The Environment: Eco-conscious guidelines
Eco-labelled products have met criteria and fulfilled demands on quality and on the minimisation of environmental impact. The Nordic Svan and The Flower are guarantees for the consumer which indicate a high quality product, that has less impact on the environment than other similar products.
The purpose of eco-labels is “to help consumers choose products that have less impact on the environment than other comparable products”. The eco-labelling of a certain product or service is a confirmation of the fact that the producer has met certain established criteria, when producing the product. For instance demands are made on the type of raw materials used, type of packaging, and concerning the environmental impact of the product through its entire life-cycle. This is then assessed by an independent certifying third party (not by the company itself or its clients).
It is important in this context to differentiate between a certified environmental label (eco-label) and the environmental labels used by the producers themselves. In this text we are only discussing eco-labels certified by a third party, as they are generally considered most reliable.
It is also not advisable to confuse the environmental certification of companies (environmental management standards) with eco-labels on specific products. The environmental management standards (ISO 14001) certify that in the company there have been established certain work procedures which take into account the environmental consequences of the company’s production. The environmental management standards of specific companies and producers give no information about the environmental effects of the products themselves which are being produced or sold by the company as such. For instance a producer of paint or sales agent can have ISO 14001 certification, but it does not say anything about the environmental consequences of the paint itself when it is being used or released into the environment. To say that a product is environmentally friendly because the producer is a certified company, is the same as insisting that gasoline is environmentally friendly because the oil company in question has an environmental management standard according to ISO 14001.
On the other hand, eco-labels concern the product or the service as such but have nothing to do with the environmental work performed within the company in other respects. Eco-labels and environmental management standards can interact when the label also covers service provided. However it can be difficult to differentiate between the service, itself and the company providing the service. It is for instance impossible to eco-label hotel services without setting criteria that affect the running of the hotel itself. The criteria, thus, establishes rules for the company that provides the service in order to ensure that the service is environmentally friendly.
An independent third party sets certain criteria and makes stringent demands on results or the environmental qualities of the product or service being eco-labelled. The product or service that meets the criteria receives an eco-label.
The Environmental Certification of Companies:
The company decides itself which are the main environmental components of its production. An independent third party makes an assessment and checks that the company has installed certain work processes in order to meet environmental standards. No assessment is made of the company’s products.
Environmental matters are often complicated; they involve complex environmental chemistry, global warming impact on ecosystems and so on. Eco-labelling makes it easier for the producer to channel information about his environmental performance to the consumer. The consumer saves both time and work, and does not have to verify the information from the producer himself. The Nordic Swan and The Flower are labels which consumers know they can trust, and they are now in force in various product categories. The demands on eco-labelling of products are also constantly being revised. For ecological food production and raw materials, the Tún label and the EU-organic logo are valid. These are examples of independent and responsible eco-labels, but there are many more. It is important to recognise the respective labels and to know what each label indicates.
Developing criteria for eco-labelling is really expensive. The eco-labels are financed mainly by taking a small fee of every sold product. For instance the Nordic Swan label functions thus that 0.4% of the retail price of the product goes to care, maintenance and marketing of the Nordic Swan up to a certain upper limit which is 200,000 IKR in Iceland. The Nordic Swan is the label of the Nordic Council of Ministers and is partly financed from there. The financing of other environmental labels is managed in a similar manner, through sales of the product or the service provided.
Other Undefined Labels
Product labelling of different kinds is becoming more and more common. There are all kinds of signs and symbols on products used to indicate this. This can make it difficult for the consumer to decipher the message, and to know what each label or each symbol really means. Labels that concern the environment can be divided roughly into three different classes: Firstly, acknowledged and respected labels, certified by an independent third party. Secondly, environmental labels which the producers themselves use to label their products and thirdly labels that have nothing whatsoever to do with the environmental performance of the company and which can be directly misleading providing no information about whether and how the product affects the environment.
The two last categories can easily be confused with each other. The labels designed by the producers themselves are not as plausible and reliable as the respected labels, certified by an independent third party. Detailed information about which companies and products in Iceland have environmental labels and certified environmental management standards is available here in the Green Pages. Justu choose the valid category or insert a search term into the search engine. Each and every product on the Nature market is also connected to information about labelling, as long as the info exists and is available.
this article continues, read more...
16. May 2013 13:30
Ecologically conscious shopping or eco-shopping is about choosing the product which is less harmful to the environment compared to other products that serve the same need and have the same or lower outcome in LCA-analysis.
In order to facilitate the choice of goods and services that are environmentally friendly, Nature.is has compiled 11 eco-conscious guidelines that touch upon the most relevant sectors. The guidelines are clear and simple and help consumers pick the best available products from the viewpoint of health, environment and even social conditions, for what we usually call sustainable development.
Here in the horizontal row you see icons representing the guidelines and in the vertical column you see icons representing the different product categories. If you click on those icons you can read about each guideline and each product category. It is also easy to see which guidelines apply to each product type, as the relevant guideline icons are visible in a horizontal line next to the product.
The guidelines are: Energy, Fuel, Water use, Allergy, Hazardous Chemicals / Synthetic Chemicals, Heavy metals, Safety sheet, Environmental labes, Fair trade, Work environment and Recycling.
