by Woody Tasch

First, let’s admire this fist:


The Economist put this on its cover earlier this year to celebrate the Arab Spring.

Let’s use it, today, for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

People raising their fists, peacefully, against “greed is good,” against wildly inequitable distribution of wealth, against fortunes made on derivatives and bail outs and what Warren Buffett called “financial weapons of mass destruction.” Fists raised against fast money–you know, the stuff of 1,000 pt. drops in the Dow in 20 minutes and Goldman Sachs bonuses “trimmed to $16 billion.”

People raising their fists not against tyrants and political oppression, but against distant bankers and invisible investments, going who knows where on the planet and doing who knows what to who knows who in the ever-accelerating pursuit of maximum financial speed—more, bigger, faster, and unlimited gains for them with their hands on the levers.

I see your fists and raise you a tent. A tent?

Not just any tent. This tent:

In this tent on a farm field in Vermont last year, 600 of us from more than 30 states and several foreign countries gathered and committed $4 million to 12 small food entrepreneurs from around the country who are creating jobs, getting toxics out of the food chain, restoring soil fertility, preserving ground water, keeping carbon in the soil and out of the atmosphere, fighting diabetes and otherwise striking at some of the root problems—literally and metaphorically—or our economy and our culture. Showing the way towards life after fast food and fast money.

This is the tent of Slow Money.

In it, we are beginning to put some of our money to work as far from Wall Street as far can be… that is, near where we live, in things that we understand, things that bring tangible, immediate benefits to our communities.

We are starting with small food enterprises, which bring fertility to the soil of the economy: small organic farms, grain mills, creameries, local slaughterhouses, seed companies, compost companies, restaurants that source locally, butchers and bakers and, sure, a bee’s-wax candle maker or two, food hubs, community kitchens, community markets, school gardens, niche organic brands, makers of sustainable agricultural inputs, and more.

Could this be the beginning of a new kind of investing, something as powerful, in its own right, as protest? As powerful as conscientious objecting? Can we call it conscientious investing?

We invite some of you to take a break, let your arms down and give your fists a rest for a moment, and join us.

Our goal: one million Americans investing 1% of their money in local food systems, within a decade. We think this is the path towards an economy that is healthier, fairer, more balanced, more sustainable.

We are still small, but sprouting. 20,000 people have signed the Slow Money Principles. 2,400 have joined the Slow Money Alliance, a national network and emerging group of eleven local chapters that are facilitating the flow of millions of dollars into scores of small food enterprises around the country. The 2011 national gathering held in San Francisco this Autumn took another step towards this goal of one million Americans investing 1% in local food systems. We featured 30 new entrepreneurs, all currently seeking capital.

Can we design new systems appropriate to the realities of investing in the 21st century? By starting with direct relationships we bypass the intermediation that is taken to an extreme in modern finance. Each individual’s action to take 1% of their money and invest it in these entrepreneurs is paving the path towards a new economy, one based less on extraction and consumption and more on preservation and restoration.

While we use the 99%er side of our brain to protest against the bad 1%, let’s also use the Slow Money side of our brain, and our heart, to roll our sleeves up and begin investing a good 1%.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find our way to life after fast money.

Woody Tasch is Chairman of Slow Money, a national 501(c)(3) organization formed to catalyze investment in local food systems. Tasch is author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered. To get involved, start by signing the Slow Money Principles at: http://slowmoney.org/principles

by Sass Brown

Maria Teresa Leal, known as Tete to her friends, is a force to be reckoned with.  The founder, driving force, and visionary behind COOPA-ROCA, the Rocinha Seamstress and Craftwork Cooperative in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she has powered this group of artisans from home sewers and craft workers to creative partners with some of the foremost fashion, interior and installation artists around the world.  An arts educator by training, mentored by the famous educator and theorist, Paulo Freire, she founded COOPA-ROCA in the early 1980’s.

