Products carrying the words 'free-range' or 'organic' imply sustainable or humane practices. But the cold truth is these labels have little regulation. 'Greenwashing' has become a powerful marketing tool. The old adage 'buyer beware' rings true when you go shopping with good intentions. Green products are often a little more expensive, so it's worth understanding what the labels mean before you spend your money.
The USDA 'organic' label certifies that 100 percent of the ingredients, with the exception of salt and water, have been produced without the use of synthetic hormones or pesticides. Any business that exceeds $5,000.00 a year in sales must be certified to use the USDA organic label [source: U.S. Department of Agriculture]. However, the process of overseeing a booming industry is not straightforward. Changing government regulations allow a variety of ingredients -- including synthetic ones -- to carry the 'organic' label [source: Kindy and Layton]. In addition, something labeled organic does not necessarily have sustainably harvested ingredients.
Green Seal, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting consumer awareness, has become a trusted name in organic certification. It offers a database of companies that comply with strict certification requirements that 'evaluate a product or service beginning with material extraction, continuing with manufacturing and use, and ending with recycling and disposal.' Be an informed shopper. A little research into organic branding goes a long way.