One or more of those guidelines are valid for every product. As soon as we grasp what we have to look for when choosing environmentally friendly products, eco-shopping becomes pure joy.
Practice makes perfect in eco-shopping like everything else. Our Earth cannot tolerate more exploitation and the disrespect often shown today.
Let´s join our hands together and practice eco-shopping!
this article continues, read more...
Guðrún Arndís Tryggvadóttir
18. April 2013 14:16
Energy has a twofold meaning within our context. On the one hand it refers to how much energy an appliance needs on a daily basis, and on the other hand it refers to its possible energy-savings.When choosing electric appliances it is important to note how energy-efficient they are. Most appliances carry a European Union energy label, marking how energy efficient they are on a scale from A to G. A is highly efficient while G marks it as quite inefficient. The energy-efficiency of any household appliance during its lifetime is very important for both the environment and your own budget. The cheaper product in the store can end up the most expensive one in the long run, when the energy cost is taken into the bill.Energy conservation is another factor to consider. Some products that need no energy can still be very important in energy conservation. Windows are one example. The energy conservation of houses is measured in so called U- values, i.e. the energy loss per square meter and the heat difference between inside and outside in Kelvin degrees (W/m2 K)There are various energy labels, such as: Energy star, GEEA, and the European Union energy label. These labels indicate how energy efficient the appliance is and can usually be found on computers and other various electric appliances.
this article continues, read more...
3. April 2013 18:47
The work environment is a concept that encompasses both the work site and the products and the work itself which is related to and performed with the product. Guidelines for use on the packaging should therefore ensure that the product is used in a safe and secure manner.
Guidelines for each product should show how the product should be used without endangering health of the worker or user of the product. The product should not be harmful to health and it is the responsibility of the producer and then the distributor to ensure that the right message about the right use of the product reaches the consumer.
Harmful agents in the working environment can, for instance be: noise, air pollution, the wrong use of chemicals, evaporation and the wrong working position:
Noise – Does the use of the product create noise, measured in dB(A)?
Air pollution – Toxic chemicals may not be released into the atmosphere (many chemicals are not harmful in the right mixture but can become toxic if released from chemical bonds).
The wrong use of chemicals – Does the usage of the product demand special care or specific use of chemicals? If so, which chemicals? Can the chemicals be harmful to human health? Guidelines because of maintenance and running of the product have to be available. It can be of little use to buy an environmentally friendly product if the use of the product requires a large quantity of unsavory chemicals!
Evaporation – Sooner or later chemicals evaporate into the atmosphere. Therefore the producer has to define accurately which chemicals are incorporated into the product. Slow evaporation can be harmful in the long term even though a point measurement shows chemical concentrations within limits.
The environmental situation in general has improved in many respects as more knowledge and better technology has become available, for instance cleansing equipment in industry. But new knowledge has also led to new discoveries. Pollution that is taking place today is in many ways more complicated than it was in the past. The pollution sources are more numerous., They are also more spread out and the pattern of consumption has changed enormously. The root of chemical release into the environment stems, for instance, from our consumer products today, while we’re using them.
Bromated flame retardants and phthalates are among the common chemicals found in household appliances and clothes all around us. Those chemicals however, have a negative effect on both human health and the environment. Bromated flame retardants have been used for a long time in order to make plastics and resins more resistant to heat/flame. Those chemicals are most likely to be found in your computer and in the textile (áklæði?) on your chair. Today the consumer has a choice. I It is possible to buy both textiles and computers without bromated flame retardants. Many synthetic chemicals are toxic and should be avoided. But it is also necessary to avoid those chemicals that appear harmless but have a negative impact over the long term. It can be very difficult to assess the impact of such chemicals;therefore care should be taken.
Wrong working positions concerns, for instance, the adjustment of chairs, furniture and equipment - Are there specific guidelines about the product, working positions and possible adjustments? It may be necessary to adjust, chairs, tables, screens, keyboards, control boards and the general working environment.
Biologically speaking we’re still primitive animals, designed to be constantly on the move out in nature. A stone has probably been our first desk. Today things are different. The human body, designed to be constantly on the move, sits for hours in almost the same position. This has led to the fact that more and more people suffer from pain in the neck and shoulders. Mouse shoulder, is becoming as common an affliction as tennis elbow among athletes When buying desks, chairs and computers, it should be kept in mind that use of the product can influence health. TCO labeling provides information about both the environment and how work-friendly the item is. TCO labeling encompasses computer screens, keyboards and office chairs.
Graphic: A symbol exclusively used for work environment at nature.is ©Nature.is.
21. March 2013 15:15
Norskar konur hugsa meira um umhverfið en karlkyns landar þeirra ef marka má reglubundna neytendakönnun sem Respons Analyse gerði fyrir Svaninn í Noregi. Sem dæmi um þetta má nefna að 57% kvenna svipast um eftir Svansmerkinu þegar þær kaupa inn, en aðeins 39% karla. Konur eru einnig líklegri en karlar til að flokka úrgang og sniðganga einnotavörur. Í þeim þjóðfélagshópi sem hugsar mest um umhverfismál eru konur í miklum meirihluta.
(Sjá frétt á heimasíðu Svansins í Noregi 8. mars).
13. March 2013 19:46