Check their website or the product label itself for green certifications. In particular, look for Energy Star (for energy efficiency), USDA Organic Seal (for organic products), Forest Stewardship Council (for products made from trees in responsibly managed forests) and Green Seal (for general sustainability). Of course, there are many more labels, verifications, certifications and standards that products and companies can promote on their products and websites. There are several organizations dedicated to examining sustainable and environmentally friendly products in all categories, from evaluating the environmental impact of products to the composition and content of materials and manufacturing, sourcing and production processes.
If a product makes absurd claims to save the planet, but they don't give more details on how, then it's probably best to leave the product on the shelf. There's a lot of money in organic products, and big companies keep using marketing tactics, such as great packaging, to get you to buy their products. It is illegal to label a product as organic unless it has been approved by the USDA (see the Organic Products Regulations); however, that cannot dissuade some manufacturers from including the term “organic” in the company or product's trade name. Green products can be great, but the choices that an eco-conscious consumer makes when buying a product can be just as important when it comes to achieving minimal impact on the environment.
The USDA has a certification program that verifies if a product is truly organic, and all approved products receive a certification label. At the end of the day, simply using your best judgment and intuition could help you determine if a product is truly eco-friendly or not. Regardless of which side of the debate the consumer is on, if what they want is a non-transgenic product, the best thing is to look for the “butterfly seal”. If they buy ready-to-use products, consumers can look for products that have been certified with the OMRI label.
Undoubtedly, third-party certifications are the best way to understand how environmentally friendly a given product is. For example, since there is no law that requires the amount of real fruit that must be included in a product “made with real fruit”, the product could contain only one grape or one slice of apple. Although many of these certifications are not perfect, they are a good starting point for delving into the true ecological character of a product. It is possible that the best strategy for finding products that have the right balance between ecological benefits and an overall positive impact is to research the Internet before buying and carefully analyze the product information.
The FDA does not have the legal authority for the “pre-market approval” of the labeling of cosmetic products, so the responsibility for correctly labeling a product lies with the manufacturer.