An official website of the United States government.

This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2021. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. More information »

Sustainable Marketplace: Greener Products and Services

Greener Products A-Z List

The following links exit the site Exit

Accreditation - Third party attestation related to a conformity assessment body conveying a formal demonstration of its competence to carry out specific conformity assessment tasks. (These tasks include sampling and testing, inspection, certification and registration.) Source (PDF) (12 pp, 241K) 

ANSI Accreditation - The approval by the ANSI Executive Standards Council of the written procedures submitted by a standards developer relative to the development and documentation of evidence of consensus in connection with standards that are expected to be approved by the American National Standards Institute. Accreditation by ANSI signifies that the procedures submitted by the standards developer satisfy the essential requirements contained herein. Source (PDF) (26 pp, 109K)

Attribute - The characteristics or elements of products or services that determine the type and extent of their short and longer term impacts on the environment or human health. Environmental attributes include, for example, biodegradability, recyclability, VOC emissions, energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor air emissions, hazardous waste, carcinogenicity, etc.

Audit - A systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which the criteria are fulfilled.

Auditor - A person with the competence to conduct an audit. Competence: demonstrated personal attributes and demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills. Source

Benefit - An expected environmental or social improvement (or positive impact) that has been made as a result of procurement of an environmentally preferable product or service.

Bio-based Products - Commercial or industrial products (other than food or feed) that utilize biological products or renewable, domestic, agricultural (e.g., plant, animal and marine), or forestry materials. Source 

Certification - A) Third party attestation related to products, processes, or persons that convey assurance that specified requirements have been demonstrated. Source
B) Procedure by which a third party gives written assurance that a product, process or service conforms to specified requirements (ISO/IEC Guide 2).

Certifier - An individual or organization who assesses compliance of an entity against an applicable standard or set of criteria, and issues a certificate if deemed successful.

Chain of Custody - Tracing of a product or commodity through a supply chain to determine that it has met the criteria of the eco-label and that the certified product is identifiable.

Compliance/Conformance Audit - A compliance audit checks to see if an entity meets an applicable standard and/or set of criteria of an eco-labeling program or standards, and is correctly using the eco-label or standards in its marketing. (Note: In some contexts 'compliance' indicates adherence to laws or regulations; in other contexts the terms are used to indicate compliance with voluntary consensus based standards or sets of environmental performance criteria.)

Conformity assessment - Demonstration that specified requirements relating to a product, process, system, person or body are fulfilled. (This may include any activity concerned with determining directly or indirectly that relevant requirements are fulfilled.) Source (PDF) (12 pp, 241K)

Consensus - Consensus means substantial agreement has been reached by directly and materially affected interests. This signifies the concurrence of more than a simple majority, but not necessarily unanimity. Consensus requires that all views and objections be considered, and that an effort be made toward their resolution. Source (PDF) (26 pp, 106K)

Corrective Action Reports - Reports that are issued during certification evaluations or audits that require entities applying for an eco-label to make specific changes in order to meet criteria.

Criteria - The specific conditions or indicators that have to be met in order for an entity to attain a standard and/or be awarded the use of an eco-label.

Declaration - An enforceable attestation by a responsible authority within the manufacturer's organization that the product meets the requirements of the standard as declared.

Desk Review - Review of initial data provided by a manufacturer when they initiate registration of products to some eco-label systems.

Eco-label - A visual communication tool indicating environmentally preferable products, services or companies that are based on standards or criteria.
Note: Eco-labels may be referred to as tiered, pass-fail, Type I, II, III, multi-attribute, single attribute, etc.

Eco-labeling Program - The organization that creates an eco-label, and is responsible for its ongoing management and use.

Entity - A product, service, company, or organization that seeks, or has been, awarded an eco-label. Entities can be buildings, companies, facilities, farms, fisheries, forests / land holdings, individuals, non-profit, organizations, products, processes, services, or supply chains.

Environmental Claim - Any statement, assertion or visual display about the environmental aspects of an entity.

