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Safer Choice

History of Safer Choice and Design for the Environment

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Program History

Early 1990s: Beginning of Design for the Environment. The Design for the Environment (DfE) Program began in the early 1990s as an innovative, non-regulatory initiative to help companies consider human health, environmental and economic effects of chemicals and technologies, as well as product performance, when designing and manufacturing commercial products and processes.

To accomplish this mission, DfE studied the challenges posed to human and environmental health within industry sectors. DfE convened partnerships with industry members, NGOs, academia, and other interested parties to develop innovative, cost-effective solutions—like safer chemicals and processes to dry clean clothing or manufacture computer circuit boards.

These partnerships produced an array of analytical documents and technical resources, in the form of Comparative Technology Substitutes Assessments (CTSAs), Best Practices Guidance, and Life-Cycle Assessments.

Late 1990s: An Emphasis on Safer Chemicals. Responding to the public’s increasing interest in and concerns for the safety of chemicals in common household and commercial products, DfE expanded its mission and began to focus on two areas: assessing alternatives to Agency priority chemicals, and recognizing companies for making best-in-class products containing safer chemical ingredients.

Mid-2000s: Safer Product Labeling Begins. To add incentive to the chemical selection process, DfE developed a certification program based on its Standard for Safer Products and safer chemical criteria—allowing companies to differentiate their products in the marketplace and making it easier for consumers and business purchasers to identify products that are safer for people, families and the environment.

2015: DfE Safer Product Label Becomes the Safer Choice Label. In February 2015, the Safer Choice label replaced the DfE product label. The new Safer Choice label has a more modern look to help consumers, businesses and institutional buyers easily recognize products that have earned the label.

Past DfE Projects

Safer Detergents Stewardship Initiative (SDSI)

SDSI offered EPA recognition--and listing on the SDSI web page--to companies using only safer surfactants.


The projects listed below are no longer active and their publications and materials can be found in the EPA archive.

Comparative Technology Substitutes Assessments (CTSAs):

  • Adhesives Technology
  • Computer Display
  • Garment & Textile Care
  • Industrial & Institutional Laundry
  • Integrated Environmental Management Systems
  • Print Wiring Board
  • Printing Partnership Programs

Workplace Best Practices:

  • Nail Salon Workers
  • Automotive Refinishing
  • Automotive Repair and Collision Repair
  • Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) insulation
  • HVLP Spray Guns
  • Paint Mixing and Spray Painting
  • Sanding

Life-Cycle Assessments:

  • Desktop Computer Displays
  • Lead-Free Solder in Electronics
  • Lithium-ion Batteries and Nanotechnology for Electric Vehicles
  • Wire and Cable Insulation and Jacketing