Don't Be Fooled: What Makes A True Eco-Friendly Business

Have you noticed an increase in businesses boasting their sustainability? It seems to be a trend for business owners to advertise their companies as "green." It is important to be wary of greenwashing. Greenwashing is the practice of businesses dishonestly marketing their products as eco-friendly to maintain a responsible public image.

How can you tell if the "green" business in your community is as eco-friendly as it claims? Keep an eye out for certification and eco-labeling. It is unfortunately not required to be certified and use eco-labeling. However, it is a good practice by businesses and is the easiest way to identify which are green. Also, while seals and certifications are great for recognizing eco-friendly practices, make sure they can be backed up by solid standards and enough information to help you understand what they stand for.

Common eco-labeling and certification programs

Product Eco-labels

  • USDA Organic: Organic certification ensures that the producer or farm complies with USDA organic regulations
  • USDA Bio-preferred: This label is exclusive to bio-based products. These may be commercial or industrial products other than food that are composed of mostly biological products, renewable agricultural materials or forestry materials
  • Design for the Environment: EPA scientists have evaluated every ingredient in the product to make sure it meets strict criteria for safer chemical use
  • Energy Star: Products can earn this certification by meeting stringent energy efficiency qualifcations

Certification Programs for Businesses

  • Green Certification: Businesses can be Green Certified by meeting pre-determined requirements for environmental performance. This is usually based on things such as waste generation, conservation and appropriate use of natural resources
  • WaterSense: Seeing this label ensures that products and programs save water without sacrificing quality
  • Green Key: In order for a hotel to earn a Green Key, a sustainability representative from the business answers questions assessing their operational areas and sustainable areas in a self-audit. A hotel can receive one to five keys, with five being the "most green"
  • Green Seal: This program develops sustainability standards for products, services and companies and offers third-party certification for those that meet the criteria. For example, a hotel can either hold a gold, silver or bronze Green Seal as a rating for their sustainability practices
  • LEED Certification: This certification is about buildings. The program offers verification that renovated facilities and new buildings maintain energy-saving systems and that materials used in constructing the building meet eco-friendly standards.

What are some ways to identify eco-friendly businesses without certifications and labels?

  • Environmental awards or accolades are also a sure-fire sign that the company is not only eco-friendly but that it has excelled in the field!
  • Green businesses will let any affilations with environmental groups be known and visible
  • Eco-friendly businesses are usually heavily involved in their communities
  • Company websites will often display sustainability reports or corporate social responsibility reports. The reports cite if the company met sustainable goals that they set for themselves

Look out for these environmentally sound practices and certifications that most green businesses have adapted, especially due to the lack of information readily available to consumers about how to easily identify an eco-friendly company.

Check out these eco-friendly businesses in the Saratoga region!

Sources of information:
https://www.sba.gov/content/green-business-practices
http://www.meetings-conventions.com/news/features/making-sense-of-green-hotel-certifications/?p=2

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