The eco-label problem

10/31/2012

Do you know what this symbol means?



How about this one?



They’re both “green labels,” and they’re tracked by the aptly-named Ecolabel Index. The international directory, created by a Vancouver- and New Haven, Conn.-based company, keeps tabs on some 432 logos related to the environment.

This sea of sustainability labels is enough to send even the most eco-savvy grocer's head spinning. The Index’s own Anastasia O’Rourke said as much in an interview with NPR’s The Salt.

It’s no wonder, then, that organizations ranging from the United Nations and the European Union to the ISO are looking for some standardization.

Other groups, meanwhile, are looking to tackle it on their own. Just a few weeks back, the U.S. Trade Commission revised its guidelines for green labelling to “help marketers ensure that the claims they make about the environmental attributes of their products are truthful and non-deceptive.”

Denmark, for its part, is hammering out an agreement to study some of the most common eco-labels. They’re looking for overlap and accuracy, with the ultimate goal of weeding out some redundancies.

In its place, officials might be considering creating a smartphone app that can tell consumers information about a product’s history.

They could also make an on-the-go program that informs consumers which eco-labels deal with issue that matter to them the most.

Canada’s government has not standardized eco-labels, though Environment Canada offers consumers a comprehensive guide on how to navigate the sea of labels at the grocery store.

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