One Part Sunshine

What Do All of Those Green Words Mean?

The green industry has become overwhelmed by new words and terms. It can be confusing to try to figure out what they all mean. Here is a short list of some of the most common terms.
All Natural – You may see this term on meat and poultry products though it can also be found on almost any other type of product.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture, meat and poultry products that make the “All Natural” claim must be minimally processed  and contain no “artifical flavoring, colors, chemical preservatives or synthetic ingredients.”  However, most fresh meat and poultry products meet this definition.  With all other types of products, in particular personal care products, this term is meaningless because it is unregulated by the government.  Bottom line: This term is essentially meaningless.
Ancient Forest Friendly™ – You may see this term on books and magazines in Canada.  This program was created in order stop the production of paper using trees from ancient forests.  It is used in Canada to certify that paper products such as books and magazines have not been printed on paper from Canada’s Boreal and temperate rainforests.  Specifically, the term means that the paper product was made using fiber having 100% ecological attributes, i.e. post-consumer recycled, pre-consumer recycled, agricultural residue or FSC-certified fiber.  Check out www.canopyplanet.org.
Antibiotic-Free – You may see this term on meat and poultry products.  Animal products carrying this label must not have received antibiotics or growth hormones.  Although antibiotics are usually used for the treatment of sick animals, they can also be used as growth promoters for livestock.  The result is that certain bacteria are becoming more resistant to antibiotics and thus more of a danger to humans.
Biodegradable - According to the Federal Trade Commission, a "biodegradable" product is one that will "decompose into elements found in nature within a reasonably short period of time."  For more information and for a list of biodegradable products, check out the Biodegradable Products Institute at www.bpiworld.org.
Cage-Free – You may see this term on egg cartons and poultry.  Also called Free-Range or Free-Roaming.  This label applies to poultry that have been raised without cages.  The term is deceptive because the USDA simply requires that the birds spend “an undetermined period each day” outside.  The farms are often overcrowded and not necessarily cruelty-free.  Another issue is that, as a result of hen hierarchy, there is often an alpha chicken that refuses to let the others out the door.  Bottom line: Look for pasture-raised products instead or farm your own chickens!  But if these options are not available, cage-free is definitely better than traditional choices.
Cradle-to-Cradle CertificationCM – This certification enables companies to let consumers know that their products are environmentally responsible.  According to MBDC, this means "using environmentally safe and healthy materials; design for material reutilization, such as recycling or composting; the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency; efficient use of water, and maximum water quality associated with production; and instituting strategies for social responsibility." Check out www.C2Ccertified.com.
Cruelty-Free - The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) offers the use of their "leaping bunny" label for manufacturers of cosmetics, personal care products and household items that pledge not to use ingredients tested on animals.  They also agree to an audit of their ingredients every one to three years to make sure they are in compliance with this agreement.  Products without this tag may or may not actually be cruelty-free.  Check out www.leapingbunny.org.
Energy Star – You may see this term on a variety of products as well as on commercial, industrial and residential buildings.  It is a joint program between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy that certifies products based on their energy efficiency.  Products and buildings carrying this certification enable consumers to save money through lower energy bills and to protect the environment.  Bottom line: Always look for the Energy Star seal.  See www.energystar.gov.
Fair-Trade Certified™ – You may see this term on a variety of products, including coffee, tea and herbs, fruit, sugar, rice, flowers, honey, spices, toys and cocoa and chocolate.  Products carrying this certification were made using fair labor practices and strict sustainability standards.  Fair Trade helps farmers and farm workers fight poverty by developing business skills so they can compete in the global marketplace.  Check out www.transfairusa.org.  Bottom line: Buy fair trade whenever you can.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – You may see this term on wood and wood products.  The FSC certification was designed to promote responsible forest management.  According to the FSC, their certification benefits the environment by prohibiting the conversion of natural forests, the cultivation of genetically modified trees and the use of hazardous pesticides.  Check out www.fsc.org.  Bottom line: Although not perfect, this certification is good to have.
Free-Range/Free-Roaming – You may see this term on egg cartons and poultry.  Also called Cage-Free.  This label applies to poultry that have been raised without cages.  The term is deceptive because the USDA simply requires that the birds spend “an undetermined period each day” outside.  The farms are often overcrowded and not necessarily cruelty-free.  Another issue is that, as a result of hen hierarchy, there is often an alpha chicken that refuses to let the others out the door.  Bottom line: Look for pasture-raised products instead or farm your own chickens!
