Alternative Energy and Energy Conservation | Beauty products | Books | Cars | Chocolate | Cleaners | Clothes | Cosmetics, Body Care, Gifts, etc. | Credit Cards | Diapers | Electronics | Food | Home products | Light bulbs | Real Estate | Rugs
Alternative Energy and Energy Conservation
American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy Consumer Resources provides a wealth of information.
U.S. government-backed program for energy efficiency. Products that carry the Energy Star label must meet efficiency guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy. Homes and business buildings can also earn the Energy Star. One easy way most viewers of this site can help the environment through energy savings is by using Computer Power Management.
Find a solar contractor in your area. "Solar Estimator" helps you to estimate costs.
Database of state incentives for renewable energy. Also links to federal incentives.
Safeguard your health: Green America has a revealing report on how to avoid toxicity at salons. Many products contain formaldehyde. Links to safer products are provided.
Especially for music lovers: Writings of Ernest Hutcheson, edited by Thomas W. Hutcheson. Ernest Hutcheson was a renowned concert pianist, President of the Juillard, and grandfather of Thomas Hutcheson and Hildegarde Hutcheson Jones, founder of responsibleconsumer.net.
Good and Cheap food: a cookbook developed to meet nutritional needs for people on food stamps, but with great ideas for all budgets. Emphasizes fruits and vegetables, innovative variations, and frugality that allows for a bit of luxury along with a lot of fun and great eating. The entire book is free online.
Grist.org interviews author of Branded!: How the "Certification Revolution" is Transforming Global Corporations, by Michael Conroy. Economist Conroy explains history and meanings of labels such as Fair Trade that certify environmental and social practices of corporations.
Truth, Torture, and the American Way, by Jennifer K. Harbury. The widow of a man who was tortured and murdered researches American human rights abuses in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.
Animal Passions and Beastly Virtues: Reflections on Redecorating Nature, by Marc Bekoff, co-founder with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Foreword by Jane Goodall. Interview of Marc Bekoff by Vegan Magazine.
American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy rates cars and trucks on their impacts on the environment. Lists best and worst by class and for the year.
The chocolate industry is rife with human rights abuses, including slavery. Fair trade chocolate is expensive compared to widely available brands like Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and Kraft, but the cost of these brands to the workers--often child slaves--who harvest the cocoa beans cannot be counted in money. To ensure your money will support human rights as well as concern for the environment, see Green America's Chocolate Scorecard, updated in 2014 from 2010. Hershey's went from a grade of F to C!
Divine Chocolate is the first Fair Trade company that is partly owned by cocoa farmers themselves. As investors the farmers get a share of the profits from sales of the chocolate as well as a share of the Fair Trade premium which is part of the price of each Fair Trade certified product.
See also Special Report: Chocolate
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's list of products that meet the standard for the Safer Choice label, due to come out in spring and summer of 2015
Greenheart Shop. From the website: "The international garment industry is well known for worker exploitation. Our fair trade clothing is sweatshop-free and certified no-child labor. Much of our collection is made of organic clothing, or recycled fabrics." Certified Fair Trade and Green America approved.
July/August 2012 issue of Green American describes fabrics and labels to look for when shopping for greenest clothing. Fabrics include bamboo (BUT, see Federal Trade Commission on bamboo), organic cotton, industrial hemp, recycled polyester, soy cashmere/silk, tencel, and "chlorine-free wool from humanely-treated animals". Labels include bluedesign, certified organic, gots organic, oeko-tex, SA8000, union-made, and Fair Trade.
Serrv women's wraps and tunics
Cosmetics, Body Care, Gifts, etc.
A big help in finding sweatshop-free products is Green America's Guide to Ending Sweatshops.
Fair trade crafts from Equal Exchange
Leaping Bunny Compassionate Shopping Guide. You can download your own guide from this site and shop for such things as cosmetics, personal care products, animal grooming products, and household products from a list of certified partners.
