Introducing Green Seal’s Compass: Health, Waste, Water, and Climate
7/7/2021 | Doug Gatlin
Whether you’re exploring the Green Seal certification process or identifying safer products for your home or workplace, you may be interested in understanding what Green Seal prioritizes in its standards. From hand sanitizers and cleaning products to paints and sanitary paper, the Green Seal Compass guides our work to ensure only the healthiest, most responsible, and proven effective products are certified to Green Seal standards.
Did You Know...
Green Seal follows a compass that focuses on four key targets: human health, waste, water, and climate. We develop our sustainability criteria using a lifecycle analysis method, which identifies the health and environmental impacts of a product all the way from raw material extraction to manufacturing, packaging, use, and disposal. Green Seal’s compass keeps us focused on the impacts that matter most, ensuring that Green Seal certification represents products and services that truly are safer for people and the planet.
Protecting Human Health
There are more than 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S., and the great majority haven't been assessed for their effects on human health.
Green Seal strictly limits chemicals that don’t belong in household or professional products, making it simple for people to make healthier, safer choices with confidence. In fact, Green Seal has often acted decades ahead of regulators and retailers – including, for example, prohibiting the neurotoxin methylene chloride and the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane as far back as 1993.
Carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins, and common toxic ingredients such as phthalates, methanol, and bisphenol A (BPA) are strictly prohibited in Green Seal–certified products.
The waste quadrant of Green Seal’s compass addresses the amount of recovered materials in a product as well as its performance, durability and recyclability. Green Seal-certified products use environmentally preferable packaging materials, include recycling instructions, and provide detailed directions for proper use to minimize product waste.
A foundational belief at Green Seal is that a product is not green if it doesn’t work as consumers expect it to. Green Seal’s functional performance criteria ensure that certified products perform as well as or better than conventional alternatives, avoiding waste from discarded products that fail to meet consumer expectations.
Ensuring Clean Water
This compass area assesses a product’s impacts on water bodies. Green Seal's standards require aquatic biodegradability and prohibit chemicals that can harm or kill aquatic wildlife. In addition, Green Seal sets strict limits on bioaccumulating compounds to prevent the build-up of contaminants in fish and other organisms, which, in turn, helps protect humans from ingesting unsafe levels of chemicals from lower in the food chain.
Preserving the Climate
This quadrant aims to address a product’s global warming potential, smog formation, stratospheric ozone depletion, and energy use. Since preserving the climate is a multifaceted goal, many of Green Seal’s standard criteria for protecting human health, minimizing waste, and ensuring clean water also address this impact area. Limiting volatile organic compounds (VOCs), prohibiting ozone depleting compounds, and replacing virgin materials with recycled materials all preserve the climate and are relevant to categories as diverse as sanitary paper products and paints and coatings.
While VOCs are commonly linked with human health impacts, they are equally relevant to climate impacts because they interact with nitrous oxides in the atmosphere to form ozone — a greenhouse gas that can cause temperature increases when found in lower layers of the atmosphere. Limiting this class of chemicals is one way that Green Seal ensures certified products have lower environmental footprints than conventional alternatives. Pair this with requirements to reduce fossil fuel consumption and energy use, and it is clear how certified products can make a measurable difference in protecting the climate.
This is the first in a series of stories about Green Seal’s Compass.