Green Cleaning Products:  Guide to Green Certifications

Does buying green really matter? Why are Green logos important?

Bay West EcoSoft paper line is all Green Seal Certified

Bay West devotes the entire “EcoSoft'” line for Green Seal Certified paper products

Why are Green Certification Logos Important?

Third Parties certifications are extremely important.  Putting labels on products helps buyers make the best decisions.  Purchasers are under time pressures and are not environmental experts.  Recognizable third party logos avoid wasting time to investigate whether a products claims are truthful.  Green Seal, EcoLogo, DfE, and Green Guard are quick and reliable logos to ensure that those products are not harmful and do not degrade the environment.

Green Seal

Green Seal is the most stringent standard of sustainability for products and services.  Green Seal is a non profit organization whose mission is to safeguard the environment by empowering purchasers to find products that do not harm humans or the earth.  The standards use a science based approach to analyze the life cycle of products. A product bearing a Green Seal Certification promotes the “Green Economy” – “One that is as sustainable as possible–renewable, with minimal impact–so that our environment, all forms of life and our natural resources are protected and our social needs and values are honored”  (Source).


EcoLogo is very similar to Green Seal. Both organizations are Type 1 environmental labels that are awarded for environmental leadership.  Green Seal and EcoLogo are not for profit organizations that evaluate and verify products that meet strict environmental standards.  Green Seal is based in Washington DC and EcoLogo is Canada’s ecolabeling program.  In terms of which certification is better it depends.  For Green Purchasing both Green Seal and EcoLogo are considered “The Gold Standard.”
Green Seal Vs. EcoLogo –  Both certifications are good, however in terms of paper products Green Seal appears to carry more weight than EcoLogo Paper.  To receive EcoLogo certification paper products must meed or exceed all applicable government standards.  Green Seal verifies that paper products contain more than the minimum EPA fiber requirements of recovered material in their standards.  EcoLogo certified paper are not more harmful to the environment in any way but I recognize that the Green Seal standards require more than just the minimum requirements.

DfE – Designed for the Environment

As described on the website:  “EPA allows safer products to carry the Design for the Environment (DfE) label.  This mark enables consumers to quickly identify and choose products that can help protect the environment and are safer for families.

When you see the DfE logo on a product it means that the DfE scientific review team has screened each ingredient for potential human health and environmental effects and that – based on currently available information, EPA predictive models, and expert judgement – the product contains only those ingredients that pose the least concern among chemicals in their class…. These products are forumlated from the safest possible ingredients and have increased the use of safer chemicals by hundreds of millions of pounds” (Source)

Green Guard

GreenGuard is another label that certifies products that improve indoor air quality.  The increased use of chemicals can be hazardous to humans health and Green Guard helps reduce such harmful exposures.  GreenGuard will help manufacturers create safe products for indoor use and allows buyers to easily identify safe products.

LEED Credits for Green Certified Products

LEED Certification is a lot like Green Seal except that LEED certifies sustainable construction of buildings and homes.  LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  By using products that are certified sustainable by third parties you are eligible to receive points towards a LEED project.  For example if you use Green Seal Certirfied (GSC)  paint, cleaning chemicals, paper products  and services you can earn up to 6 additional points in LEED Existing Building Operation & Management. Two points can be awarded for GSC products in Commercial Interiors, New Construction, Core and Shell Categories.  Please visit this convenient resource on Green Seal’s website to see all the available points within the rating systems.  LEED also awards points to projects that include EcoLogo green cleaning requirements in their buildings   Not all green certifications will receieve points under certain rating systems.  For instance LEED EB does not give points for DfE products.  Also be careful because in order to re-certify LEED Projects you must prove that green cleaners have actually been used as stated during the initial certification.

Green Washing

Green-wash (green’wash’, -wôsh’) – verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.  (Source)
Beware of fake labels, vague language, irrelevant facts, and hidden trade-offs.  For more information please visit The Sins of Greenwashing by TerraChoice, Inc.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Vs.Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI)

FSC started in 1992 as the first certification scheme that promotes responsible management of forests.  FSC paper goes through annual third party audits and must meet stringent standards from a system of performance based measurements.   SFI paper does not require any of the aforementioned criteria.  SFI began in 2001 as marketing campaign funded by the American Forest & Paper Association.  SFI is now a non-profit but the initial monetary ties with AF&PA make the label a biased.  Here is an independent Study written by the National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Environmental Advocates that compares SFI and FSC Certification Systems.  Green Peace recognizes FSC as the only credible certification scheme and cites numerous flaws regarding SFI criteria.

More Information:

The International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) has a helpful online “Guide to Green Cleaning Products.”


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