New USDA Label to Decrease ‘Greenwashing’

With the popularity of the USDA’s certified organic label since its launch in 2002, those omnipresent hybrid cars, and recent pro-environment action taken against single-use plastic bags, which have been banned by cities, states and retailers across the country, it may not come as a surprise that a new USDA label for green bio-based products will roll out later this spring.

“USDA Certified Biobased Product” is how the label will read; it is being compared to the “EnergyStar” certification found on many household appliances designed to alert consumers to their efficient energy use, which not only saves households money on utility bills, but also reduces impact on natural resources.

Though the number of green household products is at an all-time high, consumers are often misled, a practice commonly referred to as “greenwashing” where clever marketing can misrepresent products that contain synthetic ingredients. Unlike other self-regulated labeling for humane animal standards and eco seafood labels, which can make any claims about their products, the new USDA bio-based designation will provide a framework, making deception more difficult for companies.

USDA officials anticipate personal care products and household cleaning items to be the most popular products using the new seal. To qualify, products have to meet minimum bio-based content standards.

The USDA has already been recommending green products for the government, in a program called “BioPreferred,” which directs federal agencies towards the most economic green options. The new Biobased product labels will be similar, making it easier for consumers to discern plant-based products from synthetics.

Like the USDA Organic program, the agency and a third party, ASTM International, will review applicants and conduct audits to measure compliance after a company has been certified. Companies can begin the application process on February 21st.

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Photo: USDA