The international passion to protect our planet from the ravages of pollution and to preserve our natural resources for future generations has become an everyday fact of life. With international support by "green" political parties, consumer organizations, celebrities and politicians, the organic or "green" movement has become a powerful force with an agenda that needs to be addressed by industry, politicians and consumers. Discussions about the environment are taking place by executives in corporate board rooms, between politicians in legislative hearings, and by eco-oriented consumers in supermarkets and department stores.
Can we fully understand the environmental implications related to pollution, climate change, and energy independence without a working knowledge of basic green vocabulary? Can we comprehend the fundamental green and political issues connected to lowering chemical standards on organic agriculture? Can we compare organic to non-organic products we decide to eat or wear every day? To live organic or green we need to speak and understand the jargon.
Understanding some key green vocabulary and related commentary can help us evaluate alternatives between our planet and personal lifestyles. It enables us to decide how we cast our vote, spend our money or simply how we live. A green vocabulary will clarify the concept of our "carbon footprint" and help us reduce it. The following represents what is best described as a green vocabulary to help eco-oriented consumers make informed decisions.
A Green Vocabulary for Green People
Organic: identifies products made under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. Organic production guidelines are established to use organic materials and practices that improve ecological balance. Organic production incorporates agricultural system components to enhance natural biological systems.
Organic Agriculture: is an ecological farming system that promotes natural chemical and biological cycles that improve soil fertility and maintains a balanced and productive farming system. Any products introduced to this system for fertility or pest protection are of natural composition. It eliminates the use of harmful synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, growth stimulants or antibiotics. These essential restrictions can reduce contamination or pollution to our air, water or food supply.
Natural Fibers: are "certified" organic fibers derived from organic agriculture such as cotton, bamboo and hemp.
Certified Organic Cotton: is derived from organic agriculture. The cotton is grown without artificial pesticides or fertilizers. Conventional cotton farming ranks about fourth in the use of pesticides in the US. Several of the top pesticides used in non-organic cotton farming are EPA recognized carcinogens. It takes 1/3 of a pound of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to make one organic T-shirt disregarding the use of any toxic dyes (Organic Trade Association). A typical organic tee shirt is also about the same weight but without these harmful chemicals. Organic cotton is produced using conservation minded or "sustainable" approaches to crop production. Such practices help to retain and promote soil fertility and the natural recycling of soil resources.
Organic Certification is provided by various organizations. The most widely recognized standards are GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) which is the basis for the statement "100% certified organic cotton" used by many green companies.
Fair Labor Practices: are not necessarily restricted to agriculture but generally support fair wages and healthy working conditions.
Fair Trade Certification: "...guarantees consumers that strict economic, social and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of an agricultural product."(www.transfairusa.org)