For me, one of the biggest challenges to going green and leading a healthier life is trying to decide what items to buy when I’m in stores. As I push my cart up and down the aisle at the local market, I find myself looking helplessly between the items on the shelf, trying to decide which is the better choice for the planet and my body. I know that there are dramatic differences in the safety and eco-friendliness of even natural and organic products, so often I find myself just hoping for the best and selecting whichever product has the most convincing spiel on its label.
The Good Guide App was developed with uncertain, yet green-eager shoppers like me in mind. I had read about its features in the “New York Times,” so I was anxious to try out this app. To give it a thorough test, I took it along on a recent shopping trip. Here’s a brief summary of the app and the results of my “grocery aisle road test.”
- Works with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad products with iOS 4.0 or later and with all Android products with Android 2.1 and up
- Free purchase from https://itunes.apple.com/app/goodguide/id294447660?ign-mpt=uo%3D6&mt=8 for Apple products or https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.goodguide.android.app for Android products
- Only available in English
- Allows you to scan bar codes on any item. The app then searches through a database and displays information about products.
- Rates products on a scale from 1 to 10, assigning scores for their effects on health, the environment and society as well as an overall quality score. The products are rated by the Good Guide based on ingredients lists and public financial information.
- Provides ratings on personal care products, household cleaners, food, pet food, paper products, cars, cell phones, appliances and apparel. In addition to scanning bar codes, you can also browse a category to see all of the rated products.
- Has additional features like product lists and online shopping capabilities
My feelings about the Good Guide are mixed, and I think that how useful the guide is will depend largely on where you're shopping and what you're shopping for. As an example, I scanned Lysol and instantly saw that the product had only a fair rating. With the touch of a button, I was able to see alternatives to the product, one of which was conveniently positioned just one shelf over. It was easy, green shopping success.
I had a much different experience when I tried to scan both a bottle of olive oil and a Hershey's chocolate bar. The olive oil came up with a different company name at the top. From reading the information about the ratings, I wasn't convinced that I was actually reading about the olive oil at all. There were also no recommended products. I was confused and not confident enough in the information to use the app to help me select the brand of olive oil I purchased.
With the chocolate bar, the product wasn't found. I decided to just look in the snacks section for suggestions, and almost all of the products shown there were not available at this particular market. In fact, most of them I had never heard of before. I could have used the app to purchase one of the bars online, but that wouldn't satisfy my spontaneous chocolate craving.
For those in major cities with a wide variety of shopping options, the Good Guide App is likely a very helpful tool. If you’re limited in your shopping choices or in a more rural area, you may not find the app as useful if you want to do all of your shopping in a store. Still, the app can help anyone make small changes that can enhance their green lifestyle.