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Greener Products

Frequent Questions

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Why this website?

  • The EPA Greener Products Portal is designed to help a variety of users—from household consumers to manufacturers to retailers—navigate the increasingly important and complex world of greener products by directing users to programs that EPA manages or is associated with.

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What information does this website offer?

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What doesn't this website do?

This website does not:

  • endorse any products
  • endorse any product environmental performance standards or ecolabels
  • allow one to purchase greener products directly from the site
  • offer a complete or comprehensive collection of all of the "green" products, related programs or standards in the US

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What makes a product greener?

The answer to what makes a product "green" can be complicated.

Generally, a product may be considered "greener" if scientific evidence demonstrates that human health or environmental impacts have been significantly reduced in comparison with other products that serve the same purpose.

But it is important to consider the product's life cycle — from product raw material extraction to manufacture and through use and disposal — and its potential for adverse impacts, such as toxic exposures, air pollution, water pollution, climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, natural resource use (e.g., energy, water, materials), waste disposal, and ecosystem damages.

For example, office carpeting that has been "greened" may use safer raw materials in the manufacturing stage and have a modular design that allows for easy disassembly and recycling once the usefulness is complete.

Different product categories have different human health or environmental "hotspots" of concern. For example formulated products, such as chemicals used in cleaning products, have high potential for direct human and environmental exposures, so toxicity would be a "hotspot" of concern.

EPA works with manufacturers, environmental organizations, consumer groups and our federal and state partners to support the development of standards and criteria for greener products using EPA's scientific expertise.

We also have eco-label programs — like Design for the Environment, Energy Star, and WaterSense — to help consumers identify safer, more energy efficient, or more water efficient products.

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How are products determined to be "green"?

  • In the United States there is currently no single authority to decide which products are "green," "greener," or "greenest," but there are information resources to help you make purchasing decisions (see Related Links). Strive to be an informed "green" consumer by learning as much as you can about the environmental and public health impacts of the products you purchase, use, and dispose of. See the list below to learn what to look for when contemplating greener product purchases.

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What are the most important things I should know about finding and purchasing greener products?

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What is a product life-cycle assessment, and how can it be used to improve products?

Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a "cradle-to-grave" approach for assessing industrial systems. "Cradle-to-grave" begins with the gathering of raw materials from the earth to create the product and ends at the point when all materials are returned to the earth. LCA evaluates all stages of a product's life from the perspective that they are interdependent, meaning that one operation leads to the next. LCA enables the estimation of the cumulative environmental impacts resulting from all stages in the product life cycle, often including impacts not considered in more traditional analyses (e.g., raw material extraction, material transportation, ultimate product disposal, etc.). By including the impacts throughout the product life cycle, LCA provides a comprehensive view of the environmental aspects of the product or process and a more accurate picture of the true environmental trade-offs in product and process selection.

As stated in the EPA "LCA 101" report, Life-cycle assessment: Principles And Practice, many companies have found it advantageous to explore ways of moving beyond compliance using pollution prevention strategies and environmental management systems to improve their environmental performance. One such tool is LCA or life-cycle assessment. This concept considers the entire life cycle of a product (Curran 1996).

All types of public health and environmental impacts should also be considered, such as: toxic exposures, air pollution, water pollution, climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, natural resource use (e.g., energy, water, materials), waste disposal, and ecosystem damages.

Some environmental product claims are based on a product life-cycle assessment — these include Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), which may report multiple impacts, and some product carbon footprints, which report only a product's global warming impact. EPDs and product carbon footprints are neutral claims like nutritional labels — they provide information about a products environmental performance without stating whether a product is greener than another.

The table below contains common environmental impact categories used in the life-cycle assessment of products.

Taken from Life-cycle assessment: Principles and Practice, May 2006.
Impact Category Scale Examples of Data
Global Warming/Climate change Global Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
Methane (CH4)
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
Methyl Bromide (CH3Br)
Stratospheric Ozone Depletion Global Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
Halons
Methyl Bromide (CH3Br)
Acidification Regional
Local
Sulfur Oxides (SOx)
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
Hydrochloric Acid (HCL)
Hydroflouric Acid (HF)
Ammonia (NH4)
Eutrophication – The process by which a body of water or ecosystem acquires a high concentration of organic matter with potentially damaging consequences Local Phosphate (PO4)
Nitrogen Oxide (NO)
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
Nitrates
Ammonia (NH4)
Photochemical Smog Local Non-methane hydrocarbon (NMHC)
Terrestrial Toxicity Local Toxic chemicals with a reported lethal concentration to rodents
Aquatic Toxicity
Additional information also available
Local Toxic chemicals with a reported lethal concentration to fish
Human Health Global
Regional
Local
Total releases to air, water, and soil
Resource Depletion Global
Regional
Local
Quantity of minerals used
Quantity of fossil fuels used
Land Use Global
Regional
Local
Quantity disposed of in a landfill or other land modifications
Water Use Regional
Local
Water used or consumed

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Do greener products cost more?

