If you live in North America and regularly buy fresh produce at a grocery store, you’ve probably seen organic produce displayed for sale. In the United States, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the certification program to show that certified agents are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances. Seeing the “certified organic” label on food purchases gives consumers confidence that those products achieved those goals. How can one be certain that other widely used products, like detergents, oils, carpets, fertilizers, building materials, and shipping materials are produced in the same spirit?
In the United States, the answer to that question is the USDA BioPreferred® Program. This program was created in the 2002 Farm Bill legislation and was expanded in the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills. The program is intended to increase the use of renewable agricultural materials to reduce dependence on petroleum based products. Products identified by the BioPreferred Program are known as “biobased” products.
The United States government recognizes the many benefits of biobased products. They tend to perform as well as or better than their petroleum based counterparts and are competitively priced. According to An Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry, biobased products displace about 300 million gallons of petroleum each year in the United States. This is equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road!
According to Kate Lewis, the program analyst in charge of the USDA BioPreferred Program, as of 2016 the biobased economy contributes $393 billion to the U.S. economy each year and supports 4.2 million jobs (source). In other words, for every 1 biobased products job, 1.76 additional jobs are supported in the United States. To date, nearly 3,000 products have been certified under this program.
US Federal law directs that the Federal government must show purchasing preference for biobased products in order to increase the government’s investments in renewable resources. To date, there are 97 categories of products that have mandatory federal purchasing requirements. Participating in the BioPreferred Program is voluntary but use of the label is limited to biobased products certified by the USDA.
Through the work of the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association, wood pallets designed with the Pallet Design System software are now certified under the BioPreferred program. For a quick explanation of wood pallet sustainability in North America, watch our 2-minute video in the link listed below.