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New To Shopping Organic? Here's What Every Green Shopper Needs To Know

By Nicole Caldwell

From cleaning supplies and food to bed sheets and cleanses, the halls of big-box stores and the pages of Amazon are flooded with products claiming to be “organic” and eco-friendly.

Greenwashing—making a product appear more eco-friendly than it actually may be—is big business. A company that so much as mentions green/organic/eco-friendly on its label can drive sales and command bigger profits. But it’s very hard to tell what’s real and what’s hype. Unfortunately, not all "organic" or "sustainable" products live up to their labels, which is why it's always important to do your research before making a purchase, big or small.

When it comes to food, labeling something “organic” generally comes with a series of inspections and certifications. But any organization granting said certifications are being paid by the very companies seeking the certification, raising the potential for corruption. 

The further outside the country you get, the less you can trust that labeling system; and when you broaden the scope to include all products, the laws become increasingly murky until they sometimes disappear altogether. Calling something non-toxic, all natural, or even organic doesn’t necessarily require a company to do anything special by way of proof. According to the USDA, all organic actually means is:

“Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods. These methods integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.”