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plenty LABS Seal Watch

Desperately Seeking Standards How organic is organic in personal-care products?


rganophiles lacking chemistry degrees often refer to cosmetics shopping as a Wild West adventure in lawless label territory. Adding to the confusion is a multiplicity of standards, along with an array of new seals, which will appear this fall. The most credible seals set clear, uniform standards that are verified by independent third parties rather than industry self-certifiers. “Eventually, we want to get to the place where there’s one legal standard for organic and one for natural,” says Stacy Malkan of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics ( (Natural is currently a completely unregulated term.) Until then, to help you pick cosmetics with the fewest toxic, synthetic petrochemicals, here’s a US and European Union (EU) seal cheat sheet. —Alexandra Zissu USDA Organic Requires independent third-party certification and a minimum of 95% certified–organic plant ingredients; 70% qualifies for “Made with Organic.” No synthetics or dirty chemistry permitted. NSF This fall, NSF International extends its food, water, and water filter third-party certification to cosmetics. Requires that products have 70% organic ingredients and very limited chemical process­ing or additives. BDIH This EU seal’s stringent definition of natural bans all petroleum-based ingredients. Third-party certified. Soil Association Somewhat weaker EU counterpart of USDA Organic; allows some synthetics. NPA The new Natural Products Association’s third-party US standards are much like NSF’s but without the organic requirement. Whole Foods Premium Body Care An in-store label developed with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics for products sold in Whole Foods Market that are free of 250 toxic chemicals. Organic And Sustainable Industry Standards (OASIS) Industry-vetted EU label requires that products be 85% organic, going up to 95% by 2010. Allows some synthetics. Eco-Cert A looser EU third-party seal requiring 95% natural ingredients, with a minimum 10% of those certified organic.

84 | august-september 2008

behind the wheel

Camry Hybrid


rom tiny little compacts to massive trucks and SUVs, gas/electric powertrains are now available in a vehicle variety that should make hybrids more attractive to Americans with a range of lifestyles. Chief among the more practical, flexible offerings is a hybrid version of the bestselling car in the country, the Toyota Camry. If you consider it a Prius in mildmannered clothing, that’s fine—just don’t mistake it for a dud. To start, Toyota takes the Camry features people love­­—rock-solid quality, high safety ratings, a smooth ride, and a host of amenities­—and jacks up the miles-per-gallon (mpg) substantially. The Camry Hybrid is rated at 33/34 mpg (city/ highway), a considerable jump from the Camry XLE four-cylinder’s 21/31 mpg. Even more impressive, this represents the best mileage found in traditional midsize sedans equipped with hybrid or strictly gasoline powertrains. Like the Prius in electric-only mode, the Camry Hybrid is shockingly silent and produces no emissions. And once you get up to speed, this hybrid is every bit as drivable as the gas-only Camry. The increased fuel efficiency doesn’t come at the expense of performance, thanks to the extra horsepower (29 more than the Camry XLE) and torque the electric motor provides. All this translates into stronger acceleration—I clocked about nine seconds to 60 mph—and enhanced passing power on the highway. Similar to the regular Camry, the hybrid won’t win any drag races, but the added torque upped the acceleration ante between 50 and 70 mph. City driving range (568 miles) also stands out compared to the XLE (389 miles). Even with a federal tax credit, the cost premium of hybrid technology has, until

Plenty Magazine Issue 23 Aug/Sept 2008  

beyond the bulb> the best Ideas In green desIgn krIstIn gore kIlls her laWn | saIlIng greece | gossIp gIrl’s eco star