New research from the United States Department of Agriculture finds that seventy percent of Americans say they shop for “green” products on a regular basis. This represents a ten percent increase over the last three years alone. The USDA hopes these results will spur interest in its Certified Biobased Product label, an initiative of the BioPreferred Program.
Launched in 2011, the Certified Biobased Product label provides a way for consumers to verify that a product’s ingredients come from renewable agricultural materials (including plant and animal, forestry) materials. More than 800 products ranging from industrial supplies to personal care products have already received the certification, but the USDA says manufacturers could be doing more in the face of green consumer demand.
Seventh Generation, a well-known company that makes environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies, has been a big supporter of the biobased program from the start. Despite having 60 of its own products certified under the program, a recent Seventh Generation customer survey revealed a lack of awareness about petro-chemicals in everyday product ingredients, as well as a lack of awareness of the Biobased label and its meaning. Interestingly, this lack of awareness didn’t correspond to a lack of concern: 66% of respondents said they were concerned about potentially harmful chemicals in their household cleaning, and personal care products (65%), as well as laundry (63%) and baby care products (60%).
While the USDA seeks to add more companies like Seventh Generation to its roster of BioPreferred partners, it offered few solutions for eliminating the disconnect between awareness and action. Just slapping the “biobased” label on more products doesn’t necessarily clear up what John Replogle, CEO , Seventh Generation called “a clutter of green seals and certifications” on the market today. Although the Biobased label has the potential to do for non-edible products what the USDA organic label has done for food, it may be a while before we see new education initiatives. Since Congress failed to pass the 2012 Food, Farm and Jobs Act by October 1st, the USDA is currently without funding to implement the program fully at this time.