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Terms You Should Know

June 25, 2012

CERTIFIED ORGANIC, non-GMO, BPA. We hear terms like these all the time. From the grocery store to the evening news to health magazines. Even on the GoGreen Web Directory website! But, what are the true meaning of these terms and how do they affect YOU?  Here are a few of the most common terms  and a little information about them to help you make an informed decision on products labeled with these terms:

GMO (and non-GMO): The acronym GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms and refers to any food product that has been altered at the gene level.  The jury is still out as to the overall impact of GMO on our environment and health.  But, many believe the best advice is to avoid GMO as much as possible. Here is a great article if you are interested in finding out more about GMO:

USDA CERTIFIED ORGANIC:  According to the Organic Trade Association,  “Certified Organic” means the item has been grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by independent state or private organizations. Certification includes inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting the standards which have been set.  Certified Organic foods will often carry the “USDA Certified Organic” Seal (although it is not mandatory).  For more information on certified organic foods, visit the USDA website.

INSIDER TIP:  Bulk produce is coded with what is referred to as PLU Numbers. These numbers allow you to identify conventional, organic  or GMO produce:

  • Organic produce has a 5 digit PLU number that begins with the number 9.
  • Conventional produce has a 4 digit PLU number that begins with the number 4.
  • Genetically modified (GMO) produce has a 5 digit PLU number that begins with the number 8
THE DIRTY DOZEN & THE CLEAN 15:  Not sure which produce to buy organically? The Environmental Working Group has compiled a list called The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce which will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake substantially by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated produce.

ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: The widely accepted definition was established by Herbert Daly in 1990 and is as follows:

1. For renewable resources, the rate of harvest should not exceed the rate of regeneration (sustainable yield);

2. [For pollution] The rates of waste generation from projects should not exceed the assimilative capacity of the environment (sustainable waste disposal); and

3. For nonrenewable resources the depletion of the nonrenewable resources should require comparable development of renewable substitutes for that resource.

In other words, the rates of renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion that can be continued indefinitely. If they cannot be continued indefinitely then they are not sustainable. (SOURCE:


Chemicals like these are found in everything from baby bottles to beauty aids. And limiting your exposure to such chemicals can be difficult. (Trying to avoid the wrong shampoo or drinking glass can be a daunting task! ) However, a terrific source for safe products, descriptions of harmful chemicals and more can be found on the Environmental Working Group’s website.

INSIDER TIP: Be sure to visit their cosmetic database of more than 74,000 products before purchasing your next bottle of nail polish or sunscreen!

How do you decide what products to buy for your home? Do you shop organically? We would love to hear your stories and tips in the comments below!

Interested in finding out more about green living in Massachusetts? Visit the GoGreen Web Directory.

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