Green Industry Articles

Green Shopping

Buy this, not that. Use this, not that.

But what's the “that”?

Such is the dilemma facing consumers who want to know the green qualities of products they're using. Yet few have the time or expertise to do an exhaustive health and environmental analysis of common products on their own.

Thanks to the efforts of a number of groups, consumers can identify quality green goods quickly and easily.

The GoodGuide, for instance, helps people figure out what products to buy and the ones to avoid, whether it's because something contains dangerous chemicals or was produced in a sweat shop.

The guide features information on 50,000 products, including food, toys, household items and personal care products.

GoodGuide collects data from around the world on chemical ingredients, products, brands, factories, companies and translates that data into easy-to-use ratings of products and companies.

For instance, products get overall scores and scores in health, environment and society categories, and the guide looks at a product's impact on things like water, air and energy. It also lets people make side-by-side comparisons of favorite brands. For foods, it offers nutritional information too. Those wanting to make quick choices without reviewing the background or doing comparisons can just look at the scores and pick the top-ranked items. In many cases, the distinction among products is obvious. As an example, some laundry detergents score a mere 2.9.

Others get a score of 7.9.

Those with an iPhone have it even easier. They can download GoodGuide's app and scan a product's bar code at the store to see its score.

Good Housekeeping also is working to make green shopping easier through the launch of its Green Good Housekeeping Seal (GGHS).

Scientists and engineers at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute (GHRI) worked with Brown & Wilmanns Environmental, a green consultant, as well as other environmental experts, to establish criteria for the GGHS.

GHRI examines an array of variables to assess products' environmental impact. Factors it considers include water use and energy efficiency in manufacturing, ingredient safety, packaging reduction and the brands' corporate responsibility.

The first round of products it's testing are cleaning and beauty products, and GHRI intends to provide evaluations in more than 12 more categories, such as building products, home appliances, consumer electronics, textiles, and children's products.

The program has dual goals. One is to give consumers a reliable guide to products that are making strides toward being environmentally sound and delivering better health for families and the earth. It also wants to encourage manufacturers to adopt and incorporate more green practices into the composition, production, packaging, distribution, and use of their goods.

Green REsource Council Newsletter, January 2010