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What Does It Mean to Be a USDA Biobased Product?

What Does It Mean to Be a USDA Biobased Product?

by James Han

CarbonFree Certified. Green Seal. Leaping Bunny. There are dozens of green business certifications that can help you navigate the marketplace and make informed, eco-conscious decisions as a shopper. USDA Certified Biobased product labels, which are issued by the Department of Agriculture as part of the BioPreferred Program, are one more example.

Whether you’ve seen the icon on our home and body care goods or come across it during your usual online browsing, we believe it’s important for all consumers to know exactly what this certification means, and how brands attain it. Read on to get a comprehensive overview of the USDA Certified Biobased Product label and why you should look out for it.

What Does “USDA Biobased” Mean?

A biobased product is any non-food, -feed or -fuel item made from renewable agriculture, marine and forestry materials as well as renewable chemicals. That means it’s made with raw ingredients that act as environmentally friendly alternatives to petroleum and petroleum byproducts. The term “biobased” actually covers a wide range of goods that range from everyday consumer skincare items to construction products purchased by Federal agencies.

The BioPreferred Program

The Department of Agriculture strictly regulates biobased products through the BioPreferred Program, created by the 2002 Farm Bill legislation passed by Congress (1). There are both economic and environmental benefits to the BioPreferred Program — its two main goals are to cut back on the nation’s dependence on petroleum and increase the development, purchase, and use of biobased products and renewable resources (2).

By getting a certification, brands are allowed to add the USDA Certified Biobased Product label to their products. If the product falls under one of 139 designated categories, it may even be eligible for a mandatory federal purchasing initiative, which stipulates that all federal agencies only use biobased products (5).

Requirements to Become a USDA Biobased Product

Getting a USDA Certified Biobased Product label is fairly straightforward: a brand’s products just need to meet a minimum biobased content that’s set by the USDA (1). However, the vetting process involves careful testing by an independent, third-party laboratory to ensure that a product meets the criteria. Without getting too technical, the laboratory calculates biobased content by looking at the amount of “new” or recent organic carbon in an object or substance versus the amount of “old” organic carbon (4). In other words, a living tree is 100 percent biobased, whereas a lump of coal is zero percent biobased.

Benefits of Shopping for USDA Biobased Products

If you’re looking to shop for plant-based products that don’t have a negative impact on the planet, biobased products are a great way to start. Many of them — including Cleanyst’s line of hand soaps, body washes, shampoos and more — are sustainable alternatives to conventional, petroleum-containing products that work just as well (and for about the same price) (1). Here are two of the key benefits of buying biobased:

  • Reduces use of non-renewable petroleum resources. Biobased products reduce our country’s use of about 300 million gallons of petroleum every year (1), and have curbed our greenhouse gas emissions by about 60 percent (7). Limiting our need for mining and burning fossil fuels can help us manage the current and projected risks of climate change (6).
  • Biobased products are a major part of the U.S. economy. According to a USDA report from 2016, biobased products contributed 459 billion dollars to the U.S. economy, positively impacting every single state (7). It also led to 4.65 million jobs (7).

Cleanyst: Biobased Products for Your Skin and Home

At Cleanyst, we’re passionate about creating home and body care goods that are made with plant-derived ingredients that are safe for your skin and the environment at large.

In addition to avoiding parabens, dyes, fragrances and other potentially harmful chemicals, our products (and the sugar cane-based pouches that they’re packaged in) earned a USDA Certified Biobased Product label in 2020. In fact, many of our products actually exceed the USDA minimum standards for biobased content:

  • Cleanyst Body Care Concentrates:
    • Body Wash Concentrate – 92%
    • Conditioner Concentrate – 82%
    • Hand Soap Concentrate – 96%
    • Sulfate Free Shampoo Concentrate – 77%
  • Cleanyst Home Care Concentrates:
    • All Purpose Cleaner – 94%
    • Dish Soap Concentrate – 99%
    • Glass & Surface Cleaner Concentrate – 87%
    • Laundry Detergent Concentrate – 59%
    • Tub & Tile Cleaner Concentrate – 97%
  • Cleanyst Concentrate Pouch — 65%

You can learn more about our products’ ingredients — and their impact on your health and the environment — on our blog.

References:

  1. USDA - Fact Sheet: Overview of USDA’s BioPreferred Program 
  2. USDA - What Is BioPreferred?
  3. USDA - Biobased Products
  4. USDA - Understanding Biobased Content
  5. USDA - Product Categories
  6. NASA - The Causes of Climate Change
  7. BioPreferred - Strong Bioproducts Sector Growth Leads to Equally Strong Job Gains
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