Green brands that are truly green?
March 29, 2012 6:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm highly skeptical of a lot of brands that trumpet their environmental friendliness. I know "greenwashing" is rampant. What are some green brands/products that walk the walk?

Show your work if possible. Thanks.
posted by malhouse to Shopping (10 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
This site did a (relatively non-scientific) comparison of green cleaning products that I found pretty helpful. They also have similar run-downs of beauty products and cosmetics, if that applies.
posted by juliplease at 7:44 AM on March 29, 2012

My CSA walks the walk. Local, direct to producer, low-to-no insecticides/pesticides, etc etc etc. I've been to the farm and helped them work the soil, I've had beers with the farmers on their back porch.

I guess this is a bit of a cop answer but it serves to illustrate the point that the trust factor for you (aka the 'walk the walk' portion of the question) is going to be quite varied and personal and may not match up with what websites/others post. At least that tends to be my case. I mean is a "green" disposable diaper really ok? Or should you go with washable? I know my answer but it may vary significantly from yours.

So I tend to simply stick with as low on the production/processed food chain as possible, buy local, inspect producers where possible, reduce/recycle/reuse and buy quality durable goods that will last.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:56 AM on March 29, 2012

There are many good resources in the Whole Green Catalog* which basically goes through a lot of products that claim to be green and tells you which ones don't suck, and it also gives suggestions for how to get shit done in your everyday life while being less damaging to the environment.

*disclaimer: one of the authors is my friend's father
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:58 AM on March 29, 2012

*cop answer ==> cop-out answer, sorry about that.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:00 AM on March 29, 2012

Check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
posted by anonnymoose at 8:13 AM on March 29, 2012

Best answer: It really depends how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go. I mean, can you really claim that anything that requires coal or nuclear energy for its production is green? What about something that was trucked to your city from across the country?

In my view, anything that is a product of industrial civilization isn't green. Roads are inherently destructive. 98% of the ways our electricity is generated are inherently destructive. Anything that runs on petroleum products is inherently destructive. Anything that has any plastic in it is inherently destructive. Paper is made from trees, which are farmed where there were once natural old growth forests, so it is inherently... you get my point.

But we need all these things to get by, so we have to use them. Greenwashing is something we all do, not just big corporations. Thinking that you are making a difference by taking shorter showers and buying an electric car is just denial - and that's greenwashing.

The best thing you can do is buy things that have the least amount of processing required to get to you. Buy local food if possible, organic local even better. Find a local Egg share, milk share or CSA.

Find ways to do things without buying crap. You can do most of your household cleaning with vinegar. If you really want to get out of the matrix, you can make your own vinegar. Buy things that you can use forever, that you don't have to replace every month or so. I find that a $13 bottle of Dr. Bronner's soap (a relatively "green" product) will last me for 5 or 6 months. Use cloth towels instead of paper towels.
posted by natteringnabob at 9:44 AM on March 29, 2012

Good Guide is a great resource for making choices between products (i.e. which shampoo is the best?) There's a smart phone app, so you can actually check products out when you're at the store which is quite handy.

If it makes you feel any better, rampant greenwashing is fading away in my experience [I run a leading website covering sustainable business practices], due to consumer and investor expectations of transparency. Companies are more likely to be doing good things and avoiding saying too much about it than be making spurious claims because the risks of being called out for greenwashing are way too high.

So in general, I think you can take a lot of claims at face value. Even if a company is exaggerating a bit, your purchase of a "green" product proves the viability of the "green product" category which is good for the overall industry. Over time, the performance and price of those products will improve as people buy them and the market demands both high quality and high environmental creds.
posted by paddingtonb at 9:54 AM on March 29, 2012

Best answer: As for personal recommendations, yes, we buy our vegetables through a CSA. We use Ecover cleaning products (I went to the factory in Belgium and saw for myself that the water coming out of the end of the line was cleaner than what was going in). Seventh Generation is also good. Method has made big strides for it's green cred. The word on the street is that their products aren't as biodegradable/harmless as those from Ecover and Seventh Gen, but if you are at Target, and Method is what they have, buy Method and feel good about it.

For clothes and big ticket items, I personally look for durability over supporting any particular brand. If organic cotton is an option, I go for that. If you're looking for brands to support, Levis has made big strides in improving environmental efficiency. But my personal recommendation is to buy things you love and hang on to them for a long time. There's no point in buying green products if they don't fit or don't suit your lifestyle.

Yes, you can clean with vinegar and quit buying anything new and that would be uber-green of you. I make a lot of those choices, but my lifestyle is also set up to make it easy to make those green choices.

If you live in a place where you don't have a lot of options, simply purchasing the best available product from your local grocery store is a really good choice because it tells the stocker that green products will move, and the selection will improve.
posted by paddingtonb at 10:18 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sorry to thread-sit, but here's my back-up work on my personal recommendations: Levis, Ecover. Those are self links, but that's hard to avoid since we review companies and write about their environmental performance for a living.
posted by paddingtonb at 10:25 AM on March 29, 2012

Oh, we bought some stuff from The Body Shop after a casual vetting of their creds. Checked out well enough to suit our budget/concerns/needs with regards to green/friendly/simple/fair trade. Maybe someone else with more knowledge can comment further on it though.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:55 AM on March 29, 2012

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