Grain-fed/Grain-finish – You may see these terms on beef products; however, there is no official definition.  Typically, the diets of grain-fed cows are supplemented with animal by-products, which may transmit mad-cow disease.  Grain-fed cows are also factory farmed.  Grain-finished cows, on the other hand, are allowed to feed on grass and are only fed grain before slaugher.  Bottom line: Choose grain-finished if your only other choice is grain-fed, but your best bet is to choose pasture-raised or grass-fed beef.
Grass-fed – You may see this term on beef products.  Also called Pasture-Raised.  According to the American Grassfed Association, a grass-fed cow must only feed on mother's milk or herbaceous plants throughout its entire life.  The USDA has approved a grass-fed label for beef that comes from pastured and sustainably-farmed cows.  A diet of grass results in beef that is more nutritious and lower in fat than that from a diet of grain in a factory.
Green Advantage® Environmental Certification – This program certifies builders, contractors and subcontractors who are able to build green structures.  Check out www.greenadvantage.org.
Greenguard Environmental Institute – The Institute certifies consumer products, building materials and construction designs that have low chemical and particle emissions to ensure healthier indoor air quality.  Check out www.greenguard.org.
Green Restaurant Association – This association certifies green restaurants and restaurant products and provides consulting services and education materials about green practices in the workplace.  Check out www.dinegreen.com.
Green Seal – Green Seal certifies products as well as hotels and other lodging properties.  The Green Seal is given to products that use environmentally preferred methods of design and production. It identifies, certifies and promotes the use of green products.  Check out www.greenseal.org.
Heirloom/Heritage – You may see these term on items like tomatoes and turkey.  These terms are used to describe rare breeds of produce and livestock that are often old and open-pollinated varieties.  Bottom line: Although many of these items are produced sustainably, being heirloom does not necessarily mean it is better in any way.  Furthermore, there is no standard definition of these terms.
Hydroponic – You may see these terms on items like tomatoes.  This term refers to crops grown in a greenhouse in chemical/mineral solutions rather than soil.  This process requires fewer pesticides and water but it is expensive and some diseases spread quickly in greenhouses.  Bottom line: These products are not necessarily better.
Irradiated/Electronically Pasteurized – You may see these terms on meat, poultry, oysters, grain and fruit.  When food has been exposed to radiation in order to kill microbes, the FDA requires that the food be labeled with “Treated by Irradiation” and a Radura symbol (green circle with a plant image in center).  The problem with this treatment is that it alters nutritional quality, odor, taste, color and texture.  For more information, visit the Organic Consumer Association's website.
LEED – Green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council used to rate commercial and residential buildings on water conservation, green building materials and energy efficiency.  Check out www.usgbc.org.
Local – You may see this term used to describe produce, eggs and dairy.  Local foods are typically seasonal foods farmed close to your home resulting in a smaller footprint on the environment.  Some argue that these products offer better taste and cost less.  This term is not regulated by the government so local can mean anything from a 5-mile radius to a 500-mile radius.  Local foods are often organic but not always.  Bottom line: Double check on the location where the food was farmed.  For information on local farms near you, visit www.localharvest.org.
Marine Stewardship Council – This certification applies to seafood that has been sustainably harvested.  Check out www.msc.org.
Natural – With respect to personal care products, this is not a term that is regulated by the government and essentially means nothing.  Many products that claim to be natural contain petrochemicals and other potentially toxic ingredients.  With respect to meat, a claim of "natural" or "all-natural" is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and means that the meat has been "minimally processed and contains no artificial ingredients."
Naturally-Derived Ingredients – This is a meaningless term.  It simply means that the product contains at least one ingredient that came from natural sources but it does not mean that the product does not have toxic or artifical ingredients.
Natural Standard Seal – A new standard that was created by the Natural Products Association.  It can be found on personal care products that contain at least 95% all natural ingredients without potentially harmful synthetics.  Check out the NPA's website for more information.
Non-GMO (No Genetically Modified Organisms) – You may see this term on products such as tomatoes, corn and tofu.  It is used to describe plants and animals that have not been genetically modified.  Genetic modification is used to improve products so that they grow quicker and bigger than they normally would.  One way to tell whether your produce is genetically modified is to look at the sticker.  If it contains 5 digits beginning with the number 8, then it has been genetically modified.  Bottom line:  The safety of genetic modification has been questioned by some people.
