Here’s some interesting news for those of us (yes, that includes me) often confounded by what in the world makes a product labeled as “natural” actually so “natural.”

In an effort to make the meaning of the oft-misused N-tag more consistent across the boards, the Natural Products Association (NPA) is certifying and labeling household cleaning and laundering products that adhere to the organization’s “natural" guidelines. The new system, revolving around “natural ingredients, safety, responsibility, and sustainability,” is called the NPA Standard for Natural Home Care Products.

It’s great to have some clarity on the issue but do we really need another green labeling system? I’m waiting for the day when I pick up a bottle of dish soap at my local supermarket and it’s plastered with multiple “good for the earth” seals granted from a handful of organizations. It’s then that things start to get really confusing …

For now however, I think the NPA might be on to something that could, down the road, carry as much power as the now ubiquitous USDA Organic sticker. That said, the NPA has already placed seals on over 340 personal care products and I can’t say I’ve actually ever noticed it. 

So what makes a home care product “natural” by NPA standards? According to the NPA Standard for Home Care Products, 95 percent of the ingredients in a product must be derived from natural sources like plants and minerals (excluding water) while up to 5 percent of the remaining ingredients can be NPA-accepted synthetics if there is no natural alternative available and if they don't cause human health risks. Animal testing is strictly verboten. To see approved ingredients, check out the NPA's Illustrative List

Additionally, the NPA Standard for Home Care Products “requires that companies be transparent, fully disclosing their ingredients accurately and truthfully.” Furthermore, “companies must also provide verifiable information regarding all company home care products to confirm that 60% of the home care products in that brand line meet the NPA Natural Standard requirements.” 

I’m curious to see how the NPA Standard for Home Care Products pans out as seals begin appearing on actual products in the coming months. The NPA, founded in 1936, isn’t some losey-goosey organization and the standard itself is the real deal, not some greenwash-y marketing ploy. How do you think you’ll react to seeing certified “natural” labels attached to dish soap, detergents, surface cleaners, and the like? Do you think it will change the way you shop at all with “natural” being more properly defined? 

Via [GreenBiz]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Natural selection
The Natural Products Association extends its "natural" certification system to household products like cleaners, laundry detergents and dish soaps.