The Low Down On Green Living
June 17th, 2009
If you’re like me, then you know that feeling of confusion and disappointment you sometimes feel after going shopping for a new green product. You’ve done your research to find the right item and you’ve checked online versions of a store to see that they have it, but when you get there that specific lightbulb, organic cotton t-shirt, or MSC-certified halibut on sale is nowhere to be found. In its place are ten other options that might or might not offer the same benefits you were looking for.
Fortunately, there are some great tools/services/websites that can help you sort through options as you’re standing there in the store. Some are text messaging-based services, others are simple websites easily navigable on a cell phone, and still others that use the latest iPhone apps and related technologies to make shopping decisions easy and nearly real-time. Here’s a rundown on some we’ve found to be most helpful.
Green Household Products. Good Guide is a relatively new company that aspires to provide information on the health, environmental and social impacts of common products that we use in our home. They cover over 70,000 products so far in food, personal care, toy and household products category. The best part is that these ratings and reviews are available via an iPhone app and also via SMS / text messaging. You can get information on products by searching on product categories, product names, and also on the bar code (the numbers that appear right beneath it). To use it, simply send a text message to “41411″ and then include “gguide” and whatever you’re searching on in the message body.
Example: You’re in a store comparing two green cleaning products (let’s say Seventh Generation Shower Cleaner and Tilex Fresh Shower Cleaner). Text “gguide seventh generation shower” to 41411, and you get a report back showing Seventh Gen’s Shower Cleaner overall score of 8.5 and Health, Environmental and Social scores of 8.0, 9.2 and 8.4 respectively. Text “gguide tilex shower” and you soon get an overall score of 5.4 (8.0 Health, 3.5 Environmental and 4.9 Social). The website provides much more information about what’s behind these rankings. Fast, easy and helpful!
Seafood. Seafood is a veritable minefield of sustainability choices. The global seafood industry is very poorly controlled, meaning that you can find fish in your local grocery store that should instead be on the endangered species list. Fish can also pose health risks due to the accumulation of mercury and other toxins in fish at the top of the food chain. How it’s grown can make a huge difference — the same seafood farm-raised might cause environmental problems, while the wild-caught version might be fine. And it’s highly seasonal/local, so you’re never quite sure what you’ll find in the store.
This handy one-page guide from Neil Banas (brought to my attention by Grist) lays it all out on one easy sheet, clearly showing pitfalls such as choosing between Alaskan wild salmon (nearly the best) and Atlantic farmed salmon (nearly the worst). If you don’t have room in your wallet for that, though, try out the Blue Ocean Institute’s FishPhone text messaging service. Text a message starting with “fish” followed by the name of the fish you are looking for to 30644 and receive a short report on the merits of that particular option in a few seconds. The same content is available at the URL http://fishphone.org, which is specially formatted for viewing on mobile phones.
As an example, texting “fish bluefish” (a relatively common East Coast predatory fish) to 30644 and you get the following message: “YELLOW: some environmental concerns: HEALTH ADVISORY: High mercury, PCB and pesticide contamination. “Fish salmon” returns several different messages depending on the point of origin and whether it was wild caught or farm raised.
Other Categories. We’ll post updates on other helpful services as we find them. Please feel free to bring any of your favorites to our attention!
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