ASPCA Store. Pet and other items benefit this charitable organization for animals.
Green America's National Green Pages screens for human rights and environment; has a search category for animal welfare
greenmarket.com screens for human rights, animal welfare, environmental concerns.
Pangea Vegan Products. Many cruelty-free products, often hard to find, in a variety of categories. According to the website, "Pangea sells only goods made in countries where labor laws or unions are in place to protect the workers! We don't sell any products made in China or other countries known for sweatshops."
PETA screens for animal welfare. Peta's Proggy Awards list many companies with a wide variety of vegan products--handbags, faux meats, shoes, toys, cosmetics, just to mention a few. Want thicker hair, anyone? See Proggy Award winner
Serrv International, according to its website, "is a nonprofit organization with a mission to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide."
Ten Thousand Villages sells beautiful handicrafts from around the world.
Sadly, Responsible Consumer can no longer recommend The Body Shop, because it has been bought out by L'Oreal.
Credit CardsGreen America article on breaking up with mega-banks that have done serious harm to the environment and economy and using a socially responsible credit card.
"'When you use a mega-bank's card, you're bolstering all the things the bank's loans support, from clearcutting forests to new coal-fired power plants to predatory loans', says Fran Teplitz, Green America's director of social investing programs. 'Community development banks and credit unions provide the best opportunity for cardholders to avoid supporting bad practices and to positively impact communities.'"
The article gives resources for credit cards that work for positive change.
Diapers: Cloth or Biodegradable Disposable?
Green America feature article describes pros and cons of each, considering effects on water, landfills, and health. Provides options for disposables, tips for cloth diapers, and links to resources for organic cotton and hemp diapers.
Finding ethically sourced electronics is next to impossible. Most involve conflict minerals and factories that use sweatshop labor. An exception is Fairphone, which pays attention to human rights and environmental concerns in every step and process of producing a smartphone and in the supply chain. Unfortunately, it is currently only available in Europe. The phone itself has some very nice features, too!
For efforts to get conflict minerals out of the supply chain, see Enough Project: Proposal for Getting Conflict Minerals Certification on Track.
Greenpeace guide to environmental impacts of electronic manufacturers gives detailed report on each company's environmental friendliness, but not on human rights issues. For worker rights in the industry, see China Labor Watch.
2012 October Computerworld.com article says "Foxconn is the largest manufacturer and Apple is the largest electronics company, so they have an even greater responsibility than other companies," according to the founder of watchdog China Labor Watch. Apple is Foxconn's largest customer. Foxconn has been heavily criticized for widespread human rights and labor abuses. Both companies are secretive about their products, but analysts have named Sony's PlayStation 3, the Nintendo Wii, Amazon's Kindle Fire, Sony's, Sharp's and Toshiba's TVs, Nokia's, Motorola's, and Huawei's handsets, Cisco networking equipment, Hewlett-Packard's, Dell's, and Acer's PCs, and "all three of the big game consoles, from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony" as products manufactured by Foxconn.
"That's not to say labor groups have ignored other electronics suppliers. China Labor Watch released a report last year about conditions at 10 factories in China, including ones operated by Foxconn, Quanta, Catcher Technology and Compal Electronics. It found instances of forced overtime, harsh worker treatment and poor dorm conditions. Chinese factories used by Samsung have also come under scrutiny."
2015 March 25 Associated Press Investigation: Slavery taints global supply of seafood
Seafood Watch printable chart for "Best Choices", "Good Alternatives", "Avoid" for each of the United States.
Vegan cheese! Some veggie cheeses contain casein, a milk product, but this site gives truly vegan alternatives. Not all are available at this writing (December 2014), but more will be available in spring and summer of 2015.
Tomatoes. Most tomatoes sold in the United States come from Florida. Many tomato pickers lived under horrible conditions, including slavery, but in 2014 the New York Times reported on greatly encouraging gains for Fair Food in the tomato industry.
Vegan sources of high protein, plus delicious recipes and suggestions for combining foods.