Visiting the family housekeeper in the favela (read urban slum) on the weekend, Tete was encouraged by the residents, to establish free Saturday craft classes for the children of the favela.  Bored with teaching art to the children of Rio’s elite, she was excited and enthused by the eagerness of the children of Rocinha.  Intercepted by the mothers of the children one day, as she was delivering a bag of textile scraps to her class, she was persuaded that they could put better use to the scraps of fabric than their children. Tete watched as the women fashioned all manner of home wares from these unwanted scraps of fabric, working with techniques like patchwork and fuxico, a type of patchwork that is made from circles of fabric gathered into a centre and attached to each other, and so the sparks of what would become COOPA-ROCA were ignited.

The craftwork produced by the artisans became the idea behind organizing the women into a cooperative. Focusing initially on organizing and evaluating the women’s skill set, a small production force was developed to produce decorative craftwork by reviving traditional Brazilian craft techniques.  Impressed by the range of skills and techniques the women knew, Tete began prompting the women into improving their techniques and standardizing their workmanship.  At first selling the simple hand crafted home wares at local markets, over the years Tete has built the cooperative into an internationally recognized creative powerhouse.  Partnering with designers such as Osklen, Lenny, Cacharel, Paul Smith, Agent Provocateur, Lacoste and C&A.  COOPA-ROCA have also worked withinstallation artists Ernesto Neto and Tord Boontje, and decorated lounges at the Salon di Mobili Milan, Rio and Sao Paulo fashion weeks, and the New York Craft Fair.

The mission of the cooperative is to provide work to the female residents of Rocinha, arguably the largest favela in South America, with somewhere around 180,000 residents, allowing them to work from home, and contribute to the family income without neglecting their domestic duties, hence improving their quality of life.  The cooperative has approximately 150 members along with some important partners in the fashion and interior design, and installation art markets.  Partnerships have been developed through commitment and dedication to networking, along with Tete’s ongoing determination to promote the work done by the cooperative of artisans.  A fierce advocate for COOPA-ROCA, she does not allow anyone to take advantage of the artisans.

There are no reliable figures on the exact number of inhabitants in Rocinha, due to the fact that the favela’s are not a product of urban planning, but an outgrowth of a burgeoning population of residents migrating from the drought ridden North East of the country, otherwise known as Nordineastas.  Much as the usual global pattern of urban poverty, many of the residents of urban ghetto’s migrate from rural areas, in the hope of finding more and better opportunities to provide for their families in the city, when the reality is sadly often the reverse.  Subject to prejudice and racism, the often under-educated residents, also become the under or unemployed, creating the raw material for the rampant drug trafficking gangs in the area.  Denied opportunities for lawful and legal employment, most people will do what they must to support their families, leaving many few choices.

The favela itself is a cubist jungle of cinderblock apartments, one teetering on top another, often several stories high, rising up the hill situated between two of the richest areas of Rio, Gavea and Leblon, home to Rio’s elite gated communities and private schools. Disparities between rich and poor in Brazil are stark, with public health and education incomparable between neighbors.  Rocinha ranks as the 6th worst municipality in Rio.  There is not one single local hospital or doctor for that matter within the confines of the favela.  The residents have an average of 4.1 years of formal education, with less than 1% of the adult population earning a degree above high school diploma level.  Although most houses have basic sanitation, plumbing and electricity, the streets are narrow without gutters, turning them into rivers during the rainy season, with make shift electrical wires criss crossing the narrow streets.

Tete, an Ashoka and Lead International fellow, has been involved with programs related to UNDP, NGO’s, local and federal government organizations, been awarded a grant by the Rockefeller Foundation, and a Claudia Award Finalist, amongst many other accolades.

