News / Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

In from the Cold, at Wal-Mart

Posted 20 December 2008 by Anastasia O'Rourke to Opinion | 2 Comments |

The thing about researching eco-labels is that it tends to follow you around, especially in consumptive moments. There is no escape: apparently not even in wal-mart! How is it that I succumbed to the pre-snowstorm shopping frenzy, and at wal-mart in East Haven CT of all places?

Well it happened, and I at least I can report that in amongst all the mega-chip, maxi-pad, 24-pack chicken leg purchasing going on, I found some organic spring onions, cilantro and tofu. So funny when you see yourself in the eyes of your trolley neighbor waiting to check out. I must be fitting in some new demographic/market segment for wal-mart: over educated label geek feeling out of place but nonetheless having a great time. Well there must a few of us because my organic tofu was fresh and I have to say, pretty tasty.

In hunting down the said soy-protein, of course I started to look for other labels. After all, I just heard a talk from one of wal-mart’s sustainability managers at the Sustainable Brands International conference and was impressed by the diligence they’re applying worldwide. So yes, there were a few eco-labelled products, including organic cotton sheets which I liked to see there, but didn’t buy.

But the ratio of “good” stuff to – well I don’t want to say ‘bad’ but rather non-good (or even more PC: non-labelled goods) was probably 1:5000. That is a total guess. I doubt the store manager would allow an audit, and to be honest, I wouldn’t spend my time doing it anyway.

Speaking of time, all that label spotting meant that the snow started to bucket down, and I subsequently got stuck in a huge traffic jam on the way home. Sitting there I was thinking about how the emissions from which probably offset all the good stuff I bought.

So we are out of the cold and on the store shelves, but then back out in a traffic jam? Next step, world domination.

Washing Ourselves with Green

Posted 14 December 2008 by admin to Opinion | No Comments |

When is a label an ecolabel? We were almost fooled into thinking that Green Planet Solutions (a UK cleaning and janitorial products company) new marketing campaign was a stand alone eco-label.

But some digging revealed – not greenwashing – but another label behind the scenes, and none other than the highly respected EU eco-label. Is the EU-label just for geeks like us who wonder what their label is all about? Why not just use the EU ecolabel? We’d love to know!

Nonetheless, cleaning products are a perfect category for eco-labels – have you ever pondered the ingredients listed on those bottles and cans that we use when cleaning? Try at least once to read the other side of a product package and be astonished at the variety of ingredients. Many people are wondering about the chemicals included: are they toxic at a certain exposure level or after numerous uses? Can all of them be successfully captured and treated at sewage treatment plants? And do they get accumulated in natural organisms like fish and animals inhabiting a river catchment?

Kind of hard to tell from a simple list of ingredients unless you’re a specialist, which is why a good eco-label can help cut through the grease. Back to Green Planet Solutions and their label-like messaging.

Their rather extensive catalogue includes all sorts of solutions, from energy efficient hand dryers to soaps, to “unique washroom consultancy services”. Ahhh. Maybe it’s not so simple to have a green bathroom after all?

Greening Textiles Worldwide

Posted 1 December 2008 by admin to Opinion | No Comments |

Eco-friendliness is on the climb in the textile and fashion world. In attempts of greening their supply chains, some international companies are looking for organic fibres, others are looking to full life cycle based eco-labels and a third group assessing social issues in the textile supply chain.

But not all regions have labels, so companies are increasingly looking abroad.

Case in point: four Thai textile companies received the EU-flower award last year in an effort to differentiate their product for the European market. Already this year one of these manufacturers is expecting 25% increase in exports, so it seems to have paid off.

In fact, textiles were among the very first product groups for which the EU ecolabel criteria were developed, and the textiles as a product group has the second highest number of EU-flower licensees. The trend has also hit the conventions.

In Europe, at least two of the autumn 2008 textile fairs devoted substantial attention to eco labelling of textiles. A global textile exhibition organiser recently published a guide in both English and Chinese to eco-labelling and social labels for textiles. With large and complex supply chains and differing regulations around the world, labels and certification play an important role in assuring buyers that producers are doing the right thing.

We wonder if ecolabels will ever be fashionable in locales where the products are actually made, or if this is still a kind of ‘luxury’ good.

How to Buy Green Electronics

Posted 28 November 2008 by admin to Opinion | No Comments |

To follow up on Jacob’s blog, there is EPEAT that ranks the electronic products on the American side, but also the EU Flower that awards computers on the European side. For instance, in the product category “Notebooks”, ASUS just received the European Flower, whereas Toshiba is ranked among the best companies according to EPEAT for one of its notebooks.

After a quick look on their websites, both organisations, the EPEAT and the EU Flower, are independent structures that seem to assess the electronic products according to similar life-cycle criteria. On the other hand, when looking at the EU Flower database, there are only two products in the category “portable computers and personals computers”.Another point worth mentioning is the Greenpeace barometer. They periodically rank the best (and the worst) electronic producers according to life-cycle principles. This barometer has been running for two years now and 10 guides (or rankings) have been published. Nokia is in the leading position at the moment.

Finally, there are of course all the self-declared labels, where the producers award themselves according to their own criteria. An example is Philips’ Greenthink logo. Adding to confusion? Greenwash? Or good intention to improve their products? À propos, Philips is lagging behind in the Greenpeace ranking “due to regressive lobbying against the principle of Individual Producer Responsibility in an EU consultation on the revision of the WEEE Directive” and e-waste criteria. On the other hand, the company holds the EPEAT silver medal for some flat screens.

Personally, as a consumer, I think I’d rather rely on EPEAT, the Flower or Greenpeace.

EU Flower
Greenpeace Guide to greener electronics

Towards Sustainable Mobility?

Posted 20 November 2008 by admin to Ecolabel News, Opinion | No Comments |

While Nissan is applying a self-declared ecolabel to its cars and consumers are still waiting for an independent certification awarding this industry (see previous blog), the Swedish company producing alternative fuel Fordon Gas Sverige AB has been awarded by the renown Nordic Ecolabel for its methane-based fuel.

According to the Nordic Ecolabel, this fuel is composed of 50% of fossil natural gas and 50% of biogas from digestion plants. The demand for alternative fuel in the automotive industries is rapidly growing in Sweden with 15 000 cars and buses using methane-based fuel.This demand is greatly generated through green public procurement approach, where public authorities are looking for reliable standards for their purchasing.

But: How far can eco-labels stimulate the development of alternative fuels? Are alternative fuels the right technology to move towards sustainable mobility and cut down the environmental impacts coming from the transport sector?

Just think about the comparative value between some of the Swedish trains holding the ecolabel Bra Miljöval (Good Environmental Choice), and cars and buses running with methane holding the Nordic Ecolabel.

For the complete articles of the news: Miljöval: