In the 1980s, computer programmers coined the phrase GIGO as an acronym for “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” This shorthand referred to the fact that computers are literal and will only process the information that is given to them. Therefore, if the input data is sloppy or inaccurate, the result will be similarly inadequate.
Extending the idea that “the quality of the output is a function of the quality of the input” to sustainable products, the acronym GIGO takes on a new aspect, if not a new definition, and becomes “Green In, Green Out.”
Green, sustainable and recycled are terms that refer to how the processes, production and distribution of a given item impact the planet. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has developed guidelines so that consumers can better understand how companies invoke claims of sustainable, green and recycled in labeling and advertising the entire gamut of products. The FTC also describes the limitations on such labels and ads, so that consumers are not deliberately misled.
Similarly, “organic” refers to the manner in which the product is grown and processed. Many food items and other products may be labeled as “organic;” and, in fact, there are government standards that govern the usage of this label from The National Organic Program of the US Department of Agriculture. In addition, the nonprofit organization NSF International has its own certification process that labels a product “contains organic ingredients.”
Whether green or organic, many companies have launched new sustainable products and implemented environmentally sensitive processes in response to consumer demand that even the components of complex products, such as televisions and computers, be more green.
In addition, these businesses work with corporate customers and suppliers to promote their adoption of eco-friendly standards.
For example, Albemarle, a manufacturer of a sustainable flame retardant and other specialty chemicals, has developed low-impact manufacturing processes for its chemical solutions. In addition, Albemarle encourages its customers to join the business in participating in the Voluntary Emissions Control Action Programme (VECAP), that aims to eliminate all harmful products from the environment.
Retailers, too, are responsive to consumers and together they are putting pressure on manufacturers to become more green, sustainable and organic.
Whole Foods, known as “the country’s first national certified organic grocer, has launched an initiative to require all personal care items, such as shampoo, bath soap and cosmetics, that are labeled “organic” to be independently certified organic. by June 1, 2011. Any products that do not meet the standard may be sold at their stores, but they will not be labeled organic.
In other words, NGI NGO; Not Green (Ingredients) In, Not Green Out.
Has your company made an effort to use green ingredients in their products? Tell us about it, or write up a post about your experience, and maybe we’ll feature it here at our green lab.