The development of ‘special’ projects has strengthened the cooperatives network as well as served to promote the sustainability of the cooperative in the long term.  Projects have included the design and production of a limited CD box set for Brazils Culture minister, Gilberto Gill, covered in patchwork, a special presentation at Selfridges department store in London in celebration of the year of Brazil, which included a magnificent fuxico shirt for Paul Smith, a fashion show in Paris in collaboration with Cacharel, with the cooperative reworking and reinterpreting the collection, and various installation pieces for artists, Ernesto Neto, and Tord Boontje, which includes a wonderful hand crocheted light fixture knows as the Come Rain, Come Shine Chandelier.

Unemployment and under employment is the bane of existence for migrants who have settled in the favelas. Tetê realizes that, despite good intentions, small enterprise programs generally fail because they do not consistently produce high quality goods, they don’t understand and develop markets, they fail to make best use of their workers’ skills, and they fail to see themselves as viable, competitive manufacturers competing in a global economy. Tetê’s pioneering work with the artisans of Rocinha has revealed two realities about business and poverty, one, that workshops owned by poor women can compete in the world of high fashion; and two, that making quality goods is an effective means for poor women to compete in global markets, as well as act as a means to earn a descent living. Rather than organize poor women to produce poor goods, Tetê has raised both the standard of the product and the living standard of those producing the good. This philosophy guides the cooperative, defining a standard of best practices in community development and fair labor standards.

There have been many challenges in the development of the co-operative, however COOPA-ROCA continues to expand their commercial partnerships while increasing the scale of production and the number of its members. COOPA-ROCA are now moving onto a new stage in their development, and are in the process of developing the COOPA-ROCA brand by producing a small collection of mixed fashion, accessories and interior items for sale through their own e-commerce site.



by Megan Yarnall

When I was growing up, my exposure to video games was limited, thanks to my mother. She didn’t want her kids to be influenced by the violent behavior and gore often depicted – and acted out – on the screen. Studies show that children are influenced by what they see on the screen, and at that time the influence was believed to be largely negative.

However, it’s been shown that games can have a positive influence: according to Jane McGonigal in an article from the Huffington Post, when players can “the best version of themselves” in a game, they set high aspirations and are confident within the game, and this “can trickle into our real lives.” Kids who played Rock Band and Guitar Hero, says McGonigal, expressed more interest in music and learning how to play instruments outside of the game as well. And if this is true for music, why not recycling?

Green games such as LogiCity, The Climate Change Game, CEO2- Climate Business, and Plan It Green are all examples of video gaming for good. These games teach players how to manage the environment and business to effectively take care of the planet and consider how our actions affect the health of the Earth. TerraCycle’s own Trash Tycoon is taking on the recycling problem.

If someone recycles in a game, and decides what to make with the trash and recyclables they collect, they can think of this off the screen when they are in their kitchen or in the school cafeteria. With Trash Tycoon, for example, when players buy Kraft Cheese food items in the game, and recycled the plastic cheese packaging in the game, the same behavior is more likely to be emulated in daily life. According to McGonigal’s article, kids who played “ ‘pro-social’ games […] are more likely to help friends, family, and neighbors in real-life for a full week after playing the game. Positive behavior in a game can translate into positive behavior in reality.

Embracing these trends and using games in a positive light can be an important tool in encouraging change, especially for kids. By making a game out of recycling and environmental care, kids forget that they’re learning and don’t realize that they’re creating daily and potentially life-long habits thanks to their entertainment.

Not convinced? According to Huffington Post once again, “playing games can prepare us to tackle challenges like curing cancer, ending world hunger, and stopping climate change.” Games can make a difference. Giving people of all ages the chance to experience real-world consequences through a game can give them a sense of the reality of that problem. Let the kids put their hand on that mouse and play away.

by Megan Yarnall

Traditionally the main focus of education is younger generations, something for kids, something for those who are not already “old and wise.” In the green world, though, that notion must be turned upside down. Thanks to great strides in environmental science, recycling, and packaging science, the way we care for our environment and the eco-choices we make as consumers are constantly changing and therefore the need for education and ‘re-education’ remains constant regardless of age.

