Find out the eco and ethical practices each one of these eight logos represents -- and how all of them help us make more conscientious choices.
Administered by the American Humane Association, this label ensures that the producers allowed farm animals to freely engage in normal behaviors (for instance, wing stretching in the case of laying hens) and employed only trained handlers to tend to them. It also indicates that these animals weren't raised in cages.
How it's monitored: Independent auditors conduct inspections before issuing a certificate, good for one year. After that, the farm must undergo annual audits to prove its continuous adherence to the American Humane standards.
The nonprofit Food Alliance (FA) certifies food producers, including growers and handlers, for a variety of sustainable practices, including safe and fair working conditions, reduced pesticide use, water and energy conservation, and wildlife-habitat protection. It also rejects the use of hormones and antibiotics.
How it's monitored: Certified members are required to set improvement goals and show yearly progress. In addition, farmers cannot grow genetically modified (GM) crops. FA employs a third-party inspection agency to regularly audit its participating members.
The Marine Stewardship Council's (MSC) label represents a fishery's commitment to sustainable practices, such as protecting biodiversity and ecological development.
How it's monitored: MSC relies on third-party certifiers to uphold its environmental standards (which adhere to the basic guidelines set by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization) to assess the fisheries and every company in the product's supply chain.
As with organic farming, Demeter Biodynamic-certified producers eschew the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Biodynamic farming also supports plant biodiversity, the efficient use of water, and takes the cycles of the moon into account. It aims to revitalize the soil with homeopathic preparations that include herbs. Demeter's certification standards have been around since 1928.
How it's monitored: Demeter evaluates farms for two to three years before it considers them eligible for certification. Once Demeter accredits the farms, they must submit to an annual inspection.
The label of this nonprofit champions sustainable agriculture and guarantees socially and environmentally responsible management policies. More than 31,000 farms in 22 countries, including rainforest areas, comply. The Rainforest Alliance (RA) holds its members accountable for decent wages, soil and water conservation, and the use of pesticides only as a last resort.
How it's monitored: RA relies on the Sustainable Agriculture Network, a collection of conservation groups, as well as an independent certifying agency to evaluate and award certification to farmers.
Commonly associated with coffee, tea, and cocoa, this label guarantees that the growers received a fair, above-market price. Fair Trade standards also push for sustainable farming and forbid child labor and the use of harmful pesticides.
How it's monitored: TransFair USA, a member of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, certifies and audits all Fair Trade Certified companies in the United States and their suppliers.
Backed by the nonprofit Vegan Action, this label (which you can find on clothing and cosmetic packaging, as well) asserts that the product neither contains nor uses any animal ingredients or byproducts in its manufacture -- and contains no ingredients that have been tested on animals.
How it's monitored: Vegan Action relies on written statements from companies. In some cases, it will also require laboratory tests and contact suppliers and manufacturers to investigate questionable ingredients or processes. The logo is good for one year.
As regulated by the National Marine Fisheries Service under the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act, manufacturers cannot label tuna "dolphin safe" if fishermen deliberately or accidentally encircle (or kill) dolphins with nets.
How it's monitored: The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission performs onboard inspections of fishing practices within the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, the primary region where dolphins and tuna swim together. In 2000, the U.S. government designed its own dolphin-safe logo and encourages, but does not require, companies to adopt it.