What's the biggest difference between 'natural' and 'organic' products?
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Seventh Generation

The grocery run. An errand as old as, well, food.

But most would agree that it's not what it used to be.



Remember when grocery shopping was like being in a sexy music video? GIF via Huffington Post.

What was once a simple matter of crossing items off a hurriedly jotted list has become real brain work.

Walking into a grocery store, our eyeballs are blitzed with options, buzzwords, and labels distinguishing the guiltless from the garbage.

Frankly, it can be a little overwhelming.

GIF from "The Hurt Locker."

Let's consider two of the most common terms we see on the shelves: "natural" and "organic."

Both words appear to be loaded with wholesome goodness, but when it comes to our food and other products, they couldn't be more different.

"Natural"

Photo by Maz Ali/Welcometoterranova.

You've probably bought food marked "natural" thinking you were making a healthy choice.

According to The Washington Post, "natural" is the second most money-making label on the market, helping sell over $40 billion of food annually in the U.S.

But here's the thing: the Food and Drug Administration has no clear definition for the word "natural" on food labeling. And contrary to popular belief, food companies aren't held to any verifiable standards before printing it on their packaging.(It's possible this could change, though — the FDA is currently calling for public comments on the use of the term in food labeling.)

Photos by Maz Ali/Welcometoterranova.

Not only are you likely to find processed foods that are "no longer the product of the earth" carrying the label, says the FDA, but Consumer Reports explains that these foods are often produced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and artificial chemicals and grown with toxic pesticides.

While "natural" cleaning products may have their upsides — "natural" and "nontoxic" labels are often as informative as they get because cleaning products can't be certified organic and they don't have to list ingredients — when it comes to food, don't count on the label leading you to reliably better health- and eco-conscious choices because it's not much more than a marketing ploy.

"Organic"

Photo by Maz Ali/Welcometoterranova.

The food industry can't be as slaphappy with "organic" as they are with "natural" because it requires third-party certification — meaning they actually have to do something to use it.

According to the California Certified Organic Farmers, "the use of sewage sludge, bioengineering (GMOs), ionizing radiation, and most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers is prohibited from organic production."

A farmer dons full biohazard gear before handling Monsanto's Lasso herbicide. Photo by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

And for animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy to be labeled organic, they have to be sourced from non-cloned animals that are not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones.

Photo by Maz Ali/Welcometoterranova.

The science is still out on whether organic foods are healthier for us, but the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency lists a few reasons to choose them: They're generally considered better for the environment, animal welfare, and for reducing human intake of pesticide residues and additives.

Photos by Maz Ali/Welcometoterranova.

Organic designations are tiered, with "100% organic" being the pinnacle of food purity and various partially-organic categories — "organic," "made with organic ingredients," and "less than 70% organic ingredients" — falling beneath it.

But it's not a perfect system.

A grain elevator perched on the horizon. Photo by Eric Crowley/Flickr.

Just because something is organic doesn't mean it hasn't been exposed to any pesticides — farmers are able to use some approved synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. And organic does not mean local. Produce and products may be shipped across the country, meaning they could still have a high carbon footprint.

Photo by bilbobagweed/Flickr.

Like "natural," organic doesn't necessarily mean healthy: There are plenty of cookies, ice cream, chips, and other not-super-nutritious foods produced organically. The best way to know the health benefits of a product is still just to look at the ingredients.

"Organic" is not perfect, but at least we can look it up and get a fairly good idea of how that food is produced. The same cannot be said of "natural." But the more curious and discerning we become, the more likely we'll be to steer our carts toward products worthy of our trust.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.