The seemingly inherent challenge is that educating all ages should require different tactics for the various target groups. Children comprehend and interpret information differently than adults and will be concerned with, engaged and inspired by a different set of topics and approaches: rather than the carbon output of a car that a child cannot drive, the child will be concerned about his or her toys, homework, or a pet.

Though the tactics for reaching the audiences often needs to be different, it’s still most effective and efficient – you reach the mostpeople – when you combine audiences and catch everyone at once. The hard part, of course, is finding this middle ground.  What will inspire and impact children and adults alike, without confusing one group or boring the other.

At TerraCycle, we’ve found that one of the best ways to do this is to put green lessons where they’re least expected. For us, this means retailers and playgrounds. By placing bins in stores like Old Navy and by partnering with stores such as Target and Walmart, which cater to both adults and children, we can catch the attention of both groups. Many people don’t expect to see backpacks made from Capri Sun drink pouches on the shelves – drink pouches belong in the food section!  These items often get an equal gasp from parents and children alike, albeit for likely differing reasons.

We recently donated recycled playgrounds to four schools across the country that were made out of used flip-flops collected at Old Navy stores during the “Flip-Flop Replay” last spring. Kids play on the playground, and parents take their children to the playground, making the playground a common point of interest between the two groups.  Thus both groups have their environmental understanding expanded, albeit in different ways.

Furthermore, these points (Target, Old Navy, playgrounds) are community spots. Anyone can frequent them and anyone can be involved, and when one person sees another participate, the pressure is on. In this case, “peer pressure” can be helpful in encouraging everyone to participate.

By reaching across all ages and consumers big and small, adults and kids can learn at the same time, and learn together, which makes the lessons stronger for each generation. While sometimes they will still need individual lessons, putting green lessons in unexpected places that cater to both groups is an effective method of teaching them at the same time and encouraging community involvement in green efforts and projects! Plus this method can be more fiscally sustainable. A key challenge for educators, NGOs and for-profits alike.

by Sass Brown       

The premium denim market has been trending towards artisanal denim for quite some time now. However, what masquerades in advertising campaigns as hand distressed denim, too often translates to abysmal working conditions and production scale sand blasting, not individual hand deconstruction.  The sight of lines of workers wearing protective clothing and welding helmets, or simple bandanas tied around their face, in factories already steamy from hot washing and dying processes, armed with high velocity sand blasting machines, the grit creating a constant rain, breaking down to silica particles, and responsible for lung disease, hardly constitutes fair trade.  Nor does it gel with the TV imagery of the boyfriend lovingly toiling away with his hand tools to replicate the years of wear in his favorite pair of jeans, as a gift to his girlfriend.

The Clean Clothes Campaign recently targeted denim manufacturers in a high profile campaign designed to raise awareness about the process of sandblasting in jeans production, and spotlight those that refuse to stop using this destructive practice.  Turkey recently enacted a countrywide ban on sandblasting after 46 former operators contracted silicosis.   Several manufacturers have also recently denounced its use and banned it in the production of their own jeans, including Levi’s and H&M.  However, Giorgio Armani, Roberto Cavalli and Dolce & Gabbana steadfastly hold onto the practice, with what the Clean Clothes Campaign describes as “total indifference” to their campaign.  Dolce and Gabbana raised particular ire when they returned a call from the Clean Clothes Campaign notifying them of their intent to target the company, with D&G reportedly saying “thanks for the information (but) it did not interest them”.

