August 23, 2011

Buy Green Products and Save

Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent

There are many reasons why more and people are buying green products. Recent studies show that even during the recent recession, more people are still interested in green products. Sales of green products, such as organic foods and natural personal care items, have jumped 15 % since 2006, according to research firm Mintel International. Green products have less of an impact on the environment than comparable non-green products. This may mean that the product can be recycled or is made of recycled products, and it may save natural resources, energy and water. It may also have less packaging to save paper or plastic or be a locally produced and sourced product. Local products are considered greener since they do not have to be transported long distances. Green products can also have less of an impact on people since they contain fewer toxic components or are non-polluting. A less toxic environment supports healthier communities.

Partner environmentally friendly products with cost savings and that is a win-win we all love. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs. If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars. That sounds pretty green, but what does Energy Star mean?

According to the Energy Star website, ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved enough energy in 2009 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 30 million cars, while saving nearly $17 billion on utility bills.

Energy Star is a third party certifier that uses standard criteria to qualify a product as energy efficient. There are third party certifiers for many different products. There is no one certifier for all green products. The best way to know if the product you are considering to purchase is really green, look for a third party certifier. Check out some of the more common certifiers from the US Small Business Administration. Green Seal sets product standards and awards its label to a wide variety of products .
If the product you are considering is not certified, check the label yourself and look for these things:
  1. Non-toxic (no Caution, Warning or Danger on the label)
  2. Can be recycled or has recycled content (example: 30% post consumer content recycled paper)
  3. Saves energy or water
  4. Durable and reusable
  5. Made from natural or renewable materials
  6. Produced locally
  7. Healthier for people
Be wise about how you spend your money and look for the win-win combinations of “saves money”, saves the planet, and protects people.

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