Organic – You may see this term on just about any type of product - it refers to the way food is grown and processed.  The official definition of organic from the National Organic Standards Board is: "Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony."  It is argued that organic food tastes better, is better for the environment, has fewer risks to your health and has more nutrients.  Organic animal products refer to products derived from animals that had access to the outdoors, were fed organic food for at least one year (and no animal by-products) and were never treated with antibiotics or hormones.  Organic produce refers to produce that was not treated with pesticides, genetically modified or irradiated.  You can only really tell whether a product is organic if it is certified by the USDA’s National Organic Program (see definition below) and has the green and white Organic Seal.  Another way to tell is to check out the little stickers on your fruit and veges.  If the sticker has 5 digits beginning with the number 9, then it’s organic.  This term isn’t regulated for non-food products so you can’t trust it if you see it on your shampoo.
Pasture-Finished - You may see this term on beef products.  Cows that are pasture-finished are fed a grain diet for most of their lives and is then fed grass for a period of time before slaughter.  This generally results in darker color meat.
Pasture-Raised – You may see this term on beef products.  Also called Grass-Fed.  The USDA has approved a grass-fed label for beef that comes from pastured and sustainably-farmed cows.  A diet of grass results in beef that is more nutritious and lower in fat than that from a diet of grain in a factory.
Rainforest Alliance – The Rainforest Alliance offers a certification program for a variety of products that  meet its mission of conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods.  Check out www.rainforest-alliance.org.
Science Certification Systems – SCS certifies office furniture, wood products, cleaning products, and building materials as well as manufacturing sectors, fisheries and floral companies.  It certifies environmental, sustainability, food purity and food safety quality.  Check out www.scscertified.com.
Shade Grown – You may see this term on coffee.  The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Rainforest Alliance offer this certification for coffee was grown under a rainforest canopy.  The rainforest canopy acts as a natural habitat for migratory birds and is often the last refuge for birds that have lost their homes due to the destruction of the rainforest.  Purchasing shade-grown coffee helps to preserve this habitat.  Visit www.shadecoffee.org.
Sustainable Forestry Initiative® – This program certifies that the paper and wood products you buy come from well-managed forests.  Bottom line: Not as great as the FSC certification.  Check out www.sfiprogram.org.
Sustainably Raised/Farmed – You may see these terms on produce, beef and seafood.  Used to suggest that the products were grown in a way that has a minimal impact on the environment, such as non-GMO, minimal pesticides, and manure as fertilizer.  Also implies that the number of animals raised on a farm is limited by how many the land can support.  Bottom line: These terms are not regulated so are essentially meaningless.
Sweat-Free – You may see this term on clothing.  It means that the clothing was not produced in a sweatshop.  The term is unregulated unless the clothing is certified by the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) or has the Fair-Trade label.  Check out www.sweatfree.org.
USDA National Organic Program – This program deals with the standards for organic agricultural products.  According to the program, there are four categories of organic labels: (1) "100% Organic" - all ingredients must be organic and such products can carry the USDA's green and white Organic Seal; (2) "Organic" - at least 95% of the content by weight must be organic and such products can carry the Organic Seal; (3) "Made With Organic" - these products cannot carry the Organic Seal but they can claim they are made with organic ingredients if at least 70% of the contents are organic and the package lists at least three specific organic ingredients; and (4) if less than 70% of the content is organic, the product cannot carry the seal and cannot use the term "organic" except to refer to specific organic ingredients in the list of contents.  Agricultural products that use the term "organic" cannot use any ingredients that are on the national list of prohibited synthetic ingredients, and irradiation and genetically modified organisms are also prohibited.  Furthermore, organic meat cannot have been given antibiotics and must have been fed 100% organic feed.  Check out www.ams.usda.gov/nop.
U.S. Green Building Council – This is a nonprofit organization comprised of more than 15,000 organizations that share the goal of building in an environmentally friendly way.  This is where the LEED rating system comes from, which is used to rate buildings on water conservation, green building materials and energy efficiency.  Check out www.usgbc.org.
Vegan-Friendly - This is a term used to refer to products containing only ingredients that come from vegan sources.  A vegan is someone who refuses to use or consume animal products.  A nonprofit group, Vegan Action, offers a seal to manufacturers who sign a statement that all ingredients in their product come from vegan sources.
What Do All of Those Green Words Mean? Definitions of Green Words and Labels | OnePartSunshine.com