Equal Exchange has Fair Trade, organic coffee, tea, chocolate bars, chocolate chips, cocoa, almonds, bananas, sugar, olive oil.
Serrv has fair trade coffee, chocolate chips, many snacks and staples.
Homepower magazine has resources for alternative sources of energy plus designing and building your own systems.
James Dulley is a nationally syndicated columnist who writes about ways to cut utility bills in an environmentally-friendly manner. Dulley's home page gives access to his syndicated newspaper columns, which are searchable by keyword and by general topic and give detailed information on many products; a tour of his own energy-efficient home; do-it-yourslelf guides; and a message board where readers can exchange questions and advice.
2015 update: Federal Trade Commission (FTC) site on shopping for light bulbs shows how to use the Lighting Facts label to compare bulbs for brightness, energy cost, life expectancy, warmth vs. coolness of color, energy use, and mercury content. See also James Dulley on efficient outdoor and security lighting.
Posted earlier: Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs offer reasonable initial prices and significant long-term energy and price savings over incandescent bulbs. Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are initially expensive, but are more environmentally friendly and offer considerably more energy and price savings over the lives of the bulbs. LEDs are probably the bulb of the not-too-distant future: see an intriguing New York Times article with some great illustrations. Be critical reading this article, though: some of the the figures for prices and longevity vary widely from those given elsewhere. Much research (see Wikipedia for technical information) is being done to resolve technical and marketing issues and produce cheaper bulbs with a wider variety of warmth in color.
TCP, Inc. is a large producer of compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs that carry the Energy Star label. Their site gives a lot of information about lighting but does not provide a way to buy their products online or the location of stores where they are available.
Compact fluorescent bulbs now come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit most lamps. In recent years the increased use of electronic ballasts built into the base have reduced flicker, buzz, starting time, and long-term expense. Compact fluorescents benefit the environment by using far less energy than incandescent bulbs. According to an article in Wikipedia, however, compact fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, and care should be taken in their disposal. For information on cleaning up a broken bulb, see U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Cleaning up a Broken CFL. For information on recycling CFLs, see U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Mercury-Containing Light Bulb (Lamp) Recycling.
Some compact fluorescent bulbs are marketed as "full spectrum". According to the National Lighting Product Information Program (NLPIP), "full spectrum" is a marketing rather than scientific term, and its precise meaning varies from one manufacturer to another. Manufacturers claim these bulbs produce light that is similar to natural daylight. Some claim the bulbs are useful in light therapy, which is often prescribed for the relief of seasonal affective disorder. To evaluate these and other claims, see Lighting Answers from NLPIP. To very briefly summarize, NLPIP's findings regarding manufacturers' claims for full spectrum lights include the following: color perception and brightness are enhanced; there is no benefit and some drawback to UV radiation; there is no benefit to visual performance (for example, reading); any white light, full spectrum or not, at the right level is effective for treatment of seasonal affective disorder; and in some cases the use of the term "full spectrum" added significantly to the price of the product without adding significantly to its quality.
According to James Dulley, full spectrum lights have a color rendition index (CRI) of over 93 for scotopic to photopic light. Dulley says that scotopic light causes the pupil to shrink in size, resulting in better focus and less glare.
Many of us spend far more, work much longer and harder on housekeeping, consume far more in environmental resources and leave far greater carbon footprints than we need to for comfortable, healthy, enjoyable living. The following present alternatives that are far more economical and eco-friendly, and beautiful to boot:
2010 Oct. 4 article in Cape Cod Times says major lenders in 23 states have voluntarily halted foreclosures in 23 states after revelations they had not properly checked paperwork showing they legally owned the mortgages on homes they planned to foreclose. Tracing the paper trails on many thousands of mortgages has become an unrealistic task because the mortgages are typically sold and resold from one lender to the next multiple times.
Rugs Made by Adults, Not Children
Rugmark Foundation screens for child labor in carpet industry in Asia