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5 Labels You Need to Look for in a Supermarket

1 sept ‘22


It’s very difficult to purchase responsibly in supermarkets due to the large amount and variety of products which are littered with pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Here are five labels that can help you learn how to shop more sustainably!

Words by Rebekah Smith 

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Image source: Eduardo Soares

As consumers, we are wired to buy more for less. However, we want quality products for a cheaper price, and companies have been taking advantage of this for decades. Because we desire cheaper products, companies feel as if they can use cheaper materials to make their products and we will still buy them – and we usually do! Cheap is convenient, but it is cataclysmic for the fate of our planet.

Beyond the abundance of non-biodegradable plastic and aluminum packaging, many of the foods we buy are made with cheap, artificial dyes, colors and flavors, as well as pesticides and chemical toxins. Often, we don’t even know that our foods contain these contaminants because we grab the cheapest option and/or forget to look at the list of ingredients. Still, the ingredients list may not label that an apple came from a conglomerate farm that uses potentially harmful insecticides or that a bag of sugar includes sucrose from a cane farm that abuses its workers.

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Image source: Bernard Hemart

About the products

However, as consumers are demanding more information about where their food comes from, more companies are adding helpful food labels to their packaging. Some of those companies are MSC, ASC, AB or AIAB, FSC, and RAC.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) evaluates and certifies sustainable seafood using their “Blue Fish” label. Purchasing products with a MSC label directly contributes to sustainably managed fisheries that work hard to end overfishing. Climate change and harmful fishing subsidies are contributing to overfishing, so purchasing a product with a Blue Fish label benefits aquatic ecosystems and your body, because this seafood is wild-caught and sustainably sourced.

Another contributor to sustainable seafood is the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC).

Different companies

Complimentary to the MSC, ASC works to make sure fish farms are limiting their environmental and community impacts. Fish bearing the ASC label come from farms that are working to limit their impact on the environment and demonstrate a social respect and responsibility toward their workforce.

Agriculture Biologique, or L'Agence Bio, (AB) and Associazione Italiana Agricoltura Biologica, the Italian Association for Organic Agriculture, (AIAB) work toward the same goal. In France, AB has been working since 1985 to ensure organic products are being sold on the market. AIAB certifies a large number of products, primarily across Italy, as “organic,” including food, detergents, farms, cosmetics, stores and bio-fibres. AB and AIAB both require a minimum of 95% organic ingredients in items to be certified as “organic.”

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Image source: Rumman Amin

Check out our tips for how to make second-hand clothing fit you!

Image source: Nico Smit

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) promotes the responsible environmental, economic and social management of the world’s forests. FSC provides three different labels to help consumers better understand their product’s sourcing and supply chain. Products labeled “FSC 100%” only contain materials from FSC-certified forests that meet the council’s environmental and social standards. “FSC Mix” products are made of material from FSC-certified forests, recycled material and other controlled sources. Products that are “FSC Recycled” are made of post- and/or pre-consumer materials.

Finally, the Rainforest Alliance Certified (RAC) nonprofit works to protect nature and improve the lives of farm and forest communities through partnering with diverse allies across the world. RAC labels have been evaluated against a criteria which promotes environmental, economic and social well-being, along with the RAC’s four guiding principles: improved data management, context adaptability, shared responsibility, and continuous improvement. The label, which includes a green frog, means that the product you might be purchasing was produced by farmers and foresters who are working to benefit nature and people. RAC products include coffee, tea, fruit, chocolate, beverages, flowers, paper and tissue products, and furniture.

If you’re in the supermarket and you feel overwhelmed by the amount of foods that might not be sustainable or lack labels, try looking for products that are certified by MSC, ASC, AB or AIAB, FSC, and RAC. These items, whether food, toiletries or leisure, are helping to make the planet a more sustainable and responsible place to live and eat. Try looking for any of these labels next time you are in a store!

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