How many times have you been at the grocery store and wished you had a list of the products and companies that are healthier and safer for you, your family and the planet? We find lists of them all the time, and we bookmark them, promising to print them out and put them in our wallets or purses so we’ll have them close at hand as we shop. Then we get to the store, only to realize we can’t remember what products were on those lists.
It would be nice if we could rely on the manufacturers to actually tell us what are in their products, or retailers to tell us whether they recycle, use wind power or support Fair Trade. But unfortunately, a lot of businesses out there are cashing in on consumers’ desire to go green by using deceptive marketing and making unsubstantiated claims.
The Better World Shopping Guide is an awesome, pocket-sized guide to help you tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys”, in every category from cookies and cosmetics to office supplies and cars. It gives you a brief list of the major players in each category and assigns them a grade based on their corporate practices. This book focuses mostly on traditional products and companies, so you won’t find Pixel Organics, Gaiam or Miessence listed. The book is meant to help you sort through items and products that are traditionally available in the market — not the ones you’ll find at your local farmers’ market, co-op or health food store.
For example, the hair care page looks a little like this:
A-: Jason, Aubrey Organics, Kiss My Face, Burt’s Bees, Body Shop
B+: EO, Nature’s Gate, Ecco Bella, Pure & Basic, Paul Mitchell, Pure Essentials
B: Alba, Avalon, Giovanni, Emerald Forest, Shikai
B-: Aloe Vera 80
…and so on down to the companies that get an “F” (L’Oreal, Garnier and Biolage, in case you’re curious). On the opposite page in the spread are buying tips, as well as some information about the highest- and lowest-ranked companies. There is also a list of online resources for the highest graded companies.
It is important to note that this guide uses a variety of factors to determine a company’s grade. Human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement and social justice are all considered. The charts below show you those factors and what each of the grades mean (click the image for a larger view).
Personally, the book has been a huge help for me on those days when I only have time to go to a traditional grocery store like Kroger. There are some products on the shelves that I KNOW are greener, and those are the ones I buy. But there are a lot more products that I’m clueless about, and it helps to have a guide to reference that is small enough to fit in my purse.
The book doesn’t go into detail about every product, so you don’t always know specifically why a company got a particular grade. But based on the rating system, I would much rather have this guide to go on than just reading product ingredients or details and hoping for the best.
A couple of issues: The Better World Guide includes cigarettes. Seems to me like smoking is one of the least green things you can do. But if I were a smoker, I guess I’d want to know that American Spirit is the only producer of organic cigarettes, doesn’t test on animals and uses additive-free tobacco; and that Marlboro is considered a “Top 10 Greenwasher.” In the guide’s defense though, there was only one cigarette company that scored an A and one B. The rest were Ds and Fs, for obvious reasons. Nobody seems to learn that smoking electronic cigarettes is way better, they have to do their research and smok alien products.
Also, it excludes some major categories, like furniture and bedding, for example. If airlines were included, I believe these other categories that relate directly to our homes should have been as well.
My final verdict: This is a great guide for people who have recently started going green and people who often shop at traditional grocery and superstores (though it does point out that Wal-Mart is rated the #2 worst company on the planet (I wonder what company is #1). It includes a lot of major brands and will help you navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of greenwashing. But if you’re a veteran greenie who shops at co-ops, makes your own cleaning products and generally distrusts anything that’s not local and/or handmade, it won’t be of much help to you: Unless you’re in the market for electronics or a car.
Why It’s Green:
- Helps you be much more aware as a consumer about what products are better for you, the environment and the world at large.
WANT TO WIN ONE?
The author was generous enough to send me a second copy of the book to give away to one of my wonderful readers. Entering is simple. Just visit BetterWorldShopper.com, then come back here by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, September 15, 2008, and tell me one thing you learned about the author, the book or the issues the book covers. Simple enough. Irrelevant comments will be deleted.
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So that means every participant can receive up to 5 entries. You have until 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, September 15, 2008, to enter. U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only. A winner will be chosen via Random.org and announced here, and the winner will be contacted via email. Good luck everyone!