Book Review and Giveaway: The Better World Shopping Guide

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The Better World Shopping GuideHow 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+: Druide
A: Aveda
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).

The Better World Shopping Guide - charts

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.

Price: $10 (You can also get the Revised Edition for $9.95 at Amazon. The the original was published in 2006


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, 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.

Want to enter more than once? Boost your chances of winning by completing one or more of the tasks on this list.

  1. If you haven’t already, sign up for the Green Your Decor newsletter by Monday, September 15, 2008. You must verify your email subscription to be eligible. After you sign up, FeedBurner will send you a verification email. Please do not ignore it — your entry will be invalid if you do not verify. All current subscribers are eligible to win. And there’s no need to leave a comment letting me know you subscribe by email. I’ll know you’re a subscriber :)
  2. If you’d prefer to receive your updates via RSS, sign up for the GYD feed. Then please leave a comment letting me know that you’ve specifically signed up for the feed, and be sure to include your email address. RSS subscribers are anonymous otherwise. If you’ve signed up for both the email updates and the RSS feed, you only need to leave a comment about the RSS feed.
  3. Blog about and post a link to your blog entry here.
  4. Stumble or give a thumbs up to any page at via StumbleUpon and post a link to your SU profile to verify your thumbs up.

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 and announced here, and the winner will be contacted via email. Good luck everyone!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Avatar sandra September 8, 2008, 9:10 pm

    the author has a doctoral degree in sociology

  • Avatar Cindi September 8, 2008, 10:10 pm

    What a informative book! I see that the author; Dr. Jones has won many awards for his classroom teaching. I have always been interested what products are made of and the animal testing aspect of them. Please enter me in your delightful book giveaway drawing. Thanks, Cindi

  • Avatar Cindi September 8, 2008, 10:23 pm

    I am a subscriber to your feed via my Yahoo Reader! Cindi

  • Avatar Carla Pullum September 8, 2008, 11:42 pm

    I love the ranking system for the companies will come in handy!!! Hope to win the book!

  • Avatar SANDY September 9, 2008, 1:51 am

    A scholar of social responsibility, global citizenship and everyday activism, Dr. Jones continues to teach and give presentations across the country on how to turn lofty ideals into practical actions

  • Avatar SANDY September 9, 2008, 1:52 am


  • Avatar Stephanie September 9, 2008, 4:31 pm

    I subscribed to your feed via google reader just this morning

  • Avatar Tara September 9, 2008, 4:55 pm

    Love the concept of this book and posted your giveaway on my blog at:


    Taras last blog post..Book Giveaway: The Better World Shopping Guide

  • Avatar Maternally Posh September 9, 2008, 7:12 pm

    Rockin’ idea…Such a helpful resource when you’re inundated with so many product choices!

  • Avatar hope schiphorst September 9, 2008, 11:45 pm

    the book a database of more than 1000 companies.

  • Avatar Merry September 10, 2008, 9:27 am

    This looks like a really cool book.
    And I love the idea of putting the book on an iPod! I know myself well enough to know that I would /never/ remember to have the book handy when I was away from home and needed this information.

    Merrys last blog post..Two-Timin’ Husbands: Not Their Fault?

  • Avatar Alice Hansen September 10, 2008, 12:18 pm

    I couldn’t believe the average family buys 18,000 products a year! So the books idea that we can “vote” with our money makes a lot of sense. Thanks for introducing that concept to me!

  • Avatar Lindsey September 10, 2008, 12:42 pm

    Wow, I didn’t realize the average American family spent 18k on goods and services. I would have thought it would be much higher.

  • Avatar saraG September 10, 2008, 1:27 pm

    I found that my favorite brands are in their “Top 10” – also really like the format of how they lay out all the information. This is something worth buying even if I don’t win!

