Organic, Natural-What Do Eco-Labels Really Mean?

Guest Post: As AARP’s Sustainability Manager, Pam Evans has led the effort to incorporate environmentally responsible practices into AARP’s internal business operations. She’s passionate about educating members on the importance of responsible use of resources, and the direct connection between the declining health of the environment and the health of our, and future, generations.

There seems to be a rash of articles lately about eco-labeling and how confusing and misleading these terms can be to consumers. Somehow the words “All Natural” and “Organic” have become ubiquitous marketing hooks that aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. My favorite response to “but it’s all-natural so it’s healthy” is “arsenic is natural, too!”  It’s important to know what these terms mean, and more importantly don’t mean, when buying everything from food to fertilizer, shampoo to sunscreen.

‘Natural’ and ‘Organic’ are NOT interchangeable. Some of the best sources to learn about these terms are the USDA website and the National Pesticide Information Center.

Eco-label Index, the largest global directory of eco-labels, is currently tracking 431 labels, and gives a brief description of each on their website. 

If you want to know even more about the toxicity of the chemicals we come into contact with every day, www.Toxipedia.org is a virtual encyclopedia of easy to understand information. This applies not only to obvious candidates such as asbestos, lead, mercury, and gasoline, but also to such common compounds as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and headache tablets.  An easy to understand FREE download A Small Dose of Toxicology places toxicology within the framework of our daily lives.

There are so many other great websites on this issue, so send me your favorite if I’ve missed it here. I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Spring!

Photo thanks to Bludgeoner86 on Flickr.