Iconic Good Housekeeping seal goes green

Associated Press jpeg
The Associated Press reports that Good Housekeeping magazine is releasing a second Seal, the Green Good Housekeeping Seal.  Having a mainstream, widely respected brand contribute to stem the tide of greenwash will contribute a great deal to consumers' understanding and acceptance of green in the marketplace.

Key points from the article:

  • Good Housekeeping stepped into the environmental seal business when they recognized the interest of consumers in green products, but also their frustration and confusion.
  • Products will be evaluated by a trained group on their composition, manufacturing, packaging, and health value/toxicity (if relevant).
  • The magazine will make sure that the green criteria and process are transparent and publicly available. 
  • Good Housekeeping joins the certification arena hoping to become the #1 green product certifier as that position has yet to be dominated by any other green products certifications yet.

Posted Mar 10, 2009
By Caryn Rousseau, The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — For a century the Good Housekeeping Seal has guided
consumers to wise purchases. Now the magazine is hoping it will lead
them to environmentally friendly ones as well.

In its April
issue, which hits newsstands Tuesday, editor-in-chief Rosemary Ellis
announces the magazine will add a second, Green Good Housekeeping Seal
to its quality-assurance arsenal. Good Housekeeping stepped into the
green movement when it found its readers were interested in buying
eco-friendly products, but found themselves lost in a marketplace of
green garble, Ellis said.

"Marketers were slapping a lot of words
on products sometimes legitimately, no doubt, sometimes not so
legitimately," Ellis said, ticking off labels like "natural" and
"organic."

"It just became clear consumers were confused and frustrated," she said.

Products
that have already won the original seal issued by the Good Housekeeping
Research Institute can now ask to also be evaluated for the green seal.
The magazine, with a circulation of 25 million, has partnered with the
Santa Barbara, Calif.-based environmental consultancy firm Brown &
Wilmanns Environmental to develop its green criteria.

The
magazine and the firm will look at a product's composition,
manufacturing and packaging before deciding if it will receive the
green seal. Separate criteria will be developed for different
categories of products, including appliances, electronics and health
and beauty aids.

The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval debuted
in 1909 and by the end of 1910, 200 products had earned the label. By
1941 it was renamed the Good Housekeeping Seal and has since gone
through several changes. Today about 5,000 products have the seal,
which is issued for two years, after which products have to request a
reevaluation.

The green seal has the same sleek look as the
original Good Housekeeping Seal, but is a dark green color and has
leaves on either side.

Determining what products get the green
thumbs-up will include evaluating its health value and toxicity, said
Michael Brown, of Brown and Wilmanns.

"It's a combination of
looking at the materials that go into the product, aspects of waste,
energy use, water use and certainly the potential health impacts
associated with the product," said Brown, whose firm will train Good
Housekeeping researchers to test products against the decided green
criteria.

San Francisco writer Jennifer Roberts, author of "Good
Green Kitchens," said consumers need more direct labeling to make clear
choices when they're in the grocery aisle — and the new seal could fill
that void.

"There is so much greenwashing that's going on,"
Roberts said. "People are becoming more and more aware and cynical. The
potential for an organization that does have a good reputation and
stands behind it, that could be good for consumers."

Another key
to success will be giving consumers a place to find and review the
green criteria, said Boulder, Colo.-based green building expert David
Johnston, author of "Green From the Ground Up."

"Transparency is
fundamental to making this really valuable," Johnston said. "If that's
there and they're rigorous, then this is performing a service. It takes
someone of their scale to make it work."

Good Housekeeping feels
like it is outlining those strict standards and will make any criteria
available to its readers, Ellis said.

"We want people to be able
to see how we arrived at the decisions. Not every green advocate will
be happy, but we've bent over backward," Ellis said.

The Green
Good Housekeeping Seal joins an eco-label marketplace that includes
Green Seal, a Washington-based science-based environmental
certification standard, and an environmentally friendly online version
of Consumer Reports, GreenerChoices.org, among others.

Good Housekeeping thinks it deserves a piece of that market.

"None
of them, I would say, has been able to cut a wide swath," Ellis said.
"That's one reason we think Good Housekeeping is an ideal entity to do
this. I think a lot of readers will say, 'What took you so long?'"

No
matter the timing, the Good Housekeeping brand name alone will give
consumers confidence to trust that what they're buying is
environmentally friendly, said Jordana Gustafson, editor at the green
living review Web site SustainLane.com.

"Just seeing that seal on
a product will make people grab it off the shelf," Gustafson said.
"Companies will want that seal (on their products)."

Making
industry-wide changes is part of the reason Good Housekeeping is
releasing the seal, Ellis said, but helping consumers make sustainably
sound purchases is the top reason.

"From a business point of view
we have a lot on the line and from a trust point of view we have even
more on the line," Ellis said. "But if something has the Good
Housekeeping seal, whether it's an expensive or inexpensive product,
you know you're getting your money's worth."

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