12 Eco-Friendly Labels to Look for to Help You Shop More Sustainably

Keep an eye out for these green certifications to help the Earth while you shop.

Shopping more sustainably—whether for cleaning products, clothing, food, home furnishings, or other goods—is a meaningful way to reduce your individual environmental impact. However, navigating the broad landscape of "eco-friendly" products can be a challenge. Companies can make all sorts of ecological claims, but labels often contain misstatements and terms that aren't really green. To help you sort through the sustainable jargon, we'll walk you through the labels that actually matter—and what might indicate a product is not as green as it seems.

woman in store with eco friendly products looking at labels of two jars
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First up, product claims such as "Free of [insert ingredient]" are a common instance of greenwashing. For example, a boast of "lead-free paint" isn't really touting anything: Lead paint was banned in 1978. CFCs (or chlorofluorocarbons) are also banned. Additionally, many products are labeled as nontoxic when they contain harmful ingredients. In fact, the label "certified nontoxic" is essentially meaningless since no organization or department of the federal government regulates that term.

Certification on labels might not mean what you think it does either. Look into where the certification is from and where the organization gets its funding. For third-party awards, determine whether the third party is unbiased and, if it's a nonprofit, who (or what) funds the group. Before you're swayed by flashy claims, do a bit of research to figure out what's behind the bright packaging and eye-catching logo.

You should also watch for terms that sound good but really don't mean a thing about a product's eco-friendliness. Terms including all-natural, nontoxic, and chemical-free, for example, are not defined and not regulated. A biodegradable label could either refer to the product (like a cleaning solution) or the packaging. For packaging, see if it's made with recycled content or PET/HDPE materials. As for the word green, any company can call anything green, so the claim carries no weight.

Eco-Friendly Labels that Matter

Product labels can be pure marketing, or they can really help you make greener choices. Educate yourself on what these popular certifications mean:

1. B Corp

The B Corp certification signifies that a business has resolved to follow strict social and environmental standards. These standards apply to the entire company, including aspects such as employee benefits, charitable giving, supply chain practices, and the materials used to make their products. To maintain the B Corp label, these companies are legally required to consider their impact on their employees, communities, customers, suppliers, and the environment—as opposed to simply prioritizing profit.

2. Cradle to Cradle

The Cradle to Cradle certification recognizes sustainability metrics on an end-to-end basis. With the goal of eliminating waste, this program looks at the lifespan of a product as a continuous cycle. Cradle to Cradle certified products are made using renewable resources and materials that are designed to break down naturally or be reused for other resources or products.

3. Energy Star

The Energy Star label certifies a product's energy efficiency, according to standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The certification often applies to appliances, electronics, heating and cooling equipment, lighting, and other household products. Purchasing items with this label can help you reduce energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

4. Fair Trade

This program nods to companies that adhere to specific social, environmental, and economic standards. A Fair Trade Certified seal denotes environmental protection, safe working conditions, and improved livelihoods for the people who help make the product. It can apply to food, beverages, beauty products, clothing, and more.

5. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

FSC certification recognizes wood harvested from forests that are sustainability managed. One of the primary goals is to protect forests for future generations by conserving biological diversity, water resources, and soils. Look for the label on furniture, decor, paper products, and other goods made from wood.

6. Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

The GOTS certification applies to textile products that are certified organic and sustainably manufactured from start to finish. These products must adhere to strict ecological and social standards throughout the entire supply chain, including the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, trading, and distribution. Textiles including clothing, rugs, bedding, and other fabric items with the GOTS label will contain a minimum of 70% organic fibers.

7. Green-e

The Green-e certification program verifies clean energy and sustainable products and services. It applies to companies that use certified renewable energy in their manufacturing processes or purchase enough carbon offsets or renewable energy credits to match the emissions they produce. You'll find the Green-e logo on a variety of household products from brands including Arm & Hammer, Herbal Essences, and more.

8. Greenguard

A Greenguard certification signifies low chemical emissions, which makes a positive impact on air quality. Products bearing this label have been tested and proven to give off low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can lead to short- or long-term health effects. The certification can apply to a range of items used around the house, including furniture, paint, flooring, electronics, and more.

9. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

The LEED rating system applies to a whole building's construction—not for a particular product. For example, your office building could be LEED certified if its construction prioritizes clean air, access to daylight, and finishings that are free from harmful chemicals. But if you see a particular product with this label, it's not a legitimate claim.

10. Made Safe

Made Safe certifies that only safe-for-human ingredients are used in the manufacturing of a product. The program screens products for thousands of chemicals and determines whether each ingredient is expected to harm humans or the wider ecosystem. Look for the Made Safe label on household products including cleaners, cosmetics, bedding, and more.


OEKO-TEX verifies product safety and sustainable production for textiles and leather products, including clothing, upholstery fabrics, bedding, and more. The organization's Standard 100 certification indicates that every thread, button, and accessory on a textile product has been tested for harmful substances and is safe for use. The Made in Green label goes a step further and also ensures that the product has been manufactured using environmentally friendly processes and under socially responsible working conditions.

12. WaterSense

WaterSense is an EPA-verified water and energy saver. Products with this label are certified to save energy and use at least 20% less water than regular models. Look for the WaterSense logo on faucets, showerheads, toilets, sprinklers, and more.

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