Finding green on the cheap
New Eco-rate Web site compares common household products based on sustainable attributes and affordability.
Fri, Oct 30, 2009 at 12:31 PM
Photo: Associated Press
A new Seattle startup makes it easy for consumers to find green products on the cheap, according to a recent story by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Eco-rate is a new consumer product review Web site aimed at the green crowd.
The site is a compliment to other sites that help consumers trying to make sound environmental purchases. One, called GoodGuide, allows consumers to look up the environmental, health and social impact of more than 75,000 consumer products in categories like food, toys, personal care and household products either online, through text message or by using the free GoodGuide iPhone application, according to a recent MNN story.
In addition, the Environmental Working Group's SkinDeep cosmetic safety database provides consumers with toxicity information on common personal care items.
Eco-Rate differs from these sites with its emphasis on ratings that take into account not only the environmental cost of a product, but also the product's price tag.
The site's owners say a sustainable product's cost-effectiveness is key to its wide scale adaptation by consumers.
"The Eco-rate idea is to allow people to compare common household products, based not only on their green attributes, but also on their affordability," said Brycelaine Self, cofounder of Eco-rate and principal of a related green building, green marketing and energy consulting company, Eco-innovations.
"It allows people to sort products according to what's important to them," she said. "Some don't care about price, while some need to find the most eco-friendly product in their price range."
In addition to considering price, the site also stands out by focusing on common household products that consumers are likely to find in hardware stores — such as dishwashers, paint products, refrigerators and shower heads — and by offering technology comparisons in categories like heating and cooling.
The products are analyzed for environmental impact, consumption, toxicity, life cycle cost and price. The “average eco-rating” is calculated by taking all of these factors into account.
Each rating is formulated as a percentage of the score of the highest-rated product or technology featured within an Eco-rate category.
For example, the best product on Eco-rate earns a consumption rating of 100; if another product's consumption rating is 70, it consumes 30 percent more energy than the top-rated product.
In addition, the product gets an average score that balances both environmental and economic considerations. Consumers can also sort by consumption, toxicity and price alone.
Finally, the site contains special sections designed for architects and builders, manufacturers and vendors, and government procurement.
One possible glitch on Eco-rate is that because the site’s owners rely entirely on product specifications obtained from manufacturers, it’s unclear how the calculations compensate for incomplete manufacturer specifications and how that information might affect a product’s overall rating.
Still this a small hitch. Eco-rate is a step in the right direction towards educating consumers on cost-effective ways to purchase more eco-friendly products.