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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!

Environmental Shopping
submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator

This article appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

With the holiday season just around the corner everyone is thinking about gift lists and buying gifts. Purchasing gifts with the environment in mind should be a goal of everyone that is shopping. What does the label tell us about how environmentally friendly an item is? With all the retail merchandise, environmentally conscious consumers may be reading labels and be confused. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued guidelines to outline principles and help prevent false and misleading environmental marketing claims. Definitions for many environmental terms are not standardized and are formally government regulated. The following eight environmental marketing claims are included in the FTC guidelines.

Recyclable -- can be collected, separated or recovered from the solid waste stream for use in a raw material form in the manufacture or assembly of a new product. Recyclable claims should be qualified in the event of limited availability of recycling programs and collection sites.

Recycled content -- is designated only for materials recovered or diverted from the solid waste stream. This can be either during the manufacturing process (pre-consumer) or after consumer waste (post-consumer). Products or packages partially made of recycled materials should be qualified to indicate the amount, by weight, in the finished product or package.

Ozone safe or friendly -- should not be advertised as such, or that it contains no CFCs, if the product contains any ozone-depleting chemical.

Environmentally friendly or safe -- claims should be avoided or qualified unless substantiated.

Source reduction -- in weight, volume or toxicity should be qualified to avoid consumer deception.

Refillable -- claims should not be made unless a system is provided for the collection and return of the package for refill, or if the package can be refilled by consumers with the same product sold in another package.

Compostable -- claims that are unqualified should be substantiated by evidence that all the materials in the product or package will safely break down into useable compost in a timely manner.

Degradable, biodegradable, photodegradable -- claims should be substantiated by evidence that the product will completely decompose into elements found in nature within a reasonably short period of time after consumers dispose of it in the customary way.

Being aware of the meaning of these claims can help us, as consumers, to be more environmentally conscious as we shop. Buying recycled items is being a smart shopper. RememberóReduce, Reuse, Recycle.

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