The term “natural” carries little meaning in the world of green products. Because it has no federal definition or regulation, any company can label its products as “natural”—even if those products are made almost completely from synthetic materials.
The Natural Products Association wants to change that. The NPA, a Washington-based group that represents retailers such as Clorox and Whole Foods, released a set of standards last month that define the term “natural” and determine whether or not a product can truly be deemed natural. The standards apply to home care products such as household cleaners, laundry detergents and hard-surface cleaners. (The NPA released similar standards for personal-care products in 2008).
The Natural Products Association has set standards that define the term 'natural'. Photo Courtesy Natural Products Association.
Some standards within the guidelines include:
• The product must be made with at least 95 percent natural ingredients or ingredients that are derived from natural sources. Ingredients must come from a purposeful, natural source, such as plants and minerals.
• The product must not go through any processes that would significantly or adversely alter the natural ingredients. No processes with synthetic or harsh chemicals are allowed.
• Ingredients with suspected human health risks are not included.
• Non-natural ingredients are acceptable only when no natural alternatives are available, and only if the ingredients pose no threat to human health.
To receive certification, companies must fully disclose all the ingredients in their products. Products that meet the NPA’s guidelines—as well as basic safety regulations by the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency—can display the association’s seal.