight to get it to market? I’d love to see some domestically-grown bamboo; is it out there?

  43. Sally Gellert permalink
    November 23, 2009

    I read labels on everything (If it’s too daunting to do it all at once, read labels for sauces one week, pick a brand to stick with, and next week do laundry detergent. that way you only have to check your preferred brand’s label a few times a year to make sure nothing has changed dramatically). I buy virtually all my clothes at thrift shops, except shoes, something I REALLY need that I can’t find in my size (I really have to work on weight loss, but have always had a problem fitting pants), and “cause” T-shirts (I work in a commercial kitchen where a T-shirt is the most practical top, and then I look for organic cotton when it’s on sale or I am flush). I buy 100% recycled paper for my computer printer, and print two-sided. I buy refilled ink cartridges. Tissues, napkins, and TP are all 100% recycled. I air-dry clothes probably about 90% of the time (not as good on sheets and towels, as I generally don’t do them myself). My main vices when it comes to green products are music (I want to own the CD with liner notes); books (but they are bought used if possible, given to friends, rummage sales, or thrift shops, or kept in my personal [too large] library for rereading and lending); greeting cards (though I do look for recycled); and luxury food (alcohol, imports [but not out-of-season produce]).

  44. Acai permalink
    December 8, 2009

    If so, that follows the law of economics that prices will be set by “whatever the traffic will bear.” Over a number of years as most of the people able to pay have done so, and the cost of production comes down, the price falls to attract the lower levels of the mass market. The only way a green economy could be immediately available to everyone at affordable prices is with government subsidies, but as we see, it has its foreign entanglements to attend to first.

  45. jordan permalink
    June 23, 2010

    good

  46. Green Certification permalink
    July 20, 2010

    This is a very informative article. I am glad to have discovered your blog. I will definitely promote this blog among my circle of friends

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