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Sustainable Consumption: Assessing Products and Companies

A guide for researching sustainable products, as well as interventions, news, and other literature on sustainability.

Evaluating Products and Services

The following databases and rankings will help you assess how sustainable a specific product or service is.  Each database will use a different methodology for assessing products, so it is important to understand how a product received its ranking before coming to conclusions about its environmental impact. 

Some of these resources are Green Product Databases, meaning they only list products they have assessed and certified as "green".  If you do not see the product you're looking for in these databases, it means it either (a) has not been evaluated by the organization or (b) the organization evaluated it and decided not to certify it as a green product.  

Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certified Products Registry (Green Product Database)

C2C evaluates products across five areas--material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness--and provides a basic, bronze, silver, gold, or platinum achievement level for each category.  The lowest score is then used for the product's overall ranking.  You can search browse products by category or by score in the product registry.  

Energy Star (Green Product Database)

Energy Star is the EPA's voluntary labeling program for major appliances, office equipment, lighting, home electornics, new homes and commercial and industrial buildings and plants.  You can browse Energy Star's list of certified products by category.  Their electronics and office equipment categories are especially relevant for college students/dorm life. 

EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database

The Environmental Working Group maintains several databases about the content of consumer products.  Their Skin Deep database provides online profiles for over 62,000 cosmetics and personal care products produced by 2,000 different brands.  Check our their rating methodology here.   

EWG's Food Scores

EWG also maintains a database of over 80,000 foods, 5,000 ingredients, and 1,500 food brands that provides information on nutrition, ingredient concerns (i.e. the presence of key contaminants, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics), and processing (i.e. the number of artificial ingredients).  You can read more about their methodology here.    

Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics 

In the past, Greenpeace ranked electronics companies across three areas--energy and climate, greener products, and sustainable operations.  While the ranking is widely respected in the electronics industry, it has not been updated since 2012.  

Green Seal (Green Product Database)

Green Seal provides certification for a variety of products, cleaning services, hotels, and restaurants.  The organization is staffed by engineers, environmental scientists and auditors.  

Household Products Database

Maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Household Products Database lists over 15,000 consumer brands, their manufacturers, and chemical content.  In addition, the database provides information on the acute and chronic effects of chemical ingredients in specific brands.  You can browse by product category or search by product name.  

Rank a Brand

Rank a Brand assesses major brands on sustainability and social responsibility across categories like fashion, travel, telecommunications, food and beverage, electronics, energy, and body care.  The focus is on European brands.  You can read about their methodology here.       

Evaluating Companies

Check out these resources for evaluating the manufacturing and employment practices of specific companies: 

Building Green

BuildingGreen‚Äč provides online tools and information related to sustainable building--including energy efficiency, recycled-content materials, land-use planning, and indoor air quality.  The site includes a GreenSpec Directory, Environmental Building Newsletter, and a High Performance Buildings Database of green building and LEED case studies.  Each article, product listing, and case study is cross-listed across all the BuildingGreen products and includes links to related content.  

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