Because people matter to me (my two little peeps, in particular), I really make an effort to understand the health and environmental impacts of products I buy both at the grocery store and elsewhere. But it ticks me off that it’s so hard to know for sure whether a product actually is as “good/green” as its marketing claims. With so many confusing sales terms, how do we really know what we’re getting?
This article from The Daily Green lists 10 cosmetics marketing claims we should “be wary” of (like “Contains organic ingredients” and “100% natural”) and this article goes into even further detail about how products qualify for the different levels of organic certification in the US. Canadian organic labeling restrictions are similar to the USDA for food and cosmetics. If you actually clicked through and read those articles, you deserve a cookie (an unprocessed one, of course). Because I doubt you have time for that, I’m going to introduce you to GoodGuide and the EWG (Environmental Working Group) guides. If you already know these helpful tools, stop reading and go eat that cookie I just gave you :). If not, stick around – you’re going to love these sites (they have absolutely no idea I exist so rest assured, this article is based only on my opinion only).
How GoodGuide works: Products and companies are scored on a scale from 0 (bad) to 10 (good) in the areas of food, toys, personal care and household products (this also includes pet food, appliances, cars and electronics so it’s a pretty exhaustive list). They rank the product based on the health risk of its ingredients, and the company for its environmental and social policies and practices. There is also a place for consumers to log in and comment on the rating and “Recommend” and “Avoid” buttons where you can include your own opinion.
One of the things I admire about this site is their disclosure that, while they make revenue from companies who advertise on their site, the advertisers have no ability to influence their own product scores. Too many online reviews these days are sponsored and it’s becoming really hard to know whom to believe. I like a site with this kind of integrity
Another service they offer is an iPhone/Android app (free) that gives you access to GoodGuide’s ratings database right in the store just by scanning the product’s barcode. How cool is that? I just got the app yesterday and haven’t used it yet. The App Store does explain that the app only covers products available in the US, but since so many American products are sold here, I’m going to try it anyway next time I’m out shopping.
The EWG sites are also great. They post research on environmental issues pertaining to farming, food and water and also provide consumer shopping guides for cosmetics, cleaning supplies, sunscreens, bug repellants etc. This must-read page reviews pesticides in common produce: The Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen Plus.
I haven’t found a Canadian site that compares to these two, although the Sierra Club Canada posts lots of great info about current their campaigns to empower Canadians “to protect, restore and enjoy a healthy and safe planet”.
I’ll be back tomorrow with an infographic on the environmental impact of choosing just one organic product out of every 10 you buy. The difference even that small change can make is fascinating and encouraging!