Green Logo Shopping at the Hardware Store

As kids, our neighborhood mecca was the candy store. As home-owning adults, the Twizzlers and Kit Kats of the candy store are traded for the t-squares and drill bits of the hardware store. Yet, like a kid who find 50 cents lying on the curb, half the time we're looking for any excuse to go there – not that there's ever a shortage of projects to be done. Out of floor cleaner? The hardware store'll have it. Slight scratch on the bathroom floor? To the hardware store!

There’s any number of reasons to go shopping, enough to fill a list as long as Home Depot's inventory. The catch is that going hardware shopping isn't as simple as it used to be. These days, we don't just buy any product on a shelf. We read labels. We want to know where it's made. We understand that green living means more than saving greenbacks.

But with the rise of the green movement comes an amazing amount of "green" products. Nowadays companies will slap "green" or "all-natural" or "made with natural ingredients" labels on anything. Even motor oil retailers are advertising their greener sides.

In answer to the confusion resulting from corporate profiteering and greenwashing, a handful of green watchdogs have developed tests and certification regimens for eco-friendly products. It’s these labels you want to look for when browsing the hardware store aisles for your next paint product, household cleaner or stick of lumber.

Green Seal

Green Seal is an independent non-profit that is, as its slogan goes, the "Mark of Environmental Responsibility." Green Seal has developed standards and certification for everything from stains and finishes to cleaning products, building products, vehicles and more. They even certify companies, including hotels and restaurants. Green Seal displays the most recognizable and reputable label in green certification.


EcoLogo was founded by the Canadian government in 1988 and has since become a world-renowned environmental standard and certification mark. EcoLogo develops strict standards for products and services, similarly to Green Seal, but then relies on an independent third party to determine whether each company or product meets the EcoLogo criteria. The EcoLogo Program is one of only two North American programs (Green Seal is the other) to be successfully audited by the Global EcoLabeling Network (GEN) as meeting eco-labeling standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

EcoLogo and Green Seal are easily the most recognized and widespread green labels in North America, and if you look, you'll find them all over the hardware store. If you want to know exactly why a particular product you're searching for bears the EcoLogo or Green Seal label, both websites detail their program standards. Furthermore, if you want to know what you want before walking into the hardware store, both sites have filters to help locate products that qualify for their labels.

FSC Certification

If your home project carries you out into the lumber yard, there is one surefire way to know that you’re buying the greenest lumber or other wood building product. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) monitors and certifies the life-cycle of wood products, ensuring that the wood is sustainably harvested and tracked from the forest to your home. Many FSC-certified materials are reclaimed or recycled products as well. Anything from wood flooring to plywood to countertops to cabinets may be FSC certified. You'll know it by the FSC trademark the product and/or company bears.

Locally Green

While most truly green products in your local hardware store will bear one of the labels or trademarks described above, not every green product has to. Remember that part of the green movement is keeping an eye toward local merchandise. The certifiers above exist because it's so hard an individual to keep track of products when there are so many coming from all over the world.

Many times, however, small local suppliers may not have the resources or feel the need to obtain certification, but are nonetheless green in nature. For instance, a local farmer may be selling reclaimed barn wood or using that wood to make outdoor furniture and selling it at a local crafters' market. These sort of opportunities spread by word of mouth or fliers on the hardware store pegboard or small ads in the local newspaper. Think Global, Shop Local the saying goes. Well, it's hard to get greener than buying a product made or harvested by a neighbor.

Dan Harding is a well-versed veteran of solar critique, commentary and reporting.  He has published well over 1,000 articles on a wide variety of solar industry topics, ranging from cutting-edge technology and gadgetry to political satire and powerful editorials. CalFinder is proud to tout Dan as our resident solar expert. He holds a B.A. in English from Michigan State University, and enjoys reading, writing and home construction.