Tuesday, 27 September 2011

What's In A Name?

Light Green, Dark Green, Bright Green, Sustainable, Eco-friendly, Environmental, Ethical, Fairtrade, Organic, FSC, Rainforest Alliance certified, Responsibly sourced, Local, Free range...

The list seems endless but what do all these labels stand for? If I'm going to green my life first I need to decide what that actually means.

To start with, the list can be split into two groups. Those which guarantee the product meets certain minimum conditions and others which sound nice but don't guarantee anything.

The five which do guarantee standards are:

Fairtrade - If a product has this label then it satisfies a list of social, economic and environmental standards set by the Fairtrade International Organisation. These standards include a fair wage for the producers, investment into development for the community and long term contracts so that growers can plan securely and sustainably.
Organic - Being organic tends to mean no chemicals, pesticides, genetic modification or other synthetic inputs. Any product that is labelled organic must meet strict UK, European and international standards. The most common organic certification is the Soil Association's. This exceeds the minimum requirements and assures that farms have high animal welfare standards, promote wildlife, don't use genetic modification or pesticides/chemicals and pursue sustainable farming techniques.
FSC - This stands for Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC logo appears on products that have come from well managed forests, so you can be certain you aren't contributing to the further destruction of global forests. These products range from furniture to toilet paper!
Rainforest Alliance certified - Similar to Faritrade (as far as I can see) this label guarantees that farms meet the standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network. This means the farms use sustainable farm management and are also working towards improving local social and environmental standards. This label focuses more on sustainable farming than fair pay but still aims to promote economically sustainable farming methods so farmers have security too.
Free range - This is only a binding term for poultry and eggs in the UK. So if it says free rage on any other meat products it doesn't guarantee anything, although it's probably a good sign.
For chickens free range means continuous daytime access to open-air runs for at least half their lifetime. It also guarantees a slaughter age of at least 56 days, just less than two months! There are a few different standards for chickens and it's all a bit confusing. I'll do another blog on this another time once I've figured it out!
For eggs, free range means the hens have had continuous access to outdoor runs "mainly covered with vegetation" but sheds are often used where the hens have less than a square foot each. Again, there are lots of similar labels and I'll discuss this in more detail another time.

There's another way to split the labels too. Those which correspond to products such as food, furniture, appliances, and those which describe people and lifestyles such as light, dark and bright green. I'll talk more about these people labels tomorrow.

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