The green industry has become overwhelmed by new words and terms. It can be confusing to try to figure out what they all mean. Here is a short list of some of the most common terms:

All Natural – You may see this term on meat and poultry products though it can also be found on almost any other type of product.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture, meat and poultry products that make the “All Natural” claim must be minimally processed  and contain no “artifical flavoring, colors, chemical preservatives or synthetic ingredients.”  However, most fresh meat and poultry products meet this definition.  With all other types of products, in particular personal care products, this term is meaningless because it is unregulated by the government.  Bottom line: This term is essentially meaningless.

Ancient Forest Friendly™ – You may see this term on books and magazines in Canada.  This program was created in order stop the production of paper using trees from ancient forests.  It is used in Canada to certify that paper products such as books and magazines have not been printed on paper from Canada’s Boreal and temperate rainforests.  Specifically, the term means that the paper product was made using fiber having 100% ecological attributes, i.e. post-consumer recycled, pre-consumer recycled, agricultural residue or FSC-certified fiber.  Check out www.canopyplanet.org.

Antibiotic-Free – You may see this term on meat and poultry products.  Animal products carrying this label must not have received antibiotics or growth hormones.  Although antibiotics are usually used for the treatment of sick animals, they can also be used as growth promoters for livestock.  The result is that certain bacteria are becoming more resistant to antibiotics and thus more of a danger to humans.

Biodegradable - According to the Federal Trade Commission, a "biodegradable" product is one that will "decompose into elements found in nature within a reasonably short period of time."  For more information and for a list of biodegradable products, check out the Biodegradable Products Institute at www.bpiworld.org.

Cage-Free – You may see this term on egg cartons and poultry.  Also called Free-Range or Free-Roaming.  This label applies to poultry that have been raised without cages.  The term is deceptive because the USDA simply requires that the birds spend “an undetermined period each day” outside.  The farms are often overcrowded and not necessarily cruelty-free.  Another issue is that, as a result of hen hierarchy, there is often an alpha chicken that refuses to let the others out the door.  Bottom line: Look for pasture-raised products instead or farm your own chickens!  But if these options are not available, cage-free is definitely better than traditional choices.

Cradle-to-Cradle CertificationCM – This certification enables companies to let consumers know that their products are environmentally responsible.  According to MBDC, this means "using environmentally safe and healthy materials; design for material reutilization, such as recycling or composting; the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency; efficient use of water, and maximum water quality associated with production; and instituting strategies for social responsibility." Check out www.C2Ccertified.com.

Cruelty-Free - The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) offers the use of their "leaping bunny" label for manufacturers of cosmetics, personal care products and household items that pledge not to use ingredients tested on animals.  They also agree to an audit of their ingredients every one to three years to make sure they are in compliance with this agreement.  Products without this tag may or may not actually be cruelty-free.  Check out www.leapingbunny.org.

Energy Star – You may see this term on a variety of products as well as on commercial, industrial and residential buildings.  It is a joint program between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy that certifies products based on their energy efficiency.  Products and buildings carrying this certification enable consumers to save money through lower energy bills and to protect the environment.  Bottom line: Always look for the Energy Star seal.  See www.energystar.gov.

Fair-Trade Certified™ – You may see this term on a variety of products, including coffee, tea and herbs, fruit, sugar, rice, flowers, honey, spices, toys and cocoa and chocolate.  Products carrying this certification were made using fair labor practices and strict sustainability standards.  Fair Trade helps farmers and farm workers fight poverty by developing business skills so they can compete in the global marketplace.  Check out www.transfairusa.org.  Bottom line: Buy fair trade whenever you can.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – You may see this term on wood and wood products.  The FSC certification was designed to promote responsible forest management.  According to the FSC, their certification benefits the environment by prohibiting the conversion of natural forests, the cultivation of genetically modified trees and the use of hazardous pesticides.  Check out www.fsc.org.  Bottom line: Although not perfect, this certification is good to have.

Free-Range/Free-Roaming – You may see this term on egg cartons and poultry.  Also called Cage-Free.  This label applies to poultry that have been raised without cages.  The term is deceptive because the USDA simply requires that the birds spend “an undetermined period each day” outside.  The farms are often overcrowded and not necessarily cruelty-free.  Another issue is that, as a result of hen hierarchy, there is often an alpha chicken that refuses to let the others out the door.  Bottom line: Look for pasture-raised products instead or farm your own chickens!

Grain-fed/Grain-finish – You may see these terms on beef products; however, there is no official definition.  Typically, the diets of grain-fed cows are supplemented with animal by-products, which may transmit mad-cow disease.  Grain-fed cows are also factory farmed.  Grain-finished cows, on the other hand, are allowed to feed on grass and are only fed grain before slaugher.  Bottom line: Choose grain-finished if your only other choice is grain-fed, but your best bet is to choose pasture-raised or grass-fed beef.

