If you’re trying to go green it helps to have some criteria in place that you can use to make consumer decisions. There’s plenty of greenwashing out there.
Over the years I’ve developed my own eco criteria that I use when I choose products to buy or when I post a review at one of my green-minded sites. It’s smart to read product reviews, but take all of them (even mine) with a grain of salt. No matter how much you like a blogger, pal, or anyone, what they consider green may not be what you consider green.
That said, the criteria below is what I use to evaluate green products I review or buy…
Criteria I apply to all green products
- Safety: Is it safe? Toxic? Would I let my own son use it?
- Why: Is it useful? A necessity? Or is the product just something I want (um, lip gloss) or is it just supposed to be fun?
- Packaging: Is it necessary, excessive, recyclable, reusable? Does it carry a recycling reminder?
- Price: Is it affordable for the average consumer? Is it worth the price?
- Availability: Can I actually find the product locally or online?
- Value: Does it do what it’s supposed to do? Is it made to last?
- Website: If the product or company has a website, is it easy or super obnoxious to manage?
- Comparison: Is the product better or as good as its conventional non-green peers.
- Greenwashing: Is the product green, greenish, or outright greenwashing.
Company criteria I use for all green products
- Is the company ethical and green as a whole? I.e. do they have all green products or one lost in a sea of eco-baddie products? Clorox GreenWorks is a good example of this – yeah, they make one green brand, but it’s among many bleach infused products. I’m not down with that.
- Did the company just recently go green or have they been walking the talk for a while?
- Do they test on animals? Do they carry the Leaping Bunny symbol?
- What sort of green policies do they follow? Do they recycle, use renewable energy, have a paperless office, etc.
- Do they disclose all information about their products (ingredients, uses, etc.) on both the packaging and website AND was it easy or hard for me to find that information.
- If I have a product question do they actually get back to me? Are they nice? Helpful? Snotty?
Extra criteria for edibles
- Organic: If a food product is not certified organic, I normally score it down a full point. Not always; for example, if there are other major green benefits of the food company beyond organic involved, but usually I will knock off a whole point. I do like some non-organic foods, but overall I purchase organic when possible and encourage others to do the same.
- Taste: Is it yummy? To who? Kids, adults, everyone?
- Ingredients: – Are they toxic? Will the ingredients harm me or the planet? Are the ingredients organic, local, natural, free from icky stuff I wouldn’t let my son near? Can I pronounce all the ingredients?
- Labels: Are all ingredients listed on the packaging and at the company website?
- Nutrition: Is it nutritionally viable? or just a fun food? NOTE: I’m not down on fun foods, what I am down on are companies who make candy or soda then claim it’s a nutritionally necessary item. It may be fun, and worthwhile for a treat, but that’s not the same as nutritious – natural or not.
Additional criteria for clothing
- Materials: Is it eco-friendly? Certified? What percent of the material is green?
- Care: Does it wash well on cold, can you hang it to dry or does it require dry cleaning?
- Sizing: Do the sizes seem reasonable – not too small or large?
Additional criteria for green cleaning products
- Ingredients: Are they toxic? Will the ingredients harm me, my son, or the planet? Is it biodegradable?
- Usefulness: Does the product clean better than a homemade green cleaner or a conventional counterpart?
- Labeling: Does the company disclose all ingredients on the label and at their website? AND are they easy to find?
- MSDS: Can you locate the product’s Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) without much fuss?
- Danger terms: Is the product labeled with terms such as… “Poison” or “Danger.” Federal law mandates that these terms indicate the highest possible level of hazard. “Caution” or “Warning,” both mean a product carries a moderate hazard. “Wear gloves” – “Only use in a well ventilated area” and other terms which show you need protective gear are also big baddies.
Additionally I consider if products are…
- Ammonia free
- Chlorine free
- Plant based
- Certified organic
- Solvent free
- Phosphate free
- Chemical free
- Fragrance free or naturally scented (I also hate when companies simply say “fragrance” which could mean anything)
- Dye and artificial color free
Additional criteria for green beauty and body care products
- Certification: THIS IS A BIGGIE – is a product labeled as organic? If so, it must be certified. If a product is not officially certified, and yet the packaging makes organic claims, it’ll lose big points with me. I like some natural, non-certified products. What I don’t like are natural products that claim to be organic when they’ve got nothing backing that claim up.
- Ingredients: Are they toxic? Biodegradable? Will the ingredients harm me or the planet? Can I pronounce all the ingredients? Do I have to look them up in a chem book to know what they are?
- Sourcing: Are the ingredients organic, local, natural and free from icky stuff?
- Skin Deep: What is the product’s Skin Deep rating? What is the company’s Skin Deep rating?
- Disclosure: Are all ingredients listed on both the packaging and website? Can I easily find them?
- Usefulness: Does it do what it’s supposed to – does it work better than conventional versions?
- Cost: Is it affordable to the average consumer? Is it worth the price? Could I easily make a green and less expensive version of the product myself, at home?
Additional criteria for green books
- Is the book printed on recycled content paper?
- Is it informed and useful or just bunk? Is it all rehashed green info I’ve heard before?
- Who is the book meant for – green newbies, experienced tree huggers, kids, etc. and does it hit that target audience?
*NOTE: If you’d like to use this criteria at your own blog, and help put an end to shoddy reviews, feel free. Please just make sure to add the following blurb to the end of the criteria; “This Green Review Criteria is copyright 2009 Jennifer Chait and is used with permission.”