There are some artisan jeans however, that are just that, hand made, each one unique.  Denim at this level of the market is truly luxury,

courtesy of Denham Jeans

produced mostly in Japan and Italy, and sold exclusively through high-end retailers such as Colette, Paris.  Dutch brand Denham is one such label, with an extensive line of hand constructed denim jeans individually hand sewn by artisans, in their production facilities in Hiroshima, Japan.  As it says on their website “Made in Japan with 100% artistry, love, passion and NO shoes.”  This is a place where denim finishing is considered an art, where the knowledge base to perfectly deconstruct a pair of jeans is highly prized, not downgraded in a conveyor belt mentality of quantity versus quality.  This is a company that ‘worships tradition’ while embodying the rebel attitude of James Dean or a young Marlon Brando.  Their women’s Boyfriend jean for example, is made in strictly limited numbers, and ‘leaked’ to a highly select group of global retailers. Their production facility is the antithesis of a sweatshop, clean, Zen, and bright, where jeans are hand finished and constructed not in the factory piece work system, where individual sewers do only one small repetitive task, so as to achieve maximum speed.  Denham jeans are constructed holey by individual sewers.

The latest addition to the custom denim market is 3X1, so called after the standard right-hand twill weave construction specific to typical denim.  Based in New York, they are taking luxury jeans to the next level, with total customization, for the denim connoisseur.  Scott Morrison, a veteran from Paper Denim & Cloth, Earnest Sewn and Evisu, founded this unique retail store, showroom space and production facility in Soho, New York, as a reaction to economies of scale, and simply as a place to do one thing “really, really well”. The studio style environment beautifully merges with the old loft style building in New York’s Soho, and incorporates a custom tailor shop, and a textile merchant (all be it specializing in denim), all in one.  A customer can order jeans on the premises from a multitude of styles, fits, denim, finish, studs and stitch color, with over a hundred different denims to choose from, and endless permutations of cut, fit, finish and material.   Capacity production is twenty-five pairs of hand made, made to order jeans a day.  This is truly denim as a luxury item, not to mention an antithetical statement to global branding, with no name and only a discreet selvedge tab folded inside the back right pocket.

photo by ian Allen

The use of vegetable dyes, natural indigo and water cleaning systems go a long way to improving a product that is responsible for major pollution, as well as labor violations.  In a world where water is beginning to be valued as a non renewable natural resource, that is being depleted at an alarming rate by agri-farming and bottled water companies, the embedded water content in a pair of jeans is alarmingly high. Traditionally made of cotton, a water hungry crop, the calculated embedded water content, the amount of water used to make a product from production of the raw materials, in an average pair of jeans, is 10,850 liters, that is approximately equal to 72 1/3 bathtubs full of water!  With 450 million pairs of jeans sold annually in the US alone, that adds up to approximately 4.8 trillion liters of water, or roughly the equivalent of half of California’s entire yearly urban water demand!

Conventional cotton farming has long been responsible for upwards of twenty-five percent of all insecticide use worldwide, yet the denim market has been slow to embrace the use of organic cotton.  The rules for organic cotton production, spinning and weaving are strict.  It takes a farmer three full years to turn around a conventional cotton crop to an organic one, to ensure that all pesticides have been eradicated from the groundwater, and the soil where the plant is grown.  In which time the farmer looses the scale of cotton production only achievable through the use of pesticides and insecticides, while not yet able to gain organic prices for his crop; an expensive endeavor for a farmer who needs outside support to see them through this ‘transitional’ stage.  All spinning, dying and finishing then needs to be wholly separated from conventional cotton, for fear of contamination.

courtesy of Nudie Jeans Co

Nudie Jeans from Sweden are one of a few companies however that produce a full range of one hundred percent organic cotton jeans, along with blended organic and conventional denim, and recycled denim fiber. They also utilize potato starch and pre-reduced indigo in place of chemical alternatives. Working exclusively with natural indigo instead of the hydrosulfite synthetic version, which allows them to biodegrade the exhausted dye-baths through simple waste disposal systems, instead of polluting the environment.  Proponents of the superior qualities of genuine indigo dye, as true denim elitists, they recognize the ancient and epic history of this ancient practice dating back to Pharaonic times.

Denham recently launched a range of Virgin jeans made from paper selvedge.  Consisting of fifty percent recycled Japanese paper pulp and fifty percent indigo cotton, the jeans are designed to be worn in more quickly, and have an ultra lightweight feel.  They come packaged in a zip up denim laundry bag and are accompanied by a bar of Cathartic soap made of natural enzymes, and formulated to preserve the paper selvedge.

