In 1972, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm. This conference established that we had reached a point in history where the link between development and the impact on the environment was clear- and that a serious look needed to be taken at the socioeconomic factors behind environmental problems. The Stockholm conference also placed environmental responsibility on citizens, communities, enterprises and institutions at every level as well as on governments.
Since then the negative impact on the environment through indiscriminate development has only become more evident. Non-government organisations are coming to the forefront in driving efforts towards environmental responsibility. NGO’s are now issuing standards, guidelines and certifications and working with businesses to bring awareness and change with regard to the environment.
In the United States, the Green Seal organisation has started one of the most prominent initiatives promoting the use of environment-friendly products and services.
About Green Seal
Green Seal is a non-government organisation set up in 1989 in the U.S.A. In the early 1990’s it set up environment certification standards to provide a scientific credible standards that promote responsible environmental choices among manufacturers, purchasers and end users in an increasingly competitive market place. Today Green Seal standards cover over 40 product categories.
What Green Seal Does
The Green Seal organisation undertakes the following core activities:
- Standards and Certification
The most important role of the Green Seal organisation is in the development of standards for products and services that are environmental leaders in their category. The standards are set with inputs from industry, academia, governments and the general public. All stakeholders, including manufacturers, trade associations, consumer groups, environmental groups, universities and general public are free to comment and review any new standard. A written response is provided to all comments when the final standard is published. The standards are periodically reviewed and kept up to date.All Green Seal standards are set based on ISO standards for third party certifications (the ISO 14000 series).
Products are evaluated based on the life-cycle approach. This means that products seeking certification are evaluated for environmental impact from extraction through to manufacture, distribution, end use and disposal. The evaluation of products for compliance with Green Seal Environmental Standards includes site-visits that also check for quality control measures. Products are assessed for both environmental and performance requirements of the Green Seal Standards.
Once the product has been found to meet Green Seal standards, it is awarded the ‘Green Seal’ that can be used on the product, its packaging, and on promotional and advertising material. The compliance of products to Green Seal standards is evaluated annually.
For a detailed list of Green Seal standards, please see Green Seal Envionmental Standards. These cover categories including commercial adhesives, cleaners for household and industrial purposes, paper towels and napkins, electric chillers among others.
Green Seal is continually in the process of revising and expanding the product categories for its standards. Currently, Green Seal is developing standards for stains and finishes, restaurant and food services operations, soaps, cleansers and shower products. To see standards under development please visit Green Seal Standards Under Development
- Greening Your Government Program
With governments becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their volume purchases, many levels of governments are implementing environmentally preferable purchasing programs. Green Seal recognises that governments at all levels – municipal, local, state and federal have a huge potential to impact sustainable consumption. Therefore, under the ‘Greening Your Government Program’, Green Seal provides assistance to various levels government through product evaluations and recommendations. It also assists through guidance manuals and undertaking special projects.
Apart from purchasing assistance, Green Seal also evaluates operations and facilities for governments. This includes the environmental evaluation of buildings and maintenance, office practices, vehicular maintenance as well as providing recommendations environmental improvements in design and operations.
- Choose Green Reports
Green Seal publishes technical, peer-reviewed reports on various categories of products keeping in mind the environmental and financial benefits, sources and case history of each report subject. These informative reports cover topics that include lawn care equipment, office supplies and furniture, paper – bathroom tissue and paper towels, and room air conditioning. These reports can be viewed at Choose Green Reports
- Ecolabelling Policy Development
It is important to note that Green Seal has played an important role in the development of ecolabelling policies at the national and international level. Green Seal’s most significant contributions in this area include the development of the ISO standards under ISO 14000 for environmental management series and the spearheading of the Global Ecolabelling Network.
Did You Know?
- The average hotel purchases more products in one week than one hundred families typically do in a year. This is why it is important for the hotel industry to reconsider its purchasing decisions
- The combined purchasing power of the various levels of government in the U.S is over half a trillion dollars. The impact of governments changing to environmentally safer products is significant.
- The average U.S home contains 63 hazardous products. This raises concerns of health and environmental problems. Green Seal has certified household cleaning agents to reduce this risk.
- One of the main active ingredients in many household cleaning products is a surfactant. For many years common surfactants have been derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. Some Green Seal certified products use bio-based surfactants made primarily from renewable resources such as coconuts, corn and oranges and have a much better health, safety and environmental profile.
Green Seal Certified Products
Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their purchases and are looking to buy products that have been certified for performance as well as environmental impact. When consumers see the Green Seal logo they are assured that the product has been evaluated against carefully set criteria.
Green Seal certified products and services are available in categories that include hand cleaners, floor care products, fleet vehicle maintenance, lodging, paints and coatings and paper. For details please see Green Seal Certified Products and Services
Green Seal is working within the U.S lodging industry to spread awareness about how they can impact the environment through their purchasing decisions. It regularly contributes articles to the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s magazine.
Green Seal helps hotels and motels reduce their environmental impact through a comprehensive purchase and operations guide. Green Seals also has a certification program for hotels and helps design programs to market and publicise ‘green hotels’. For a list of Green Seal certified lodging in the U.S please see Green Seal Certified Lodging
Criticism of Green Seal
The Green Seal has been criticised on two fronts- firstly a lack of accountability and secondly, the difficulty in measuring the program’s effectiveness. However, this is a criticism faced by nearly all environmental certification programs. With the increasing concerns about the environment and the growing importance of sustainable development, standards like Green Seal, in spite of the criticisms, are playing an important role in motivating the market place to deal in environmentally safer products.
- The Shifting Roles of NGO’s
- Environmental standard for household cleaners
- The Green Seal Website
- Global Environmental Diplomacy by Mostafa Kamal Tolba and Iwona Rummel-Bulska
- Reducing Toxics by Robert Gottleib