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Evaluating & Promoting Eco-Products

Originally appears in the Fall 2011 issue

Young people, and the general public, now have an unprecedented awareness of the environmental benefits of recycling, saving energy, and buying local and organic products.  Still, many of us are unaware of the hidden social and environmental impact of the things we buy and use in our everyday lives. Often, our consumer choices are based more on what is readily available and popular at the time than on what is ecologically-friendly. For the average person living in the global economy, scrutinizing the invisible ethical and environmental background of all their purchases is just “too much trouble” even though more and more organizations are making this information more readily available.

Nowadays, many products bear recognized ecological/ethical certifications which guarantee that certain standards have been followed in their production. “Fair trade” products guarantee that both social and environmental guidelines have been followed, while the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) award certification only to those companies who follow sustainable fishing and forestry practices. In Britain, the Carbon Trust ( works with companies to include Carbon Reduction labels on food products, which include information about the food’s country of origin, how much carbon was produced in its manufacture and transportation, and its compliance with animal welfare standards. Coherence to animal welfare standards is also indicated by the Leaping Bunny logo, which means that cosmetics are not tested on animals and comply with Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) standards.

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Chris Summerville has spent the last twenty-five years learning how to teach and live his concerns in the enigmatic country of Japan. He currently teaches English at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. Learn more about his work at