Also known as eco-friendly or environmentally friendly, the term green applies to products, services, and policies intended to protect the environment, or at least inflict minimal harm. Sustainability is a growing global concern that works to balance the demand on the Earth’s resources with the available supply—and seeks alternative solutions if resources are being tapped out. Eco-labels include USDA Organic, Shade-Grown (coffee), Marine Stewardship Council’s Certified Sustainable Seafood or Friend of the Sea, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Forest Stewardship Council’s Sustainable Timber, and EnergyStar.
Customers are demanding more green or sustainable packaging and manufacturers and retailers are responding. Recently, Whole Foods established new guidelines requiring personal care suppliers to reduce waste by reducing the amount of plastic used and using only materials that are reused or recycled. Other effective ways to reduce consumer waste include replacing plastic bags with reusable bags, buying food and other items in bulk, reusing plastic containers and bags, using a stainless steel water bottle, and packing school lunches and snacks in reusable wraps and lunch boxes.
Sustainability in food production usually refers to the goal of reducing the miles (as well as fossil fuel use) food travels to the U.S. plate (an average of 1,500 miles) by eating more food raised or produced locally. USDA Organic faming methods are more sustainable, using no petroleum-derived chemical fertilizers or pesticides and generally fewer gas-powered machines and more human labor.