Spring Means Green
Along with "Spring Forward" and "Spring Cleaning," this time of year is also one in which people make more of an effort to go green. Maybe its the reminder Mother Nature sends us when she pushes fresh new shoots from the ground and buds appear on the trees. I must say that I'm finding that Spring Means Green just about anywhere I look.
But while green is good, some would say that its over done. "Greenwashing" is one claim that can be made when a product is sold with a label of being environmentally-friendly when its not so in reality. It is true, you do need to learn to be a smart consumer.
In order to sort your way through the numerous terms that are used for green, let's review some of the most commonly used monikers. We'll go over the differences between sustainable, fair-trade, natural and certified organic. Learn what it takes to get a "Green Seal" on a product, too.
Its clear that Spring Means Green. Even online auction site eBay is getting in on the green trend. Its currently sponsoring a 30 Days of Green event on its website. Not only can you win some cold hard green cash, but you can also browse ideas to help you go and stay green.
To get an idea of how broad-ranging the terms "green" or "eco-friendly" can be, take a look at the eBay products to the left, compiled using such search terms. How can you be sure your coffee or T-shirt is truly good for the environment?
For starters, you might first ask if it has a "Green Seal." Not all eco-friendly products may be accredited, but every item with a "Green Seal" has been determined by an independent non-profit agency to be environmentally friendly, meeting stringent standards.
Another fairly easy way to determine the green-ness of your purchase is to confirm whether it is local. In particular, the local food movement involves items grown within 100 miles of the market. This saves a tremendous amount on fuel otherwise required to ship the goods, and as a bonus, they taste better (fresher, picked closer to ripeness, etc.)
When it comes to coffee and chocolate, you'll be looking for certification from the Fair Trade Federation. Starbucks is leading the way with its Shared Planet program. 100% of its coffee is Fair Trade certified:
The coffee giant has partnered with Conservation International (CI) for over a decade to promote farming practices that are beneficial to farmer, buyer and Mother Earth.
With a fair trade label, you know that the farmers who planted and harvested the coffee or cocoa beans have been paid fairly, and that the crops were grown in a sustainable manner.
Guides to Going Green
And what about organic? Anything from shampoo to Champagne can be labeled as such, but how can you be sure? (and, is it worth the additional cost?)
In the United States, the Department of Agriculture reviews and certifies whether goods are organic. For produce, this means it was grown without the use of conventional fertilizers and is chemical-free. For products, no more than 5% inorganic material can be used. Regulations may vary in other countries, but in general, there is strict overview of organic label.
Furniture and other wood products are ideally made with sustainable materials. Check the type and source of wood to ensure that it has not come from sensitive regions like the Amazon rain forest. Bamboo is a popular eco-friendly wood-product. Everything from footstools to flooring can be created from the stalks of this woody plant.
Finally, post-consumer recycled means you are really doing your part to keep the earth green. In short, the product has been used and recycled, and now is being used again.
Think about items like playground surfaces from old tires or tennis shoes. Of course, a newspaper is the classic example that comes to mind. Entrepreneurs are getting more and more creative in coming up with ways to reduce, reuse, recycle.
You can too. For example, take bottle caps and use them as checkers or poker chips. Get lots of fun ideas for creative reuse at www.recycleworks.org.
Now you're armed with the various meanings of green. Since Spring means green, its time to get out and be a smart, eco-friendly consumer!