Environmental Product Declaration (EPD®) - Quantified environmental data for a product with pre-set categories of parameters (raw material, energy use, etc) based on the ISO 14040 series. Also includes additional product and company information. Source

Environmentally Preferable Products - Products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. This comparison applies to raw materials, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, use, reuse, operation, maintenance, and disposal. Source

Eutrophication - The process by which a body of water or eco system acquires a high concentration of organic matter with potentially damaging consequences). Source

First, Second and Third Party - The first party is generally the person or organization that provides the object, such as the supplier. The second party is usually a person or organization that has a user interest in the product, such as the customer. The third party is a person or body that is recognized as being independent of the person or organization that provides the object, as well as the user or customer of the object. Source (PDF) (12 pp, 241K)

First Party Attestation - When the producer of an entity claims to meet a criterion or standard without the verification or endorsement of another party. Source (PDF) (12 pp, 241K)

Green Product Index - A set of environmental criteria that are aggregated and by which products in similar categories can be quantitatively compared.

Harmonization - A process whereby national or regional standards and requirements are aligned, including product and manufacturing standards and conformance assessment requirements. Harmonization does not necessarily mean that standards need to be identical in each jurisdiction, but rather that they are consistent or compatible so there is no barrier to trade. Source

Harmonized standards - Standards on the same subject approved by different standardizing bodies that establish interchangeability of products, processes and services, or mutual understanding of test results or information provided according to these standards. Source (citing ISO/IEC Guide 2, 2004, Definition 6.1.)

Impact/Impacts - The effect or output of an activity, product or substance on the environment or human health, whether adverse or beneficial.

Life Cycle- Consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system, from raw material acquisition or generation of natural resources to the final disposal (ISO/IEC Guide 2).

life-cycle assessment (LCA) - A) Compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs, and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle (ISO/IEC Guide 2).

B) The comprehensive examination of a product's environmental and economic aspects and potential impacts throughout its lifetime, including raw material extraction, transportation, manufacturing, use, and disposal. Source (PDF) (11 pp, 98K)

Life-Cycle Cost - The amortized annual cost of a product, including capital costs, installation costs, operating costs, maintenance costs and disposal costs discounted over the lifetime of the product However, this definition does not include external costs (i.e., those not borne directly by the entity that owns and operates a product/service, such as environmental costs to society at large). Source

Life-Cycle Thinking (LCT) - LCT is a concept that integrates existing consumption and production strategies, preventing a piece-meal approach. LCT and other approaches can be used to improve the way we think about problem solving and use available information. Life-cycle approaches help avoid shifting problems from one life-cycle stage to another, from one geographic area to another and from one environmental medium (air, water, soil) to another. Source

Multi-Attribute - A type of eco-label or standard that captures a number of environmental attributes or life-cycle attributes or impacts of a product.

Mutual Recognition - Where eco-label programs or standard-setting organizations formally recognize the criteria and requirements of each-others' standards or sets of criteria If such an agreement exists, entities that have been awarded the label in one program may therefore be able to register in another without undertaking the full certification evaluation procedures again.

Non-Governmental Entities - Include, but are not limited to, voluntary consensus standards, environmental standard setting organizations, third party certification programs, environmental labeling or environmental "report card" programs and other environmental consulting organizations.

Pre- and Post-Market Certification - There are two types of certification: pre-market and after-market verification. In this case "market" means when the claim is publicized to the market, not necessarily when the product is introduced to the market. "Verification" means a check for conformance. These two approaches would be utilized within a certification system that implements a strategy for credibility assurance.

Procurement - The acquisition of products and services by contract through purchase or lease, whether the supplies or services are already in existence or must be created, developed, demonstrated, and evaluated. Acquisition begins at the point when needs are established and includes the description of requirements to meet those needs, solicitation and selection of sources, award of contracts, contract financing, contract performance, contract administration, and those technical and management functions directly related to the process of fulfilling purchaser needs by contract.

Product - The result of a process, i.e., a set of interrelated or interacting activities which transforms inputs into outputs, of which four generic categories are services, software, hardware and processed materials. Source

Pollution Prevention - Practices that reduce or eliminate the creation of pollutants through: increased efficiency in the use of raw materials, energy, water, or other resources; or protection of natural resources by conservation, including:

  • Reduction in the amount of any hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant entering any waste stream or otherwise released into the environment (including fugitive emissions) prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal.
  • Reduction in hazards to public health and the environment associated with the release of such substances, pollutants, or contaminants. Source

