What is large? Bigger than a mailbox? An elephant? A gymnasium? Big ... but maybe not to a dinosaur! The word “large” holds no value without a reference point. A sandwich the size of a dachshund is large. An alligator that size is not. The same holds true for “organic.” Alone, the word “organic” is of questionable value. If you’re trying to sell me a product, I have even more reason to question the value of that word, as it will often be contorted to imply elements that simply are not there.
WHAT DOES ORGANIC MEAN?
If a mattress contains “organic” cotton but has a cotton fabric cover treated with a chemical flame retardant, is the mattress organic? What if the mattress is waterproofed with chemicals like PFCs? You probably don’t want a mattress off gassing fair amounts of VOCs regardless of whether there is organic cotton there or not, so how do you know what “organic” actually means on a label? How do you know if the label is even truthful? You demand certification to a rigorous, globally recognized, third-party verified standard such as Global Organic Textile Standard (GOLS) or the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). Whether for an individual component or an entire finished product, a global standard defines and ensures materials or products live up to the definition.
RED FLAGS FOR THE GREEN WORLD
So what greenwashing organic logo tricks are out there? Here are a few:
Organization Memberships as Proof
Be cautious when you see memberships to organic and environmental organizations and groups used to prove organic authenticity of a product. We proudly belong to many organic and sustainability organizations but know membership doesn’t verify our products. While we are members of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), for example, we don’t suggest that demonstrates our mattresses are organic; we use GOTS to show that. Sadly that sneaky join-a-club logic is used by some companies: pay membership dues to a trade organization then use the organization logo to “prove” organic veracity. It just doesn’t work that way.
Improperly Used Logos
Naturepedic uses USDA certified organic cotton grown in Texas which we proudly mention on our website. What you won’t see though is the USDA logo on our mattresses. Why? Because that is a label for agricultural materials. The USDA does not certify cotton fabric, furniture or mattresses. They don’t even allow the use of their logo on manufactured products, so if you see that logo, it doesn’t verify the mattress or fabrics are certified organic.
Fake Certifications or Meaningless Graphics
The great thing about living in the information age is you can quickly find out the details of a “certification” with a quick online search. If you’ve never heard of a certification before, it’s time to check. The FTC is becoming more vigilant against deceptive green labeling practices, but that they won’t catch all offenders. In 2013 the FTC required EcoBaby to stop using their made-up NAOMI organic seal. The FTC said the logo gave the impression of a third-party, independent certification based on objective criteria, which wasn’t the case. In this extreme example, the company had actually created a false, and meaningless, certification! Similar to fake certifications are eye-pleasing graphics masquerading as certifications. A pretty image of a leaf that reads “organic,” “earth friendly,” or some other green claim may simply be a picture created by the company’s graphic artist.
Pieces vs. Whole
We offer GOTS certification for our entire mattresses, but that certification can also be for individual components. (Our entire manufacturing facility is GOTS certified.) GOTS-certified components are great. However, if you want your entire mattress GOTS certified, be careful. Sometimes the GOTS logo is used to imply a whole product is certified when in reality only select components are.
WHY CERTIFICATION? SO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING.
Look for the GOTS logo for organic authenticity. The bottom line is independent, legitimate organic certification lets you understand exactly what you’re getting, and not what a company wants you to think you’re getting. Demand more and understand what a certification means. Otherwise, you might just get a pretty logo and a bunch of chemicals.