Learning and Teaching Sustainability

How to be a sustainable shopper

Use product labels to guide your purchases and make sustainable choices.

Every time you make a purchase you are essentially casting a vote. When purchasing from a particular brand, you are telling that brand that their company is doing something you like. If they weren't, you would not have bought their product.

We buy goods and services based on a lot factors. Sometimes we have limited choices and have to buy based on availability. Price is also a really important and common consideration. Diet preferences are becoming more and more common. Brand preference is another factor.

One factor most people are not taking into consideration when making purchases is whether or not the company they are buying from supports sustainability. For example, do they produce products that are non-toxic for me and my family? This is one example of a sustainability focused consideration. Another example might be to consider whether the company you are buying from produces their goods in a way that is not harmful to the environment.

To help you be a sustainable purchaser, we have arranged a list of well-known certifications and labels that can help guide your purchasing decisions. Start buying from better brands. Buy from companies that care about you as much as they care about making a profit.

The descriptions provided for each certification were taken directly from each organizations website. We thought using their own words would best explain each organizations mission.

cradle_to_cradle

The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, a non-profit organization, educates and empowers manufacturers of consumer products to become a positive force for society and the environment, helping to bring about a new industrial revolution.

The Institute administers the publicly available Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Product Standard which provides designers and manufacturers with criteria and requirements for continually improving what products are made of and how they are made.

The Cradle to Cradle Certified™ mark provides consumers, regulators, employees, and industry peers with a clear, visible, and tangible validation of a manufacturer’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and to their communities.

Green Globe Certified

The Green Globe certification is a structured assessment of the sustainability performance of travel and tourism businesses and their supply chain partners. Businesses can monitor improvements and document achievements leading to certification of their enterprises’ sustainable operation and management.

The Green Globe Standard includes 44 core criteria supported by over 380 compliance indicators. The applicable indicators vary by type of certification, geographical area as well as local factors. The entire Green Globe Standard is reviewed and updated twice per calendar year.

Green Seal

Green Seal® is the nation’s premier ecolabel, symbolizing transparency, integrity and proven environmental leadership. We develop life-cycle-based, multi-attribute standards and certify products and services that can prove they meet our strict criteria for human health, reduced environmental impact and excellent performance. Operating as a nonprofit since its founding in 1989, Green Seal has certified thousands of products and services in over 450 categories, and is specified by countless schools, government agencies, businesses and institutions.

Our science-based standards provide the road map you need to improve your sustainability and earn third-party certification from one of the most respected ecolabels in the industry.

The Green Seal Mark on your products or services is an instant indicator that they have met or exceeded leadership-level, life-cycle-based criteria for sustainability. Purchasers, facility managers, meeting planners, and consumers everywhere look for — and often require — the Green Seal because they know it equals environmental and health excellence.

Fairtrade Certified

The fair trade movement began as a way to connect disadvantaged producers to vibrant, global markets. The goal was to create trading partnerships founded on transparency, fairness, and economic empowerment. Today we continue this tradition, delivering long-term benefits to farms, factories, and fisheries, and the people who represent them.

Fair trade is a global movement made up of a diverse network of producers, companies, shoppers, advocates, and organizations putting people and planet first.

We at Fair Trade USA believe that everyone wants to do what’s right – for their families, fellow global citizens, and the planet. That’s why we’re committed to making the right choices the most obvious ones. Based on the simple idea that the products we buy and sell are connected to the livelihoods of others, fair trade is a way to make a conscious choice for a better world. A choice for Fair Trade Certified™ goods is a choice to support responsible companies, empower farmers, workers, and fishermen, and protect the environment. In other words, it’s a world-changing way of doing business.

bcorp

Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

Society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by government and nonprofits alone. The B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose. By harnessing the power of business, B Corps use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment.

B Corps form a community of leaders and drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good. The values and aspirations of the B Corp community are embedded in the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence.

LEED

Buildings have a substantial impact on the health and wellbeing of people and the planet.

Buildings use resources, generate waste and are costly to maintain and operate. Green building is the practice of designing, constructing and operating buildings to maximize occupant health and productivity, use fewer resources, reduce waste and negative environmental impacts, and decrease life cycle costs.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building, community and home project types, LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.

Fairtrade International

Our mission is to connect disadvantaged producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower producers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives.

Our vision and mission will be reflected in the values by which we work as an organization so that we ourselves set an example for the changes we seek in others. Therefore we will work collaboratively and seek to empower those who wish to be partners in our mission. Trust is a crucial factor in our work and we will be mindful of our responsibilities to those who place their trust in us. Embracing transparency and stakeholder participation is an important way that we will be accountable for our work.

