The USDA's New Biobased Seal: Does it Mean Anything?

biobased lrg

The US Department of Agriculture announced this week that it would start to roll out products with a new 'biobased' seal beginning this spring. Expect it to become a common stamp on many of your favorite beauty products!

But does it have enough real significance? And could it lead to even more greenwashing opportunities by companies who aren't selling natural OR organic beauty products, but still want to catch the eyes of consumers in the market for healthy goods?

Let's take a closer look:

First, the vague term 'biobased.' To me, it feels as hazy as 'green' or 'natural.' To earn the USDA biobased seal, a product must contain 25% biobased materials, which refers to sustainable, renewable resources. It says nothing about overall manufacturing processes or the remaining 75% of the product. Seriously problematic, no?

One helpful design element for consumers: the seal will list the exact percentage of ingredients made from renewable resources. So if a manufacturer does go above the 25% threshold, that is clearly noted. The USDA says that the minimum percentage can be raised in the future, but as it stands 25% seems quite low, enough for some companies selling beauty products with questionable ingredients to take advantage of this colorful, natural-seeming seal of approval.

In the future, this seal may become an important standard for environmentally-friendly products, but to make sure you are still buying what's safest, read the ingredient label and look for the USDA organic seal first!