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Defining Organic, Fair Trade, Sustainable + More

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source: Michele Finotto

One thing that makes “green living” seem more confusing or complicated than it needs to be is that there are so many different terms which all fall under the green heading. And while some people focus on the importance of organic food and skincare products, others be more concerned with fair trade or social responsibility. But they all classify themselves under the green heading, which makes it hard to know which is which.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common terms and their basic definitions:


The growth of non-genetically modified plants or animals without insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, growth hormones or antibiotics.

Certified Organic

Organic products that have gone through rigorous testing to ensure compliance with the legal definition of organic as laid out in the National Organic Program Standards.

Social Responsibility

The commitment of companies and organizations to do business in a way that benefits the communities and people around them rather than just contributing to their bottom line.

Carbon Footprint

The total amount of greenhouse gases emitted by a family, organization or product.


Products, services and lifestyles that function without having long-term negative affects on the environment.


Products, services and lifestyles that do not “inflict harm” on the environment. Interchangeable with “green” and “sunstainable”.

Fair Trade

Commerce that abides by the following nine standards: create opportunities for marginalized producers, develop transparent relationships, build capacity, promote fair trade, pay promptly and fairly, support empowering working conditions, ensure children’s rights, cultivate environmental stewardship, and respect cultural identity (source: Wikipedia).

For our family, the most compelling of these definitions is Fair Trade, which encompasses not only environmental impact and personal health but also a commitment to bettering the communities and individuals who produce the goods we consume.

I’m definitely concerned with the amount of chemicals we encounter every day and want to reduce those for my family’s well being, but I can’t do that without acknowledging the bigger picture, and the impact our purchases have on other families around the world. I still have a ton to learn, but I’ll  definitely be sharing what we discover along the way!

Which aspect of green living is most important to your family?