Sunday August 12, 2012

Low cost and good value are what most of us look for when we shop. Price and durability are important if we’re not to throw money away.

But many conscientious buyers today are looking beyond dollars and cents. They want products that also respect the planet and other living things, that support local farms, can be recycled and are not laced with potentially harmful chemicals.

The problem is that store labels like "natural," "local" or "green" can mean many things. Local produce, for example, may come from the Berkshires, or the Pioneer Valley or beyond. How can one tell?

I found one helpful shopping guide in Big Y’s "Going Green" issue from April 2009. It’s a publication I keep handy on my desk for times just like now.

In it are four important labels to look for in sorting through products claims.

n USDA Organic means foods certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as being produced without chemical pesticides, genetic alterations, antibiotics or synthetic fertilizers. It can appear on produce, meat and packaged foods.

Visit www.usda.gov for more information.

n The Leaping Bunny line-drawing logo was created by animal welfare organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, to recognize cosmetics and cleaning products made cruelty free without animal testing.

Visit www.leapingbunny.org for more information.

n The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo, a fish drawn within a blue oval, recognizes seafood caught in the wild in ways that promote sustainable fisheries.

Visit www.msc.org for more information.

n The Green Seal logo, a blue globe with a green check mark on it, appears on cleaning products, paper goods and soaps. The Green Seal nonprofit evaluates such products from their creation, to use to disposal to rate how "green" it really is.

Visit www.greenseal.org for more information.

Products meeting these standard may cost more in dollars, but can be bargains in sustaining human and environmental health.

To reach Charles Bonenti:
cbonenti@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6211.
On Twitter: @BE_Lifestyles