Here’s a nifty new development via erstwhile MNN columnist, author, TV personality, and the most not-really-lackadaisical green guru out there, Josh Dorfman:

GoodGuide, the consumer resource for which Dorfman acts as VP of marketing in addition to his role as everyone’s favorite Lazy Environmentalist, recently released a Transparency Toolbar for shoppers looking to make purchases that “reflect their preferences and values about their health and the health of the planet.”

As we all know, true transparency isn’t always easy to come by these days, particularly when shopping online, which is why this new tool from GoodGuide is such a gem — it enables ethical online shoppers to “shop based not on what retailers and brand marketers want them to see, but rather on what consumers want to know.”

As GoodGuide co-founder Dara O’Rourke puts it:

The Transparency Toolbar puts power back in the hands of consumers to decide which products are right for them. Companies often make unsubstantiated marketing claims about the merits of their products without fully revealing their ingredients or the business practices behind their production. The Transparency Toolbar helps consumers see through the marketing. It filters out products that don’t measure up and quickly points consumers toward ones that do.
Here’s how it works. Once installed (the toolbar is currently compatible on Chrome and Firefox browsers with Safari and Internet Explorer to come), the customizable Transparency Toolbar will pop up on the bottom of a web browser only when users are shopping. For now, it works with with,, and additional e-retailers to follow. Using personalized filters, the Transparency Toolbar shows how specific consumer goods— culled from GoodGuide's massive database of more than 120,000 products — perform based on key criteria established by the user including nutrition, controversial ingredients, energy efficiency, fragrance, pollution, resource conservation, climate change, animal testing, and labor and human rights. The toolbar also displays product recommendations, pricing info, reviews, and GoodGuide's own ratings.

Explains a press release sent along by Dorfman:

GoodGuide’s engineers and scientists recognized that just knowing whether a product is safe, healthy, green, and ethically made often isn’t enough to sway a consumer to buy it. Because sustainable products must also compete on price, quality and accessibility, the Transparency Toolbar was engineered and designed to display all of this information in a simple and clear interface that appears at the precise moment when consumers are deciding which products to ‘add to cart.’
I gave the Transparency Toolbar a test drive (screenshots below) while perusing some home-centric products and I’m very impressed although I’m not exactly sure why the products I selected “failed” to pass my personalized filter — I'll have to go back and play around with that some more (also, I’m not really buying $50 worth of toilet paper). And although I generally don’t purchase items like cleaning products, light bulbs, and TP online I’d still certainly consult the toolbar before heading out to my local brick and mortar retailer.

Eventually, San Francisco-based GoodGuide plans to integrate the Transparency Toolbar’s personalized filters into the company's existing mobile web app so that shoppers can shop with a “personalized lens” while away from the computer.

Download and then give GoodGuide’s Transparency Toolbar a spin here and let me know what you think in the comments section. Do you think it’s a tool you’ll be relying on it for future home improvement purchases? 


Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.