Decoding Green Products – “There’s An App For That.”

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Grocery shopping has turned into way more than just a quick trip , nowadays, the eco-minded shopper is faced with a sea of labels, products, and certifications. So how are you supposed to know which products are really green and which ones are just posers? Luckily, two new apps for your IPhone are helping you avoid this confusion by allowing you to look up information on the products you’re buying and the labels they carry.

The GoodGuide is the world’s largest database of information on the health, social, and environmental impacts of consumer products. GoodGuide evaluates & scores products across each of these three areas to help people shop smarter and simultaneously motivate companies to offer even better products.

You can look up the GoodGuide score for more than 65,000 products online at their website, but what good is that when you’re out at the pharmacy trying to pick-up some new shampoo and need to know right then!? Well, that’s exactly why they created the GoodGuide IPhone app. The genius behind the app is in it’s simplicity. It works as follows: 1) Open up the App, 2) Hit the ”˜scan’ tab, 3) select the ”˜scan barcode,’ and 4) point your phone’s camera at the product’s barcode.

Results: The barcode is scanned by your phone and GoodGuide’s ratings are shown to you instantly.

(Disclaimer: It’s quite fun and before you know it you’ll be scanning 10 different bottles of shampoo… definitely be make sure to leave a little extra time next time you run those errands)

But what if you can’t find your product in GoodGuide’s database… or you find it, but you’re not sure what a particular label means. Well, that’s why the NRDC created the Label Lookup App (Opens iTunes).

IPhone users can download Label Lookup free from the iTunes store. The Label Lookup App has a database of labels across multiples categories, including food, cleaning products, personal care, and more.

Label Lookup is again very easy to use and allows you to lookup claims by label (e.g., free trade) to find out if the label is trustworthy. If you are searching for a particular product, you can see which ones tout valid, well-regulated labels. Each description includes an evaluation from the NRDC as well as information about the label directly from the certifier or regulator. Labels are rated on a scale of zero to three:

  1. A rating of three out of three (represented as bright green leaves in the iPhone App) is the highest rating and means the claim is third party verified as meeting the most detailed and most rigorous standards. These claims are consistent, regulated by a governmental or other reputable body and verified by third-party inspectors. They meet the highest standards for environmentally preferable practices. Typical examples include USDA Organic, Australian Certified Organic and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.
  2. A rating of two out of three means either that the claim is verified by a third-party certifier or is not verified but is detailed, clear and meaningful. These claims and labels are consistent, detailed and regulated by a governmental, non-profit or commercial body. Typical examples include: Certified vegan, salmon-safe, and BDIH (which represents certified natural cosmetics).
  3. A rating of one out of three is for claims that the product does not contain a problem substance and legal recourse is available for false advertising. These claims are often backed by a regulatory agency, but they are specific and companies that use them may be subject to prosecution for false advertising if the claim cannot be upheld. Typical examples include: No parabens, DEA-free and No detergents.
  4. A rating of zero out of three is not reliable as it is vague, general, and lacks consistent definitions in addition to not being backed by government or other reputable bodies. Typical examples include Eco-safe, Non-toxic, biodegradable.

So have you used any of these apps before? Like them, don’t like them? Drop us a comment and tell us about an experience you’ve had.

About the Author: Dinesh Thirupuvanam runs a group purchasing organization for eco-minded small businesses called the Viv Biz Club (Viv). Viv helps businesses pool their purchasing power to save up to 80% on sustainable products, including compostable cups, biodegradable food packaging, and recycled office supplies.

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