The Weinberg Memorial Library has been working hard lately to make sure that our building is as sustainable as possible. We set up a green team, we’ve upgraded our lights with more energy-efficient bulbs, and we’re really pushing recycling.
But the Library faculty and staff have also been chatting lately about the best ways that we can go green in our personal lives. Many of us have started carrying reusable water bottles and coffee mugs instead of using disposable cups. Some of us have switched to buying recycled paper towels and napkins for our homes. The more you think about going green, though, the more confusing it can get. A lot of products these days advertise themselves as green, but which ones are really best for the environment?
Enter GoodGuide, a website created by a University of California-Berkeley professor of environmental policy that rates commonly used products on how environmentally friendly and healthy they are. GoodGuide uses a pretty intense methodology to examine each product, from its contents to the impact of its manufacturing processes. But they also translate that information into scores that are easy for consumers to understand, and their website makes it easy to compare product types across brands. (For example, I compared brands of contact solution – only to find out that the product I’ve been using for years got one of the worst rankings!)
GoodGuide is a “B Corporation,” which means that it’s a for-profit company that has made a public commitment to environmentalism and social justice. The company makes money by selling its analysis results back to manufacturers or retailers who want to use it for market research or to improve their products (see this recent Newsweek article on GoodGuide’s business strategy). So their business depends on the accuracy of their information, which makes me feel a little more comfortable trusting their website. I also like that if you want more information about a product, you can drill down to see how GoodGuide assigned its score and get details on how the ingredients and life cycle assessment were judged. And of course I’m excited to try GoodGuide’s free iPhone app – you can scan barcodes of products to get environmental ratings on the go, while you’re shopping.
So take a second to search for some of your favorite brands – you might find that a greener option is just another step down the grocery aisle!