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The Green Life: A New App to Decode Eco-Labels

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November 23, 2011

A New App to Decode Eco-Labels

Consumer Reports eco-labels appEver wondered what those vague eco-terms on product labels actually mean? Thanks to Consumer Reports, there's now an app for that. From “natural” to “organic” to “hypoallergenic,” even smart consumers have to spend hours researching to decode claims and figure out which products live up to the hype.

Besides, many companies engage in greenwashing by exaggerating or falsely representing their products' green qualities. Unable to first investigate product claims, even those shoppers committed to eco purchasing might be deterred from impulse buys of a new brand or product. And an ingredient list (if it's even there) only takes you so far.

The Eco-Label app aims to solve these problems, listing information about food, personal-care items, and cleaning products. For the 99 cents it costs to have this database at your fingertips, you can search alphabetically or by product category and access a label "report card" which will tell you which certification claims are trustworthy.

Consumer Reports eco-labels appThe information comes from a reliable source: Consumer Reports and its website GreenerChoices.org investigate green claims and provide an Eco-Label search tool. The data is based on expert, independent analysis.

Dr. Urvashi Rangan, the director of consumer safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports, said: "As the popularity of green products continues to grow, it's important to know which marketing claims you can trust and which ones you can't." Rangan should know her sustainable stuff since she earned a doctoral degree in environmental health sciences from Johns Hopkins University and earns her living decoding eco-labels and advocating for credible labeling and responsible products.

Rangan is also a project director for GreenerChoices.org, which explains what to look for in eco-labeling. The best labels, the site says, include the seal or logo of a third-party certifier. And the new app may help us unravel the codes to live an easier eco-life.

--Carolyn Cotney / screenshots: Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.

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