For green consumers -- particularly those just learning the ropes -- the array of seals, symbols and certifications on products can be bewildering. There is a small set of labels that deserve full trust: USDA Organic on foods and Forest Stewardship Council on wood products, for instance. But there is also a universe of labels created by manufacturers, industry groups, nonprofit organizations and others -- each with varying level of integrity and usefulness for conscientious consumers.
Consumers want to know, simply, if a product has been made with sustainable materials and a minimum of wasted energy, and made without toxic substances that might the health of workers or consumers. Most don't have time to play investigator with every purchase, which is why effective labels are so important. We want to do the right thing ... we just need a little help figuring out what "the right thing" is.