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Inquirer Southern Luzon
Finding the product’s ‘green choice seal’

By Maricar Cinco
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 00:41:00 05/13/2010

Filed Under: Environmental Issues, Consumer Issues

MANILA, Philippines?A notebook made of recycled material or a hair spray marked as CFC (chlorofluorocarbon)-free may not be as ?green? as its manufacturers claim, according to the Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development Inc. (PCEPSD).

?Most of the environmental claims in the market are euphemistic statements or misleading, if not real at all,? said June Alvarez, the center?s executive director. said.

?Some would claim their product is phosphate-free when in fact it doesn?t really use phosphate or that it is 100-percent recycled, when it is only the notebook?s cover that is made of recycled materials,? Alvarez said during a seminar with local businessmen in Santa Rosa City in Laguna.

The PCEPSD and its local counterpart, Gentwofifteen Development Foundation Inc., have partnered with the city government in promoting ?green business? in celebration of Earth Week last month.

As a third-party monitoring body, the center has been raising the standards of being truly ecofriendly through environmental labeling or ecolabeling since 2003. Ecolabeling is an international system of identifying products or services that reduce environmental impact.

The Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources created the Green Choice Philippines (GCP) seal to authenticate products deemed to be environment-friendly.

A product applying for the GCP seal goes through stringent criteria before the seal is given, Alvarez said.

?We follow the life cycle consideration or the cradle to grave [criteria]. Meaning from the extraction of the raw materials, to transportation of the products, up to the disposal [the products should be] not hazardous to humans and the environment,? he said.

He cited Mariwasa, a ceramic tile brand, that was awarded the seal after it cut its carbon emission by 20 percent and used alternative fuel consisting of rice hull and biomass in its production.

Another is Plantex Green, a brand of home and personal care products that uses phytochemicals from banana. ?Their all-purpose cleaner is so safe you can actually drink it,? he said.

The PCEPSD has also awarded the GCP seal to a brand of car engine oil that has extended its oil drain to 10,000 to 20,000 kilometers from the usual 5,000-km ceiling.

The Philippines consumes 200 million liters of oil in a year and only two million liters are recycled, it said. ?The rest is dumped elsewhere. Based on our studies, a drop of oil can already contaminate 30 liters of water,? Alvarez said.

To date, 15 brand products in the market carry the GCP seal.

?When we started ecolabeling, nobody listened. [Industries] always asked if there was a demand [to be ecofriendly]. The same is true for the consumers asking, ?What?s in it for us?? So it is not a linear thing. We promote ecoliving to the producers and to the market or the consumers too,? Alvarez said.

Survey

A survey conducted in 2000 showed that 79 percent of Filipino consumers described environmental problems as very serious, 46 percent occasionally participated in environmental campaigns and 55 percent were willing to buy ?green? products even if they cost more.

Alvarez believes that environmental advocacy worldwide has advanced to market base over the years that ?if businesses do not shift into [being] environmental, they?ll be left behind.?

He said the consumers? awareness and patronage for ecofriendly products even heightened after Typhoons ?Ondoy? and ?Pepeng? in 2009.

In November 2009, the PCEPSD launched a Green Purchasing Alliance Movement that campaigns for patronage for ?green? products among consumers. At the same time, it has asked manufacturers to include environmental concerns in their marketing.

Alvarez said the center would next set guidelines in identifying fast food chains and restaurants which are environment-friendly and construction companies and materials that are not hazardous to the environment.



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