Grass-fed – You may see this term on beef products.  Also called Pasture-Raised.  According to the American Grassfed Association, a grass-fed cow must only feed on mother's milk or herbaceous plants throughout its entire life.  The USDA has approved a grass-fed label for beef that comes from pastured and sustainably-farmed cows.  A diet of grass results in beef that is more nutritious and lower in fat than that from a diet of grain in a factory.

Green Advantage® Environmental Certification – This program certifies builders, contractors and subcontractors who are able to build green structures.  Check out www.greenadvantage.org.

Greenguard Environmental Institute – The Institute certifies consumer products, building materials and construction designs that have low chemical and particle emissions to ensure healthier indoor air quality.  Check out www.greenguard.org.

Green Restaurant Association – This association certifies green restaurants and restaurant products and provides consulting services and education materials about green practices in the workplace.  Check out www.dinegreen.com.

Green Seal – Green Seal certifies products as well as hotels and other lodging properties.  The Green Seal is given to products that use environmentally preferred methods of design and production. It identifies, certifies and promotes the use of green products.  Check out www.greenseal.org.

HarvestMark - a unique code that can be found on some food packaging.  The HarvestMark code makes your food traceable and provides you information about where your food was grown and whether it has been recalled.  You can also find nutrition information and recipes and give feedback about the product.  More information at HarvestMark's website.

Heirloom/Heritage – You may see these term on items like tomatoes and turkey.  These terms are used to describe rare breeds of produce and livestock that are often old and open-pollinated varieties.  Bottom line: Although many of these items are produced sustainably, being heirloom does not necessarily mean it is better in any way.  Furthermore, there is no standard definition of these terms.

Hydroponic – You may see these terms on items like tomatoes.  This term refers to crops grown in a greenhouse in chemical/mineral solutions rather than soil.  This process requires fewer pesticides and water but it is expensive and some diseases spread quickly in greenhouses.  Bottom line: These products are not necessarily better.

Irradiated/Electronically Pasteurized – You may see these terms on meat, poultry, oysters, grain and fruit.  When food has been exposed to radiation in order to kill microbes, the FDA requires that the food be labeled with “Treated by Irradiation” and a Radura symbol (green circle with a plant image in center).  The problem with this treatment is that it alters nutritional quality, odor, taste, color and texture.  For more information, visit the Organic Consumer Association's website.

LEED – Green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council used to rate commercial and residential buildings on water conservation, green building materials and energy efficiency.  Check out www.usgbc.org.

Local – You may see this term used to describe produce, eggs and dairy.  Local foods are typically seasonal foods farmed close to your home resulting in a smaller footprint on the environment.  Some argue that these products offer better taste and cost less.  This term is not regulated by the government so local can mean anything from a 5-mile radius to a 500-mile radius.  Local foods are often organic but not always.  Bottom line: Double check on the location where the food was farmed.  For information on local farms near you, visit www.localharvest.org.

Marine Stewardship Council – This certification applies to seafood that has been sustainably harvested.  Check out www.msc.org.

Natural – With respect to personal care products, this is not a term that is regulated by the government and essentially means nothing.  Many products that claim to be natural contain petrochemicals and other potentially toxic ingredients.  With respect to meat, a claim of "natural" or "all-natural" is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and means that the meat has been "minimally processed and contains no artificial ingredients."  Some personal care products and homecare products carry a Natural Standard Seal (see below).

Naturally-Derived Ingredients – This is a meaningless term.  It simply means that the product contains at least one ingredient that came from natural sources but it does not mean that the product does not have toxic or artifical ingredients.

Natural Standard Seal – A new standard that was created by the Natural Products Association for personal care products and homecare products.  In order to carry the Natural Standard Seal, a product must (1) be made up of at least 95% natural ingredients; (2) be considered safe for humans; (3) use no animal testing; and (4) use biodegradable ingredients and sustainable packaging.  For personal care products, "allowed ingredients come from or are made from a renewable resource found in nature (flora, fauna, mineral), with absolutely no petroleum compounds."  Although up to 5% non-natural ingredients can be used, the association requires that the ingredients be safe for humans and only be used if no natural alternative is available.  Check out the NPA's website for more information and for lists of approved ingredients and products.  Bottom line: The seal has some value but is not a good indicator that a product is all-natural.