Rainforest Alliance

The Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit organization working at the intersection of business, agriculture, and forests to make responsible business the new normal.

We are an alliance of companies, farmers, foresters, communities, and consumers committed to creating a world where people and nature thrive in harmony.

We envision a world where people and nature thrive in harmony. The Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit organization working at the intersection of business, agriculture and forests. We aim to create a better future for people and nature by making responsible business the new normal.

fsc forest

Being FSC certified means that your forest, or supply chain, is managed responsibly; that you comply with our environmental, social, and economic standards.

This covers much more than the trees themselves – among other things, it makes sure that local communities are respected, protects the habitats of endangered plant and animal species, and ensures workers are properly paid.

usda organic

In order to make an organic claim or use the USDA Organic Seal, the final product must follow strict production, handling and labeling standards and go through the organic certification process. The standards address a variety of factors such as soil quality, animal raising practices, and pest and weed control. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.

Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible. Organic produce must be grown on soil that had no prohibited substances (most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) applied for three years prior to harvest. As for organic meat, the standards require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors, fed organic feed, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.

Non GMO Project

The Non-GMO Project is a mission-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to building and protecting a non-GMO food supply. We do this through consumer education and outreach programs; marketing support provided to Non-GMO Project Verified brands; and training resources and merchandising materials provided to retailers. Non-GMO Project Verified remains the market leader for GMO avoidance and one of the fastest growing labels in the retail sector. We offer North America’s most trusted third-party verification for non-GMO food and products.

The Non-GMO Project Standard is a consensus-based document crafted with the insight from dozens of industry experts, reflecting a dynamic range of perspectives. In a world of shifting and quickly developed technologies, the Standard remains current and collaborative through ongoing public comment periods. Because of this collaboration with engaged stakeholder groups, Non-GMO Project Verified is a meaningful and achievable way for suppliers, brands and retailers to show their commitment to providing consumers transparent choice in the marketplace.

animal welfare institute

Since its founding in 1951, AWI has sought to alleviate the suffering inflicted on animals by people. In the organization's early years, our particular emphasis was on the desperate needs of animals used for experimentation. In the decades that followed, we expanded the scope of our work to address many other areas of animal suffering.

Today, one of our greatest areas of emphasis is cruel animal factories, which raise and slaughter pigs, cows, chickens and other animals. The biggest are in our country, and they are expanding worldwide.

Another major AWI effort is our quest to end the torture inflicted on furbearing animals by steel jaw leghold traps and wire snares. AWI continues its work to protect animals in laboratories including promotion of development of non-animal testing methods and prevention of painful experiments on animals by high school students. Representatives of AWI regularly attend meetings of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to fight for protection of threatened and endangered species. Similarly, we attend meetings of the International Whaling Commission to preserve the ban on commercial whaling, and we work to protect all marine life against the proliferation of human-generated ocean noise including active sonar and seismic air guns.

certified humane

Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) is the leading nonprofit certification organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals in food production from birth through slaughter. The goal of the program is to improve the lives of farm animals by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices.

When you see the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® label on a product, you can be assured that the food products have come from facilities that meet precise, objective standards for farm animal treatment. You can find Certified Humane® products in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Peru and Chile.

marine steward council

Making sure there are enough fish in the sea to maintain healthy populations is a core principle of the MSC Fisheries Standard.

An MSC certified fishery must show it targets fish populations that are healthy and productive. It’s a balancing act between how many they catch and how many they leave to breed for another season.

If fish numbers fall below sustainable limits, a certified fishery will adjust what they catch. If they don’t, their MSC certification can be suspended. A suspended fishery won’t be able to sell fish with the blue fish label until they have a management strategy that rebuilds the fish population.

salmon safe

Salmon-safe has become one of the nation’s leading ecolabels with more than 95,000 acres of farm and urban lands certified in Oregon, Washington, California and British-Columbia.

Through our peer-reviewed certification and accreditation program, we are leading the movement to implement farming practices and developments that protect water quality, maintain watershed health and restore habitat.

Our mission is to transform land management practices so Pacific salmon can thrive in West Coast watersheds.

Salmon-Safe works across the West Coast through our Partner Network. Established at our Salmon-Safe Summit in 2007, the Partner Network consists of place-based conservation organizations as well as collaborating certification organizations. Salmon-Safe seeks to extend the range of the Network in key agricultural and urban watersheds throughout the West Coast range of Pacific salmon.