Every day marketing companies bombard us with hundreds of advertisements trying to convince us that their lotion or detergent is the new best thing for our planet. However, without a magic mirror, how do we, as consumers, figure out what product is really the greenest of them all?
Thanks to Dara O'Rourke and his team, the answer is simple: Log on to the GoodGuide and find out how good a product actually is.
GoodGuide is an online website that allows consumers to research specific products and find evaluations on their health, environmental and social impacts. It was started as an academic project at the University of California Berkeley. O'Rourke, a professor there, received a government grant to start looking more scientifically into product ingredients, the companies and their commitment to environmental and social responsibilities."Our whole mission is to drive transparency to the marketplace so consumers can make more informed decisions," Josh Dorfman, the Vice President of marketing at GoodGuide (and The Lazy Environmentalist) told TDG. "This is a pretty hefty challenge since we live in a non-transparent world where companies often intend to hide their doings instead of offering free information to the public," he added.
The basic idea is to give consumers credible third-party, science-based information that they can use to assess products. Good Guide's ratings are developed by a team of specialists and scientists who base their research methodology on informatics, health and environmental risk assessment, life cycle assessment and social impact analysis. The site generates four ratings for each product: a health rating, an environmental rating, a social rating and an overall rating composed of the previous three. GoodGuide has over 80,000 ratings that help people decide from the endless array of choices.
To form the ratings, the GoodGuide team first identifies the characteristics that define the health, environment and social categories and select indicators that are used to measure a product or a company's performance. Then, they score the data they acquire from over a thousand different sources including scientific institutions, governmental and non-governmental agencies, commercial providers and the companies that manufacture the rated products. Finally, the indicator-level scores are then gathered into sub-scores and into GoodGuide's final summary rating. Users can learn more about this process and about which source provided data used for a specific rating at GoodGuide's methodology page.
In terms of the environmental rating, the GoodGuide tries to be comprehensive, taking into account a product's packaging, the company's resource management skills and their contribution to global warming or toxic waste. This information is useful for those who are interested in lowering their eco-footprint through their consumer choices.
Also, GoodGuide recently introduced social media tools into their site that allow people to become members and comment on the efficiency of a product, since the site gives people ratings but fails to mention any details on how well products work. GoodGuide's users are now able to contribute and influence people with their opinions.
These days, the newest ratings involve pet food and coffee and tea; ratings for lighting, appliances, cell phones and air travel will be introduced later in February. Later on in the year, GoodGuide is looking to offer ratings on apparel companies, so consumers can be more aware on the implications of their fashion choices.
According to Dorfman, GoodGuide is looking to double their database by the end of 2011. It may be safe to say that GoodGuide has stopped being a science project and is becoming a valuable tool for those looking to find products that are healthy, green, and socially responsible.
"We're putting information in consumer's hands so consumers can decide for themselves," Dorfman said. "With GoodGuide, we are trying to guide people towards the best choices available."
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