Eco-Friendly Labels: What Do They Really Mean?

Eco-Friendly Labels

As a consumer, you want to buy products that won’t impair the health of your family or impose any harmful effects on the environment. However, your good intentions to support humane, eco-conscious products may be misguided through products that are ambiguously labeled. There are a number of labels and terms used on products that are intended to boost their eco-friendly selling point without actually adhering to environmentally responsible standards. Fortunately, there are also labels that represent sound environmental certifications and are rigorously regulated.


Here are four of the top labels you see in the market and what they actually mean:

  • USDA Organic

The organic certification is conducted through the United States Department of Agriculture, which monitors the production standards implemented in the growth, processing and packing of the food.

To receive organic certification, farmers must avoid:

  • Synthetic chemicals, such as fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics and food additives, in their agricultural practices.
  • Farmers must also use organic seed, rather than those that are genetically modified.
  • The USDA’s periodic inspections ensure the farmland is free from prohibited chemical inputs for at least three years before the farm is fully certified.
  • Livestock must be produced without genetic engineering, housed in an eco-conscious way, fed 100 percent organic feed and managed without antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic produce must also be clearly separated from any non-certified products that are processed and packaged.


  • Fair Trade

As the production and consumer market grows internationally, there are many environmental and socioeconomic factors that should be taken into consideration.

Fair Trade certification requires a regulation of the:

  • Environmental, labor and development standards.
  • Fair Trade International certification currently covers bananas, honey, oranges, cocoa, coffee, shortbread, cotton, dried and fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and oil seeds, quinoa, rice, spices, sugar, tea and wine.
  • The Fair Trade organization teaches farmers and workers the nuances of the free market, so they are properly compensated for the sale of their products. The Fair Trade organization helps workers in developing countries create sustainable businesses and fosters partnerships with companies who require their goods.


  • Energy Star

Energy Star is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program:

  • That integrates eco-friendly and sustainable functions into everyday, household appliances.
  • According to an EPA study of greenhouse gas emissions, families and businesses that utilize energy-efficient products have prevented more than 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the past 20 years.
  • Products that have an Energy Star certification are tested for their energy efficiency by a third-party that is EPA-recognized. Energy Star products include fridges, dishwashers, washers and dryers, air conditioners, light bulbs and water heaters. You can find a complete list of Energy Star products on its website.


  • Toxin-Free

The USDA doesn’t regulate the labels of “non-toxic,” “toxin-free” or “natural” that are placed on household cleaners, hygiene products and cosmetics. Many of the products that claim to be non-toxic aren’t held to any production standard and may contain toxic chemicals. It is best to look for products that are labeled with EcoCert, Leaping Bunny, USDA Certified Biobased and USDA Certified Organic.

The next time you go shopping or purchase anything make sure you are spending your money wisely, checking labels so that you can keep your family healthy. We all need to do our research and become educated so that we can have a positive impact on saving our planet and giving our children the best chance for a healthy and happy future.


About the author

Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog! I believe in living green, organically, and natural in every aspect of our lives. My mission is to help educate you on how to live green, help save our environment and to help you and your family live a happier, healthier life!

15 thoughts on “Eco-Friendly Labels: What Do They Really Mean?”

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  4. Hi Marla! Thanks so much for sharing this information with all of our Let’s Get Real readers. I know that I get asked on a regular basis what the different things on packaging mean. It can be very confusing for the general public who is trying to get the best food they can while sticking to their family budgets.

    1. Labels can be very confusing. I think it important to help people understand labels and what they are buying especially with all the greenwashing that goes on. So glad to be part of Lets Get Real Fridays. Thanks for hosting and reading my article. Have a healthy happy blessed week. Marla

  5. Deborah Smikle-Davis

    Hi Marla,
    We are often misled by confusing labels into purchasing a product that is not actually good for us. Thank you for clearing up the confusion and sharing the meaning of labels that are commonly used to identify or “misidentify” eco-friendly products at the Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party! I’m pinning and sharing this wonderful post!

    1. Hi Deborah,
      Thanks for sharing my article on social media and for hosting Healthy Happy Green & Natural blog hop. There is always so much good information on your hop.
      Labels are very confusing to people from all the greenwashing and I think its important that people understand them. Have a healthy happy blessed week. Marla

    1. Hi Marci,
      Thanks for reading my article and commenting. I agree that it is extremely important that people understand what labels mean so they know what they buying and what is healthy or not. Glad to be part of Tuesdays With a Twist. Have a healthy happy blessed week. Marla

    1. Hi Kathryn,
      What I would recommend is researching any certification on foods if you are unsure and even researching companies that package or grow the foods you eat and other products you buy. I am not personally familiar with Oregon Tilth certification except what I read on line. I really think we all need to be diligent and do our homework on all products we purchase because unfortunately, there is so much deception and green-washing in companies. I try to buy local as much as possible. Thanks for reading my article and commenting. Have a healthy happy blessed weekend! Marla

      1. I agree with you on all points, Marla. What research I’ve done so far indicates that Oregon Tilth certification is more stringent than USDA Organic. If I remember correctly, they started up in response to some of the watering down of the USDA Organic certification rules earlier this century.

        1. Hi Kathryn,
          I think you might be right about both of those points. Thanks for sharing that information. Appreciate it. Have a great weekend! Marla

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