Italian label, Naked Ape Eco Clothing, so named to represent our natural, naked, non-polluting past, work only with natural and wholly organic fibers, certified by a laundry list of accredited certification bodies, including Ecocert, USDA and the Soil Association.  This is not a brand that does things by halves, their entire collection of denim and cotton twill; unisex pants are made from organic cotton.  The full collection includes super skinny chino’s and carrot tops; how the Italians refer to low crotch styles, in a wide range of neutrals, pastels and brights, and include a full range of fits, cuts, washes and finishes, in a down to earth, democratic package.

UK brand Monkee Genes was born in 2006 by Road Team.  With a twenty-five year heritage in the denim industry, the founders were

photo courtesy of Monkey Jeans

bored with the conventional denim market, and decided to produce their own change by founding the company, and invigorating it with a fresh, vibrant and youthful direction.  Monkee Genes produce one hundred percent certified organic denim and cotton Jeans with a retro twist, innovative fits and styles, all in classic denim and vibrant cotton sateen.   With an Indie Jean rebellious heart, their motto is No blood.   No sweat.  No tears.  The brand focus on the Fair Trade aspect of production, and were the first and only jeans manufacturer to be awarded the soil Associations Global Organic Textile Standard, requiring that all factory working standards are considered as important environmental factors.

Haikure is a brand new Italian denim label on the market from this fall, winter season.  The label name is based on the tradition of restrictive Japanese poetry – Haiku, combined with the endings of the words; nature, future and pure. This lifestyle brand proposes exclusive, elegant and refined denim garments, entirely created by means of eco-sustainable materials and processing.  Each pair of jeans carries a QR label, which allows you to track all the production information of each individual pair of jeans through the use of any camera equipped mobile device, and an internet connection.  With detailed information from the certification of the organic cotton, to the production of each trim and treatment, the brand aim at complete transparency, in a market that has traditionally been anything but.

Denim jeans have become the great social leveler, with their history stemming from work wear, they are democratic by their nature, despite the price tag that comes with premium denim. Comparing the denim market to the mainstream fashion industry is a bit like comparing dog years to human years – the denim market has 7 new trends for every regular fashion season.    At least now the latest trend seems to be sustainable denim!  So now there is no reason to sacrifice style or fit to dress with conscience in the latest denim trend.

You can sign the Clean Clothes Campaign’s petition to tell D&G, Armani and Cavalli to stop using sandblasting at www.change.org/petitions/dolce-gabbana-stop-the-killer-jeans.

by Alberto Gonzalez, founder and CEO of GustOrganics,www.gustorganics.com.

U.S. food consumers are somehow programmed to buy food cheaply. Our national motivation to pay less seems to be in our social DNA. We suffer what I call The Cheap Disease.

This national sport has created a cancer that’s been growing out of control inside our food system and our society. Consumers’ consumption represents about 2/3 of the GDP in our country, therefore, whatever we buy is big business–and keep in mind that we all eat every single day.

As consumers, we are very vulnerable to marketing messages. When companies spend big money on advertisement and social media, we simply obey. We have been bombarded for years with messages prompting us to pay as little as possible for food. The idea is simple: The less we pay, the smarter we’re supposed to be.

Even today, most food advertisement on TV focuses on promoting cheaper prices. The “to-be-smart” message to pay less for food is always present. In other words, we have simply been brainwashed for years because, in fact, cheap food means lack of good nutrients, with huge amounts of artificial and chemical contents, leading inexorably to bad health and, of course, an obscene amount of environmental damage. While chasing the cheapest possible food, we have opened the door for the key decision makers in our food system to transform it into the oil/chemical monster that it is today, and at the same time, our collective health has deteriorated to a point beyond belief.