Registration - A) Third party attestation related to systems that convey assurance that specified requirements have been demonstrated. Such systems include those established for the management of product, process or service quality and environmental performance.
B) In order to begin the certification process entities need to be registered with the eco-label program. In some eco-label programs, once registration is complete, entities can start using the eco-label because no up-front certification is required.
C) In some programs when a product is declared by a manufacturer to be in conformance with a standard, and that product is placed onto a registry of conforming products, it is said to be registered to an eco-label. This is a legally enforceable attestation by a responsible authority within the manufacturer's organization that the product meets the requirements of the standard as declared, and the manufacturer can begin claiming in the market that the product is conformant or begin using the eco-label. Source (PDF) (12 pp, 241K)

Second Party Certified or Verified - When an entity is assessed against a standard by an organization that has an interest in the entity but is not the producer of it. Source

Single-Attribute - Type of environmental claim that captures one aspect or quality of a product's performance.

Specifications - Tolerances, limiting values and other defining characteristics for materials, products, services, processes, systems or persons, contained within the provisions of a standard. Source

Stakeholder - Individual or group of individuals with interests that may affect, or be affected by, an organization. Source

Standard (Technical) - According to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119 (PDF) (43 pp, 506 K, About PDF), the term "standard," or "technical standard" as cited in the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA) includes all of the following:

  1. Common and repeated use of rules, conditions,guidelines or characteristics for products or related processes and production methods, and related management systems practices.
  2. The definition of terms; classification of components; delineation of procedures; specification of dimensions, materials, performance, designs, or operations; measurement of quality and quantity in describing materials, processes, products, systems, services, or practices; test methods and sampling procedures; or descriptions of fit and measurements of size or strength. Note that "performance standard" is a standard as defined above that states requirements in terms of required results with criteria for verifying compliance but without stating the methods for achieving required results. A performance standard may define the functional requirements for the item, operational requirements, and/or interface and interchangeability characteristics. A performance standard may be viewed in juxtaposition to a prescriptive standard which may specify design requirements, such as materials to be used, how a requirement is to be achieved, or how an item is to be fabricated or constructed.

Also see ISO/IEC Guide 2:2004 .

Standards developing organization (SDO) - The organization responsible for creating and maintaining the set of criteria that makes up a standard; and which stipulates the requirements or conditions of the eco-label's use. Source (PDF) (26 pp, 109K)

Technical Harmonization - Process of harmonizing technical practices of any kind, whether at the national, regional or international level. This process deals with technical issues, is facilitated by standards and is often used in support of policy objectives. One example would be a country that legislates mandatory compliance with ISO/IEC 14065, Greenhouse gasesRequirements for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies for use in accreditation or other forms of recognition, as part of its overall policy objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Source

Third Party Certified or Verified - When an entity is assessed against a standard by an independent (third party) organization that is different to the entity being certified (first party), and the eco-label program that set the standard (second party).

Transparency - Open, comprehensive and understandable presentation of information. Source

Verification - Systemic, independent and documented practice for the evaluation of a particular assertion against agreed verification criteria (where validation criteria/verification criteria are a policy, procedure or requirement used as a reference against which evidence is compared). Source

Voluntary Consensus Standards - According to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119 (PDF) (43 pp, 506 K, About PDF), standards developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, both domestic and international. These standards include provisions requiring that owners of relevant intellectual property have agreed to make that intellectual property available on a non-discriminatory, royalty-free or reasonable royalty basis to all interested parties. For purposes of the Circular, "technical standards that are developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standard bodies" is an equivalent term.

Voluntary Consensus Standards Bodies - According to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119 (PDF) (43 pp, 506 K, About PDF), voluntary consensus standards bodies are domestic or international organizations which plan, develop, establish, or coordinate voluntary consensus standards using agreed-upon procedures. For purposes of the Circular, "voluntary, private sector, consensus standards bodies," is an equivalent term. The Act and the Circular encourage the participation of federal representatives in these bodies to increase the likelihood that the standards they develop will meet both public and private sector needs. A voluntary consensus standards body is defined by the following attributes:

  1. Openness.
  2. Balance of interest.
  3. Due process.
  4. An appeals process.
  5. Consensus, which is defined as general agreement, but not necessarily unanimity, and includes a process for attempting to resolve objections by interested parties, as long as all comments have been fairly considered, each objector is advised of the disposition of his or her objection(s) and the reasons why, and the consensus body members are given an opportunity to change their votes after reviewing the comments.