Go Green, Save Money, Save the Earth: Be a savvy 'green' consumer

Kim Hornung-Marcy

May 01, 2023

According to a February 2023 article in Business News Daily “A whopping 83% of Americans are concerned about the environmental impact of products they buy and say it’s important for companies to design more environmentally friendly products.” 
A variety of business journals are reporting that consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally better products. But in all things it is buyer beware! Some companies are exploiting this to get consumers to pay more for “greenwashed” products. 
Greenwashing includes vague claims that products are green without the science to support the claim. Be wary of words like: “eco-friendly,” “sustainable,” “plant-based,” “natural,” “biodegradable,” and “locally sourced.” These claims (and others like them) need to be backed up by true certification. 
Look for reliable green certifications from Rainforest Alliance Certified, Fair Trade Certified, Green Seal or Forest Stewardship Council.
NRDC (National Resource Defense Council) publishes a report on paper products
EWG (Environmental Working Group) https://www.ewg.org/ tests and certifies the green and healthy nature of foods and many household products, from cleaning supplies to sunscreens and beauty products. 
Below are a few more of the most well-regarded environmental certifications:
Overall sustainability: B Corp CertificationCradle to CradleGreen America Business Network Certification
Appliances: Energy StarEPEAT
Cleaning and beauty products: Environmental Working GroupMade SafeEPA SaferChoice
Clothing: Global Organic Textile Standard
Ethical labor practices: Fair Trade USAFairtrade America
Food: USDA OrganicNon-GMO ProjectMarine Stewardship Council
Paper products: Forest Stewardship CouncilBPI
Do keep in mind, though, that even third-party certifications cannot cover everything. Todd Larsen, the executive co-director for consumer and corporate engagement at the environmental advocacy group Green America says, “You shouldn’t assume a product is perfect, even when it has a good certification.” 
Also, consider what you’re not being told. Research brands and then buy from those you know are using good practices. If a product arrives in lots of excessive plastic or non-renewable packaging that is a dead give-away. Truly renewable companies use recyclable envelopes and packaging.
Finally, beware of claims that are contradictory. There is no such thing as “clean” coal or biodegradable plastic made from fossil fuel. 

Let’s talk about methane

Renewable natural gas can have a higher carbon footprint than regular natural gas, but gas companies will charge you more for it. 
Renewable natural gas is still 97% methane, just like regular natural gas, so it is still leaking methane when piped and releases CO2 and other pollution when burned. While renewable natural gas may have a limited use in things like air travel and heavy industry it should not be used in heating or cooling homes. 
When it comes to energy generation the only truly green fuels are wind, solar, hydro produced by naturally falling water, and air and ground source heat pumps on green electricity. Fuels that are burned produce greenhouse gasses and toxins that are not healthy to anything that breathes.
Landfills, which can produce methane, should convert methane to electricity onsite, not invest in expensive measures to pipe liquid natural gas for miles. Composting should be state and local policy, so landfills do not emit much methane to begin with. 
Backyard and municipal composting uses oxygen and thus eliminates or reduces methane production. Plus it produces rich soil amendments, not a fuel to be burned.