Have you ever seen the word ‘organic’ on a product you bought only to find out later that it is not actually organic? I’ve had that happen plenty of times. The label says organic, I read the ingredients or materials list – if there is one – and see that it contains a certain amount of organic materials but, otherwise, is basically the same as any other product I could have bought for half the price.
Sometimes the label correctly reflects the ingredients and is not misleading; and at other times the manufacturers are trying to take advantage of the selling potential of organic products by making things look a little more organic than they actually are – this is known as ‘greenwashing.’
Figuring out whether or not a manufacturer is greenwashing can take quite a bit of research. But even with those manufacturers who are right up front about their products, we can still be confused. That’s because we don’t actually know the definitions and legalities of labeling terminology or the various certifications required by different types of products.
To make a very long story short, here are the basic labeling requirements for food and other agricultural products:
- If something contains less than 70% organic ingredients, it cannot be labeled organic.
- Products containing between 70% and 95% organic ingredients can use the phrase “made with organic ingredients.”
- If the ingredients are 95% to 99.99% organic, they can be labeled “USDA Organic”
- If everything in a product is organic, the label can state “100% USDA Organic”
However, both the USDA Organic and 100% USDA Organic seals only apply to agricultural products in a relatively raw state. When cotton is harvested, cleaned and formed into cotton balls, it’s still considered an agricultural product. But to turn that cotton into fabric, various processes are used that are beyond the USDA certification limitations.
So, with a Naturepedic crib mattress, for example, the USDA organic certification would apply to the cotton interior, but not to the steel used for the springs or the food-grade polyethylene used for the waterproof covering, and so on.
Truth be told, both USDA and GOTS certification standards are full of a lot of little details we don’t really need to know – like whether or not it’s necessary to sew a product using organic cotton thread. Suffice it to say that if you’re talking about crib mattresses, the only certification that really says organic is GOTS.
Naturepedic is proud to display the GOTS seal. And, I must say, we are on a very, very short list of manufacturers who can say the same.