19 Januar 2011

USDA’s new labels for green products to debut this spring

Label is similar to the seal that appears on organic foods

Washington, D.C. – Consumers will soon have a new way to buy green. Products from household cleaners to skin-care products that are made with bio-based ingredients will carry the government’s seal of approval.

The new label, which is being announced today, is aimed at doing for bio-based products what the government’s Energy Star program has done in helping shoppers identify energy-efficient appliances. The label is similar to the seal that appears on organic foods and will be administered by the same agency – the U.S. Agriculture Department.

“We know we have consumers who are looking to do better environmentally and are trying to find some way to guide their purchasing decisions,” said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.

The seal will say “USDA Certified Biobased Product” and contain a percentage indicating how much of the product is made from corn, soy or other renewable sources.

Totally Green, a company that sells spring water in corn-based bottles, plans to ask to use the seal as soon as the USDA starts taking applications next month.

William Horner, the company’s CEO, said he expects the seal to appeal to consumers.

“Given a little bit of time and a little bit of exposure, given what we know about the interest level of consumers, I think it’s going to resonate,” he said.

“I think its time has come.”

Totally Green, originally called Naturally Iowa, has contracts with several government departments. The corn-based bottles are designed to be turned into compost along with other food-service waste. Totally Green has moved its headquarters from Clarinda to Tulsa, Okla., although Horner still lives in Red Oak.

The labeling program will be the consumer focus of a program created by the 2002 farm bill to promote the use of bio-based products. Until now the effort has focused on getting government agencies to switch to bio-based products, such as lubricants, building products and cleaners. Totally Green’s water bottles are among the products approved for the program.

Government agencies are supposed to use the bio-based products so long as they are reasonably priced and can do the job for which they are intended. Iowa companies that have been approved for the program include HON Co., a Muscatine manufacturer of office furniture, as well as biodiesel producers and makers of candles and lip balm.

Not just anything that is bio-based can qualify for the label. Cotton shirts or wool socks don’t qualify because they are considered to be mature products. The USDA program was designed to promote rural economic development and new uses for agricultural commodities. The USDA does not track compliance with the purchasing preference, but officials say a large percentage of the department’s janitorial and maintenance services specify the use of bio-based products.

USDA officials said they expected skin-care products and household cleaners to be the most popular products for the new seal.

The first products with the seal are expected to reach shelves this spring. To qualify for the seal, products have to meet minimum bio-based content standards.

Source: DesMoinesRegister.com, 2011-01-19.

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