Current green certifications and labels help distributors and end users separate environmentally friendly products from traditional ones. However, two new programs will now help to differentiate green products from each other.

ISSA, Lincolnwood, Ill., and Ecoform, Knoxville, Tenn., have collaborated to develop an information-based environmental label (IBEL) to communicate, in a format similar to a food label, important health and environmental information associated with the product.

"IBEL is an ambitious effort to create the next generation of environmental labels that will complement existing eco-label programs while providing a uniform platform for companies to articulate the environmental attributes for the hundreds of product categories for which eco-label programs do not exist," says Jack Geibig, Ecoform president, in a news release.

Existing standards cover only a limited set of products, leaving "orphan" products with no options for third-party certification. IBEL will provide green verification for products such as mop handles, buckets, equipment and niche chemicals.

In addition, IBEL's quantitative reporting system will reward continued product innovation and further reductions in health and environmental impacts rather than using pass/fail criteria. The program will feature multiple product verification tiers, up to and including full product verification by third-parties.

IBEL is being developed by Geibig along with a Core Development Committee comprised of eco-label organizations, state and federal representatives, cleaning product manufacturers, contract cleaners, institutional purchasers and health and environmental advocates. The label will undergo a pilot test by manufacturers of chemical and non-chemical products before being launched in the summer of 2010.

In order to promote cleaning products that are both green and effective, the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA), Westerville, Ohio, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell's Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) have launched the High Performance Cleaning Product (HPCP) Testing Program.

The fee-based program will test soil removal efficacy of green hard-surface cleaning products and recognize products that perform well in standard and customized cleaning tests.

"While it is accepted that lower-toxicity, environmentally-preferable or green cleaning products are better for human health and global ecosystems, the question remains: Do such products clean well when compared to conventional or even other green products?" says Beth Risinger, CEO and executive director of IEHA in a news release.

Products accepted into the program will be tested using a variety of scientific methods and devices producing a detailed analysis of product performance. The program is not a certification or a standard, but manufacturers can use this information to improve their formulations as well as promote their products.

"For institutions and consumers, the value we provide is unbiased performance testing to enable product selection based on objective data rather than on anecdotal information," says Jason Marshall, laboratory director of TURI, in the release. "For vendors, products that are effective cleaners will have a clear scientific basis for associated marketing claims."

Manufacturers of cleaning products that qualify after testing will be entitled to display the IEHA "High Performance Cleaning Product" designation and logo.