Buying Green for Consumers
Join the millions of Americans buying greener products and services that:
- Are safer for you and your family.
- Reduce the impact on our environment by using energy, water, and materials more efficiently than conventional products.
- Often save money, especially over the full life of the product if you buy a more durable or more efficient model.
But knowing what a "greener" product is can be challenging. There are many potential impacts to consider and many environmental marketing messages to sort through. It's important for consumers to be careful in interpreting vague or generic claims on products such as "environmentally friendly," "eco safe," or "green". When these claims are found to be misleading or inaccurate, this is referred to as “greenwashing”.
One way to better navigate the market is to look for credible ecolabels. These are marks placed on product packaging or in e-catalogs that can help consumers quickly and easily identify those products that meet specific environmental performance criteria. EPA maintains a list of recommended standards and ecolabels in several key purchase categories.
Another tactic you can use to make more environmentally sound purchases is to ask yourself some simple questions:
- Can you repair something you already own?
- Do you really need the product?
- Can you buy reusable instead of disposable products?
- Can you buy a service or rent a product when you need it rather than buying the product?
- Can you buy a used product?
Exploring these questions during your everyday purchasing can significantly reduce your impact on the environment in the long run. For more related information, check out these tips on how to further reduce the environmental impact of your purchasing decisions through reducing and reusing.
EPA Ecolabel Programs
EPA has developed several ecolabels that can help consumers identify greener products and services. Below is a list of ecolabels that address energy efficiency, water efficiency, products safer for human and environmental health, refrigerant emissions, vehicles emissions, and recycled materials.
ENERGY STAR®. The government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, providing simple, credible, and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions. Products can earn the ENERGY STAR label by meeting the energy efficiency requirements set forth in ENERGY STAR product specifications. In 2019 alone, ENERGY STAR and its partners helped Americans save nearly 500 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and avoid $39 billion in energy costs
Safer Choice. Products with the Safer Choice label help consumers and commercial buyers identify products with safer chemical ingredients, without sacrificing quality or performance. These products are rigorously reviewed ingredient-for-ingredient, adhere to strict performance standards, and are evaluated to ensure the potential of adverse human and environmental health impacts is minimized.
SmartWay®. This program reduces transportation-related emissions that affect climate change, reduce environmental risk for companies and increase global energy security. They also certify the 20% lowest-emitting passenger vehicles each model year, based on greenhouse gas and smog ratings. For further information, visit their SmartWay Vehicles webpage.
Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP). This EPA program evaluates and regulates substitutes for ozone-depleting and/or climate change causing chemicals used in refrigerators, air conditioners, and as aerosol propellants.
Comprehensive Procurement Guideline (CPG). This program is part of EPA's Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) initiative that promotes a system-wide approach to reducing materials use and the associated environmental impacts over the materials’ entire life cycle. Buying recycled-content products encourages the materials collected in recycling programs to be used again in the manufacture of new products. Currently, the CPG program covers 61 products designated in eight categories.
WaterSense. This voluntary partnership program sponsored by the EPA is both a label for water-efficient products and a resource for helping you save water. The WaterSense label makes it simple to find water-efficient products, new homes, and programs that meet EPA’s criteria for efficiency and performance. Switching to WaterSense certified products is an easy way to save you money and water. For example, simply replacing showerheads with WaterSense labeled models can reduce the average family's water and electricity costs by $70 and can save the average family more than 2,700 gallons of water per year, equal to the amount of water needed to wash 88 loads of laundry.
Additionally, EPA manages a list of Recommended Standards and Ecolabels ("Recommendations"). The Recommendations are intended to help purchasers easily identify credible and effective standards and ecolabels by purchase category and include over 40 private sector owned/managed standards/ecolabels.