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The Green Life: Shopping Gone Good?

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September 12, 2008

Shopping Gone Good?

Can an online marketplace with information about products' social and environmental impacts change the world--or is it just another way to ease consumer guilt? Two new web sites claim to put the "good" back in goods.


Team: Ten scientists and technologists from Amazon, eBay, Google, Harvard, MIT, and UC Berkeley.
Focus: Common personal care and household products ranked according to impacts on human health, environment, and society and classification by U.S., European Union, and California regulators.
Cool features: The site makes it easy to tell companies what you think about their products and practices with a "Contact this Company" button placed beside every product listing. A mobile version is set to launch in three weeks that will let users get information about a product by sending a text message with its UPC code.

Buyer beware: With a rating system that ranks companies relative to others in the same industry, GoodGuide.com does not give users access to information about why companies lost points. Top-rated products vary widely: Fabric Softener Sheets by Snuggle, which discloses no ingredients and has no certifications, and Natural Fabric Softener by Seventh Generation, which discloses all ingredients and has been certified by two independent groups, both fall in the "excellent" category.

WorldofGood.com by eBay

Team: Collaborators from eBay and the fair trade retailer/wholesaler World of Good, Inc.
Focus: Products that sellers identify as having a positive impact on people, the environment, or animals and have been approved by one of 20 independent "Trust Providers," such as the International Fair Trade Association and PhytoTrade Africa.
Cool features: A Q+A forum lets users share their concerns and expertise about ethical shopping.
Buyer beware: Each product has a label detailing its positive attributes--but little or no information about negative impacts or room for improvement. WorldofGood.com does not verify the accuracy of sellers' claims.

::via American Public Media

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