March 12, 2024

Biobased, Plant-based - What Do They Mean?

Laundry format packaging on laundry room counter

These terms probably sound familiar. Chances are you’ve heard them used more and more these days by brands using them to describe their products. You may have even noticed the USDA Certified Biobased Product label that lives on many of our packages. But what do biobased and plant-based mean? And how and why are their quantities measured? Most importantly, what do these terms and numbers mean for you—the consumer?

We’re here to help.

Biobased products are those “derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials,”[1] as opposed to non-renewable materials, such as petroleum. So, when we say our products are plant-based, it means simply that plants are the primary biobased resource we used to make them. Plant-derived ingredients are ones that obtain their carbon exclusively from plants but have been modified from their state found in nature to provide functional performance. In fact, we have a full ingredient glossary that helps explain the terms we use.

The USDA BioPreferred Program was established by the 2002 Farm Bill. Its goal is to increase the quantity of renewable resources used by businesses and federal agencies, and to create new jobs and economic growth by supporting new industry.[2] Additionally, the program is vital to our planet’s environmental health because “the increased development, purchase, and use of biobased products reduces our nation’s reliance on petroleum”[3] and further decreases our dependence on fossil fuels. With the effects of climate change becoming more visible every day, this program has never been more important than it is right now.

When you see the USDA Certified Biobased Product label on Seventh Generation products, it means that they contain the listed percentage of biobased material, as officially certified by the USDA. As you’d expect, the higher that percentage, the higher the quantity of renewable materials sourced to make it. We’re also excited that now consumers can compare biobased labels to determine a product’s biobased content.

For us, though, these percentages are more than numbers. They’re a promise we make to do business in a way that nurtures and sustains the world around us, while also making products that work – a promise we’ve made for over 35 years.

In addition to our USDA Biobased certification also look out for another government accolade selected products have garnered - the EPA awarded Safer Choice label. The EPA Safer Choice program highlights cleaning products that are safer for you and for the environment. This label informs consumers that certain products are made safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing cleaning performance.[4]