  • Avatar saraG September 10, 2008, 1:27 pm

    Also, I subscribed to the RSS feed for another entry 🙂

  • Avatar Denise September 10, 2008, 3:06 pm

    I’d love this book! I learned that the author, Dr. Jones, has a PhD in sociology and teaches at UC-Davis (a very green place, I hear.) He also looks quite dapper in a hat.

  • Avatar Linda Pinto September 10, 2008, 5:04 pm

    I am glad that the author is taking on the 5 most important green issues around these days: communtity involvement, social justice, human rights, the environment, and animal protection. These are all dear to my heart. I was interested to know the author’s field of study is sociology.

  • Avatar sarah September 10, 2008, 6:50 pm

    i totally need this! i do most of the shopping for my family and am always picky about animal testing and eco-friendly products. i love how this book covers those issues, along with human rights.

  • Avatar Rebecca C September 10, 2008, 9:06 pm

    the average family buys 18,000 products a year! I really couldn’t believe that!

    Rebecca Cs last blog post..Giveaways List

  • Avatar Rebecca C September 10, 2008, 9:19 pm

    I am a subscriber to the newsletter!

    Rebecca Cs last blog post..Giveaways List

  • Avatar Rebecca C September 10, 2008, 9:19 pm

    I am a subscriber to the RSS feed!

    Rebecca Cs last blog post..Giveaways List

  • Avatar Rebecca C September 10, 2008, 9:21 pm

    I blogged about this giveaway:Here

    Rebecca Cs last blog post..Giveaways List

  • Avatar Rebecca C September 10, 2008, 9:22 pm

    I stumbled this page:

    Rebecca Cs last blog post..Giveaways List

  • Avatar Stacy September 10, 2008, 10:36 pm

    The five ways to think to be a better shopper

  • Avatar CanCan (Mom Most Traveled) September 10, 2008, 10:39 pm

    Ellis Jones has PHD in Sociology! Bestill my heart!

    CanCan (Mom Most Traveled)s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday: My Favorite Unphotogenic Food

  • Avatar tiff September 11, 2008, 7:29 am

    the website was very informative! i really enjoyed reading about the top 10 best/worst companies. i will just have to avoid wal-mart and nestle now!

  • Avatar Renee Johnsen September 11, 2008, 12:42 pm

    I love the rankings. It makes it easier to find good products and comanpies. I never would have guessed that a company right outside my backdoor growing up was one of the 10 worst comapnies. (ADM)

  • Avatar Kam A September 11, 2008, 2:15 pm

    I enjoyed the Top Ten Best and Worst company rankings. I found some of them to be very intresting!

  • Avatar jenni!!! September 11, 2008, 6:10 pm

    Some smaller companies (like Ben and Jerry’s) that have been taken over by larger companies are included in the book.

  • Avatar Kristina September 13, 2008, 10:23 am

    After all you hear about overfishing and mercury in seafood, I have basically given up eating anything that comes out of the ocean…but I do miss my occasional seafood dinner! I thought it was very helpful that they ranked both the companies as well as the types of seafood…so, for example, now I know that next time wild salmon is on sale, I can buy it! (Sadly, looks like shrimp is still out…)

  • Avatar sharon September 14, 2008, 10:43 pm

    love the ranking system for companies, nice book

  • Avatar Brenda S. September 14, 2008, 10:51 pm

    I love the ranking system for the companies will come in handy! Thank you.

  • Avatar Francine Anchondo September 15, 2008, 3:00 pm

    what i learned about the author was that he is currently teaches in the department of sociology at University of California, Davis. This looks like a great book and cant wait to see the grades.

  • Avatar Elizabeth M. September 15, 2008, 6:27 pm

    I subscribed to your RSS via google reader!

  • Avatar Elizabeth M. September 15, 2008, 6:28 pm

    He received his doctoral degree in sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

  • Avatar Kelli Robinson September 15, 2008, 7:12 pm

    Ben & Jerry’s is the Number 6 best companies on the planet. Aye aye for Chubby Hubby!

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