Buying & selling green products & services

“Green” products are those that consider, and attempt to eliminate or minimize, the environmental impacts related to the design, manufacture, packaging, durability, reusability or recyclability, and what waste is left at the end of its useful life. A comprehensive guide to Choosing green materials and products is available through the Environmental Protection Agency.

Caution: Before you try to advertise your green product or service

There are many marketing advantages to branding products and services as environmentally friendly or environmentally preferable. This has led to what is known as “greenwashing,” which refers to exaggerating or falsifying claims that a product or service has environmental attributes. (Read the Seven deadly sins of greenwashing to learn how to spot false claims.) The Federal Trade Commission has recently defined environmental labeling guidelines (PDF) and has authority to enforce against false or misleading claims. Perhaps more effective are consumer watchdog groups that work to publicly expose greenwashing. The damage to a company’s reputation can take years to amend. Before you advertise your products or services as green, understand what it means.

Who is buying green products and services?

Federal agencies are under executive order to increase (and report) purchases of environmentally preferable products and services. The major federal procurement agencies include:

Additional opportunities exist through state and local government agencies, through colleges and universities, K-12 school districts, and municipal governments. Find buyers of green products and services through several buyers’ networks:

If you intend to sell your green products or services to the government, the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers can help you become a registered vendor. You may first want to seek government certification for your product. See the section below.

Third party certification

There are dozens of seals and certifications for green products in the North America that are widely used and increasingly recognized. These can be divided into government issued and independent certifiers.

Government certifications

“Biobased” means the product was derived from plants grown in the United States rather than from petroleum. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred program promotes the purchase and use of biobased products, and includes a preferential procurement program for Federal agencies and contractors. Apply for a certification.

Design for the Environment
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Design for the Environment (DfE) Program is a partnership with business and industry to reduce the amount of harmful chemicals and environmental concerns across a range of industries. Read the EPA’s guide to learn how your business can become a partner and be certified for the DfE label.

The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy certify products that significantly reduce energy use compared to a standard developed for each type of product. Learn how your product can receive the widely recognized ENERGY STAR label.

USDA Organic
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced. Get guidelines for the certification process.

The WaterSense partnership connects businesses to a network of utilities, local governments, manufacturers, retail and distributors, builders, and other organizations working to promote the WaterSense label and water efficiency. Businesses gain exclusive access to outreach and marketing resources to help you promote WaterSense and water efficiency.

In addition to these certifications, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Federal Energy Management Program created a guide (PDF) for businesses interested in selling their energy efficient products to the government. It includes information on contractual requirements, designated efficiency requirements, compliance and technology demonstration opportunities.

The Federal General Services Administration (GSA) sustainability page contains information about selling green to the federal government. In addition, the GSA operates a Green Proving Ground , which provides financing opportunities to evaluate innovative new green technologies.

Independent certifiers

This list includes some of the most recognized third party certification organizations in the U.S.

Green Seal
Internationally recognized standards for household products, construction, paints, printing/paper, food packaging, cleaning products, hotel and lodging. Each category of products and services has identified criteria for certification. Products are reviewed by third party auditors and verified by on site audits. Learn more about Green Seal.

The EcoLogo certification program is now part of the UL Environment, a program of the Underwriters Laboratories. It assures minimal life cycle impacts for a number of automotive products and services, building and construction, cleaning and janitorial, consumer products, containers, packaging, electric products, fuels and lubricants, office equipment, furniture, business products, paper and pulp, printing products and services.

Green Label
Because these practices can greatly impact indoor air quality, the Green Label certification covers carpet cleaning, deep cleaning systems, deep cleaning extraction equipment and vacuum cleaners. Products are reviewed by an independent board of scientists. Learn more about Green Label.

The EPEAT certification was developed to reduce life-cycle impacts of computers, including desktops, displays, notebooks, laptops, work stations, and thin clients. All products are measured against required and optional criteria and rated as gold, silver or bronze. Manufacturers are required by contract to declare that criteria are met and provide evidence upon request.

Developed to prevent dumping of electronics in developing countries and to eliminate unsafe practices related to electronics recycling, refurbishment, and processing. This is a rigorous third-party certification, designed to comply with international laws as well. It prohibits prison labor, and assures worker protection and proper disposal of wastes.

Marine Stewards
This annual third party certification is for fisheries, restaurants, and supply chains for seafood. It verifies ecosystem management and sustainable maintenance of fish stock, as well as a traceable chain of custody. Learn more about the Marine Stewardship Council.

Food Alliance
The Food Alliance offers voluntary third-party certification for sustainable practices in agricultural products, food processing, and distribution. Certification verifies humane livestock care, no GMO use, and supply chain traceability.

Fair Trade
Fair trade certification assures farmers are receiving adequate compensation for their work. This certification covers apparel, linens, beans, grains, body care products, cocoa, coffee, tea, packaged foods, flowers, plants, fruits, vegetables, wine and more.