It is fair to say that cheap food does not exist. When we buy cheap, in reality we are paying a very expensive price because we are–or will be–paying the difference saved at the cash register with our health and with extraordinary damages to our environment, which also means that we are seriously compromising the health of future generations.

The companies providing us with the cheap food are in reality externalizing the true cost of those foods.

The “cheap” food disease is not only affecting our health, but also that of farmers, animals, soils, water, and air. Factory-farming and the huge level of consolidation in the agricultural sector (the main culprits for our Cheap Disease) are putting family farmers out of work at an alarming rate. According to Farm Aid, 330 farmers leave their land every week. This is more than 47 farmers per day.

I know it’s awkward to discover that we have not been smart at all but simply manipulated by Food Corporations and agribusiness, and in fact, our food-purchasing decisions during the last 50 years have resulted in very poor choices. Also, collectively speaking, we have become very sick.

Although, on more than a few occasions, many people pay high prices for food in restaurants, in general those prices are related to value created by the location, style, or chef; however, the ingredients are generally coming from factory-farming, so the economics of dining out are actually contributing to The Cheap Disease. In other words, the higher prices paid translate to better margins for the businesses, but don’t contribute to consumption and support of true organic and sustainable farming.

In this country, most people do not make the connection between food, health, and happiness. The most obvious connection that I am sure everyone immediately detects is the one between money and happiness, hence, through this paradigm, “cheap” seems to be the main virtue in our food system, and it has proven to be a recipe for disaster.

To put it succinctly, while pursuing the illusion of cheap food, America became the sickest country on the planet.

What we eat matters big-time. Food is who we are, food cleans, food creates positive jobs, helps local communities, food incentivizes life but also death, destruction, and wealth for just a few. The choice is all ours.

Let’s cure our Cheap Disease, now.

By Lillias MacIntyre, Program Associate, Corporate Partnerships

OK – so you’re part of the ever increasing group of environmentally conscious global citizens trying to make a difference.  I’m sure you’ve found yourself browsing a retailer’s shelves or clicking through Amazon.com in search of a product more sustainable than the one sitting on your shelf at home…But you couldn’t remember if you should avoid PBDE, PFOA or NPEs!  Now, undeterred and armed with your smart phone, you launch the GoodGuide mobile app, and learn you should try and avoid all three chemicals.

GoodGuide helps consumers make better purchasing decisions by ranking product performance on a relative scale using an array of environmental, health and social impact metrics.  And with the recent launch of its “Transparency Toolbar” you can now browse products on Amazon.com and see how they stack up to the competition in areas of interest to you.  Naturally, the moment I learned about these tools I decided to give them a try.

The mobile app allows you to scan or manually input barcodes for product information and is a fun and convenient tool when it works.  With a database of about 120,000 products, you can opt to browse GoodGuide or simply use the scanner when shopping.  Conveniently, when browsing product categories, you’re given a list of “ingredients to watch for.”

The Toolbar is supported on Chrome and Firefox, currently works with Amazon, and will soon be supported by Walmart,SOAPTarget and Google Products.  While helpful when it finds a product from the database, this too has its inconsistencies.  For example, a search for “Avalon Organics Biotin B-Complex Thickening Shampoo” on GoodGuide.com, Amazon.com, and the mobile application produced an overall product rating of 6.2 on the first; a non product-specific 5.2 on the toolbar; and a 6.2 overall rating on the app.  Additionally, when clicking through for the “Full Rating” from the Toolbar, I was taken to a page with partial data and no overall rating.  It seems that in this case, the first Toolbar rating of 5.2 draws on overall company data (Avalon Natural Products).

Information on GoodGuide’s ratings and methodologies can be found on the website, but in general, data is acquired from many sources including scientific institutions, government agencies, NGOs, media outlets and corporations themselves.

That said, the next time you’re wandering the isles of your favorite retailer or searching for a great deal on Amazon.com, keep these tools in mind, because despite their kinks – you’re on a more enlightened path with GoodGuide.

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