Not necessarily. In fact, some greener products, like energy- and water-efficient products can save you money over the long-run. So, it is important to consider durability, safety, efficiency — all characteristics with both cost AND environmental implications for the consumer over the life of a product. That said, some greener products do have higher upfront costs. This is often a result of "economies of scale" through which conventional products have the pricing benefits of mass production. As demand for products with reduced environmental and public health impacts grows—via household consumers, retailers, large companies, and the federal government—we are seeing upfront costs for greener products get in-line with their conventional counterparts.

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How can I find energy-efficient products?

See the ENERGY STAR website for information on purchasing energy-efficient products that also save you money. Product categories include home envelope products, major home systems like heating and cooling, appliances, commercial food service equipment, consumer electronics, and information technology products.

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How do I find "greener" electronic products?

Consumers looking to find products that have less toxic substances, are easier to recycle, have more environmentally preferable packaging, are energy efficient, and meet a host of other environmental criteria laid out in the IEEE 1680 family of standards Exit EPA Disclaimer, can visit EPEAT Exit EPA Disclaimer.

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How do I find a "greener" or more fuel-efficient vehicle?

The websites for SmartWaySM Certified Vehicles and EPA's Green Vehicle Guide make it easy for consumers to find the cleanest and most fuel-efficient vehicles.

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How do I find products and services that save water?

EPA's WaterSense program provides information on water-efficient products, programs, and practices.

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How can I find safer detergents and household cleaners?

EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) program helps consumers identify and purchase safer and effective household products by allowing its label to be used on those products that meet stringent criteria for human and environmental health.

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I am in charge of purchasing for my business/organization. How can I find greener products?

More and more local, state, and federal government agencies as well as universities and businesses are establishing policies and purchasing practices for greener products.

A variety of links to greener purchasing resources are available in the Related Links section, and on the Institutional Purchaser's page of this website.

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I would like to ensure the products my company manufactures are "green." How can this be done?

Please visit the Manufacturer page for more information.

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Will the EPA endorse my product as "green?" / How do I get on EPA's list of greener products?

As a federal governmental agency, neither EPA nor its programs can endorse any products or services.

While EPA does not keep a list of "green" products, there are programs at EPA that do have lists of vendors and products that meet their requirements for specific products and services.

  • ENERGY STAR® for energy-efficient products, including appliances, computers, other electronic devices.
  • Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines for recycled content products, from paper to building materials.
  • Design for the Environment for chemical-based products, like all-purpose cleaners, laundry detergents, and carpet and floor care products.
  • WaterSense for water-efficient products and services such as toilets, showerheads, and irrigation technology.

Other federal agencies also have programs that list vendors that meet their requirements for products.

There are also third party organizations that provide certification services. To learn more about these organizations, please see our links to Voluntary Standards, and Claims & Verification. Please note that EPA provides the names of these organizations for information purposes and does not endorse any one organization.

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How can I sell my product or service to the federal government?

The Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Web site has a section with information for vendors of environmentally preferable products and services.

In particular, a good resource to start with is Selling Environmental Products to the Federal Government. Although originally targeted at small businesses, much of the information in the brochure is broadly applicable to anyone who wants to do business with the Federal government.

Additionally, we encourage you to do what you do best; market your product! For government purchasers, vendors are a key source of information on products and services. You can encourage government agencies to find environmentally preferable products by referencing Executive Order 13514 (PDF) (15 pp, 88K) and the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Final Guidance. In addition, provide them with information about the environmental aspects of your product or service.

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Are there any regulations that I need to follow to advertise my "green" product or service?

Yes. Please refer to the Federal Trade Commission's Guides to the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (Green Guides).

The Green Guides, last revised in May 1998 with significant new revisions coming soon, are intended to reduce consumer confusion and prevent false or misleading use of environmental terms in product advertising and labeling. The Green Guides indicate how the Federal Trade Commission will apply Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices, in environmental marketing claims. The Green Guides apply to all forms of product and service marketing to the public, including advertisements, labels, package inserts, promotional materials, and electronic media.

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What else is EPA doing on greener products?

EPA will continue to support its highly successful voluntary product labeling programs, such as DfE, ENERGY STAR, and WaterSense. These programs regularly add products to their portfolios, tighten requirements as technology and markets change, and improve their programs.

In addition, EPA is now weaving these separate efforts into a more comprehensive strategy. The new Greener Products website is one fruit of that effort. EPA is currently engaged in an analysis of the greener products landscape and possible roles it might usefully play to ensure green products fully realize their potential for public health and environmental protection. Beginning in September 2010, EPA invited input from key stakeholders through a listening session and public docket regarding the key challenges and opportunities they see in the rapidly growing market and possible roles for EPA. This process is ongoing and EPA will continue to seek input as it develops options for consideration.

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