As I’ve mentioned before, under the mental sub-heading “confessions of a quasi-hippie,” I”m not always perfect when it comes to spending my money on the greenest products. I try, but somehow those non-organic vegetables and conventional skin care products keep cropping up in my apartment. Why?
It usually comes down to this dilemma: have you ever been out shopping, buying something that should be simple, and suddenly found yourself really, unnecessarily overwhelmed by the number of choices? Sometimes, crunchy brands are prohibitively expensive, or even if they’re not, it’s hard to justify spending two or three times the amount you would for a conventional brand without knowing exactly why. On top of it, there’s greenwashing. It can be tricky to know what products are worth the extra cash when so many are labeled “green” or “natural” without any evidence to substantiate the claim. Unless you’re going to go through the effort to research a brand in detail, it’s pretty hard to know which products have a rap sheet that you’d want to avoid and which to buy into. What’s a hippie to do?
Turns out, there’s a team who already realized this problem existed — came up with a solution. In one of my earliest posts here at Spinach, I blogged about the Transparency Toolbar that I read about on The Lazy Environmentalist blog. It’s a nifty toolbar that you can install which guides your internet shopping, ranking products on a scale of 0 – 10 in three categories: health, society, and environment. You can also screen products based on your own core values: for example, whether or not a product is vegan, or if a company engages in animal testing.
I discovered today that it actually gets better. The Transparency Toolbar is actually one of a line of products (including their website and and mobile app) developed by GoodGuide. They use the same system to rate brands as a whole online, which you can read about on their website. In addition, their mobile app allows you to scan the bar code of an item and see the ratings for that specific product. The methodology is explained online, so you can learn about the system and what they’re using for scoring.
As a side note, I’m actually a big fan of their ranking system in general. Ideally, all of our consumer goods would be produced in a method that is environmentally and socially responsible. Ideally, they’d also avoid being harmful to human health. I was skeptical at first of how they’d rank this last category, but their methods section reveals that they use a ratio of healthy to harmful nutrients as well as the presence of potentially harmful additives to determine the health rating. It’s basically telling you how much bang you’re getting for your caloric buck – i.e. how much of what you’re consuming will have actual nutritional value associated with it, and how much is fluff – plus whether or not there are ingredients that you might want to avoid.
I don’t know how extensive their list is, given the enormous number of products on the market, but what they have online represents a pretty substantial start with some very well-known brands. And, with the ability to tailor rankings to you own particular values, this could be a huge asset to those of you who want to make sure your money is going to the right places.