Monday, July 6, 2009

Good Guide Empowers Your Shopping

Today I have to face the dreaded chore of grocery shopping. As I navigate the hugeness of King Soopers I am overwhelmed by our land of plenty. So many choices of shampoo, soap, cereal, breads…everything. If I’m not sticking to a usual list of items it takes me forever to shop because I read the labels on everything. There’s a lot to consider in just a few minutes. Shampoo is on my list today and I’m allergic to some shampoo ingredients. My daughter has reactions to some soap. My son is a picky eater. We also have various food allergies to work around. And then there are the issues of buying environmentally and socially responsible products. Plus, we’ve got to stay within our budget.

In the split seconds we have to make purchase decisions how much can we really know about our choices. The product label can help but it doesn’t tell the whole story. So to help us out there is a website called the Good Guide.

The Good Guide rates common products on health, environmental and social impact. Each product on the guide receives a score on a scale from 0-10, with 10 being the best.

The Good Guide team works with academic institutions, government data sources, non-governmental organizations, and private research firms to bring world-class information to consumers. Their scientists collect data on chemical ingredients, products, brands, factories, companies, and industrial sectors.

One of the items on my list today is laundry detergent. The Good Guide doesn’t list every brand that you’ll find on the shelves, but it does list a large variety. While I always try to choose environmentally friendly brands, they don’t always make financial sense. So for laundry detergent I often default to major brands like ALL. And because of skin sensitivities I’ll choice fragrance-free.

All Free and Clear received a respectable 8.2 overall rating from the Good Guide, with an 8.6 for environmental performance, 8.1 for social performance, and 8.0 for health. The site allows you to drill down further into the data to review the ingredients and their health and safety impacts. For example you can review the ratings in the areas of female and male reproductive health, impact on unborn children and cancer. The product is also rated on the company’s resource management. Unilever, maker of All and many other products, received a big ding in Toxic Waste management. The company received a rating of “fair” regarding chemical spills. It also received a poor rating under compliance issues for the Clean Air Act.

I like that the Good Guide gives a glimpse at the company behind the product. The site really makes you feel empowered as a consumer not only to make good choices but to let companies know that these issues are important.

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