Non-GMO (No Genetically Modified Organisms) – You may see this term on products such as tomatoes, corn and tofu.  It is used to describe plants and animals that have not been genetically modified.  Genetic modification is used to improve products so that they grow quicker and bigger than they normally would.  One way to tell whether your produce is genetically modified is to look at the sticker.  If it contains 5 digits beginning with the number 8, then it has been genetically modified.  Bottom line:  The safety of genetic modification has been questioned by some people.

Organic – You may see this term on just about any type of product - it refers to the way food is grown and processed.  The official definition of organic from the National Organic Standards Board is: "Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony."  It is argued that organic food tastes better, is better for the environment, has fewer risks to your health and has more nutrients.  Organic animal products refer to products derived from animals that had access to the outdoors, were fed organic food for at least one year (and no animal by-products) and were never treated with antibiotics or hormones.  Organic produce refers to produce that was not treated with pesticides, genetically modified or irradiated.  You can only really tell whether a product is organic if it is certified by the USDA’s National Organic Program (see definition below) and has the green and white Organic Seal.  Another way to tell is to check out the little stickers on your fruit and veges.  If the sticker has 5 digits beginning with the number 9, then it’s organic.  This term isn’t regulated for non-food products so you can’t trust it if you see it on your shampoo.

Pasture-Finished - You may see this term on beef products.  Cows that are pasture-finished are fed a grain diet for most of their lives and is then fed grass for a period of time before slaughter.  This generally results in darker color meat.

Pasture-Raised – You may see this term on beef products.  Also called Grass-Fed.  The USDA has approved a grass-fed label for beef that comes from pastured and sustainably-farmed cows.  A diet of grass results in beef that is more nutritious and lower in fat than that from a diet of grain in a factory.

Rainforest Alliance – The Rainforest Alliance offers a certification program for a variety of products that  meet its mission of conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods.  Check out www.rainforest-alliance.org.

Science Certification Systems – SCS certifies office furniture, wood products, cleaning products, and building materials as well as manufacturing sectors, fisheries and floral companies.  It certifies environmental, sustainability, food purity and food safety quality.  Check out www.scscertified.com.

Shade Grown – You may see this term on coffee.  The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Rainforest Alliance offer this certification for coffee was grown under a rainforest canopy.  The rainforest canopy acts as a natural habitat for migratory birds and is often the last refuge for birds that have lost their homes due to the destruction of the rainforest.  Purchasing shade-grown coffee helps to preserve this habitat.  Visit www.shadecoffee.org.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative® – This program certifies that the paper and wood products you buy come from well-managed forests.  Bottom line: Not as great as the FSC certification.  Check out www.sfiprogram.org.

Sustainably Raised/Farmed – You may see these terms on produce, beef and seafood.  Used to suggest that the products were grown in a way that has a minimal impact on the environment, such as non-GMO, minimal pesticides, and manure as fertilizer.  Also implies that the number of animals raised on a farm is limited by how many the land can support.  Bottom line: These terms are not regulated so are essentially meaningless.

Sweat-Free – You may see this term on clothing.  It means that the clothing was not produced in a sweatshop.  The term is unregulated unless the clothing is certified by the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) or has the Fair-Trade label.  Check out www.sweatfree.org.

USDA National Organic Program – This program deals with the standards for organic agricultural products.  According to the program, there are four categories of organic labels: (1) "100% Organic" - all ingredients must be organic and such products can carry the USDA's green and white Organic Seal; (2) "Organic" - at least 95% of the content by weight must be organic and such products can carry the Organic Seal; (3) "Made With Organic" - these products cannot carry the Organic Seal but they can claim they are made with organic ingredients if at least 70% of the contents are organic and the package lists at least three specific organic ingredients; and (4) if less than 70% of the content is organic, the product cannot carry the seal and cannot use the term "organic" except to refer to specific organic ingredients in the list of contents.  Agricultural products that use the term "organic" cannot use any ingredients that are on the national list of prohibited synthetic ingredients, and irradiation and genetically modified organisms are also prohibited.  Furthermore, organic meat cannot have been given antibiotics and must have been fed 100% organic feed.  Check out www.ams.usda.gov/nop.

U.S. Green Building Council – This is a nonprofit organization comprised of more than 15,000 organizations that share the goal of building in an environmentally friendly way.  This is where the LEED rating system comes from, which is used to rate buildings on water conservation, green building materials and energy efficiency.  Check out www.usgbc.org.

Vegan-Friendly - This is a term used to refer to products containing only ingredients that come from vegan sources.  A vegan is someone who refuses to use or consume animal products.  A nonprofit group, Vegan Action, offers a seal to manufacturers who sign a statement that all ingredients in their product come from vegan sources.