Good, Clean and Green

March 4, 2010

Have you ever seen those household products labeled "all natural" and wondered "what's really in those bottles?" I know I have. I recall my mother's attempts to make homemade laundry soap a few years back (rendered animal fat and lye?) and I am unsure about how that will affect my clothes and my skin.

There is good news on this front. The Natural Products Association (NPA) is starting to certify home care products that meet its standards; a certification that will bring a new level of consistency to the marketplace.

You may remember this group from two years back when they started to certify products. They began with personal care products like body washes and soaps. Over 340 personal care products carry the group's seal, and it expects home care products to start showing the seal in the coming months. Now they are expanding to include household products like laundry soap, surface cleaners and dish detergent.

In order to earn natural certification for products, a full 60% of a company's products have to meet the NPA's definition of natural, even if only certain products are to be certified. That may make things a little tough on some businesses, but think of the benefits of encouraging such certification in businesses.

The NPA standard certifies product as "natural" if 95 percent of its ingredients are all-natural or derived from natural sources (flora, fauna, mineral), while the remainder, up to 5 percent, can come from a list of allowed synthetic ingredients.

Products cannot contain any ingredients that are suspected of causing human health risks, and non-natural ingredients can only be used when commercially viable natural versions are unavailable. Animal-based materials created in situations where animals are harmed and byproducts of animal rendering are also not allowed. (I must admit, my mother's "Natural" laundry detergent wouldn't qualify, but at least she was trying not to waste resources.)

Companies can only use specified processes, and none that significantly or adversely alter natural ingredients. They cannot engage in animal testing unless it is required by law. And they must fully disclose all ingredients.

This sounds like a lot, doesn't it? And Greenifying can be a comprehensive undertaking at times. But I know I will be looking for these types of certifications in products that I purchase in the future. And I'll be buying them with a lot more respect.


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