Archive for May, 2010

Sustainable Purchasing & Eco-Labels

May 16, 2010

Flickr / schizoform

A couple weeks ago I attended a Metro Vancouver Community Sustainability Breakfast. The focus of this month’s session was sustainable purchasing and eco-labels. Metro Vancouver did a great job in selecting speakers. The panel featured Trevor Bowden from Big Room Inc., Tim Reeve of Reeve Consulting and Bob Purdy from the Fraser Basin Council.

Ecolabelling.org

The session started with a ‘big picture’ description of eco-labels by Trevor Bowden. Big Room Inc. is the creator of ecolabelling.org, a website which hosts a database of all the eco-labels available on the marketplace. It’s a really helpful, free tool which anyone can use to look up a specific eco-label and find out the type of products it covers, the length of time its been in existence, how products are verified, links to additional resources and more. Basically it allows visitors to judge eco-labels on a variety of merits, and determine which programs are in line with their concerns.

So many eco-labels to consider…

Given the great number and range of eco-labels currently in action (ecolabelling.org tracks more than 300 different programs!) Trevor suggested breaking them down into categories based on the number of environmental attributes and life cycle phases a label covers. Energy Star, for example, is considered a single stage, single issue label since it looks at consumer use of a product and the amount of energy the item consumes. Ecologo on the other hand is a multi-stage, multi-issue label since it examines the manufacture, use and disposal of products and a variety of environmental attributes.

When choosing an eco-label, a good starting point is considering what the largest impacts of a given product will be. For example, with a new computer, certified sustainable packaging isn’t nearly as valuable as a logo recognizing low energy consumption or clean production.

Characteristics of a good eco-logo

To further simplify your eco-logo choices, Trevor shed some light on the characteristics of good ones, including:

  1. Independent 3rd party verification of claims – A party other than the manufacturer or certifying body has verified the claims. A study from Yale University showed the most trusted eco-labels are validated by environmental groups. Not surprisingly, the least trusted are validated by industry.
  2. Life-cycle based – The entire life of the product is considered
  3. An open and  transparent standard development process
  4. Publicly available standards

An additional characteristic Trevor raised is the level to which an eco-label is “future proof”, meaning that as new standards and science develops, the eco-label is able to adapt and change.

The International Standard Organization (ISO) has put together a group of standards for governing environmental labeling. You can read more about it on the ISO website.

Eco-labels for purchasers

While these guidelines and tools are helpful, without a deep understanding of the field and exposure to constant updates, it can still be tricky to choose an eco-logo program that represents your organization’s needs.

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Grey Whale spotted near Fairware HQ

May 5, 2010

Crazy news, there was a grey whale in Vancouver’s False Creek today. What?!? I know, that’s what we said!

We sent Stefan over to the waterfront near Fairware to check it out. He came back with this video.


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