There are many actions to take on Practically Green. Our goal is to provide users with the why and the how to behind making these healthy, green changes. Some changes require a product, if not several products. Rather than leave you in the lurch to decide what to use to complete an action, we also recommend products. Our directory of products is designed to save you time and to give you confidence as you navigate the often confusing world of green products.
All of the recommended products and services on Practically Green must meet our standards. Deciding what is and isn’t green is tricky. Our team of product specialists, eco-experts, and scientists relies on information from the most stringent third-party certifications and independent organizations available. We understand that certifications, organizations, and product formulas change. Still, we are not in the business of reviewing ingredient lists. So we use our best judgment and work daily to stay on top of the latest news and all changes.
Here’s what never changes: A company cannot pay to have their item included on our list. In fact, the majority of the products on Practically Green have been recommended by our users, reviewed by our staff, and then added to the site only if they meet our criteria. We also add products that have been vetted, used, and liked by members of the Practically Green staff.
Our selection process is based on the best current information available. The transparent, accountable, and respected third-party certification and research organizations we rely on to inform our choices range from USDA Certified Organic to Forestry Stewardship Council to the EPA’s Energy Star program to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database to NaTrue. We keep a more extensive internal list of certifications that we add to (and subtract from) from time to time. Interested in knowing more? Have a certification or organization you’d like to suggest? Email us.
The process goes like this: In an effort to include only those products that are good for you and the planet, and ones that are easily accessible to the everyday consumer, we first turn to these certifications and organizations. Where certification or an evaluation by an independent organization does not exist, we don’t take a manufacturer’s word that something is, say, organic or PVC-free. We realize this means small businesses don’t make it on the site as much as they—and we—would like them to.
While there are reliable third-party certifications for product categories like food and cosmetics, not all categories are created equal. If no overarching certification or respected independent evaluator exists in a category, we will evaluate the product based on relevant qualifications. Which is why we sometimes offer the best option for a given situation, like when it comes to insulation or window film, even if the product is made from an eco-unfriendly material we’d never allow for health reasons in something like a kid’s lunchbox or teething toy. In some cases the good benefits outweigh the bad. We reserve the right to make these judgments and we make them carefully. No product is perfect; there’s always some eco-impact along the supply chain.
It’s a complicated, multifaceted process. A product may be considered green for more than one reason, but only be evaluated in one category. For example, cosmetics may come in recycled packaging, but for the purposes of inclusion on Practically Green, our focus is on the eco-attributes and safety of the cosmetic itself, not the packaging. If a green product happens to come in eco-friendly packaging, great! It will likely get positive user reviews. Conversely, a product with green benefits might not be included if it also has significant environmental burdens. For example, a detergent formulated for use in cold water may reduce a consumer’s use of hot water—something we enthusiastically support. However, if the detergent contains harmful chemicals, it won’t be included on Practically Green.
We use the word natural on Practically Green when describing products. We do so knowing that there is currently no government definition of the word, like there is for organic. Unfortunately natural has been overused and misused to the point that many consumers no longer trust it. Still, we find it’s the best word available for us to describe ingredients that are both derived from nature and not heavily chemically processed or manipulated. (Yes, we are well aware that arsenic and poison ivy are natural.) And we know there remain companies who use the word responsibly. Most if not all of the so-called natural products on Practically Green are backed up by third-party certification.
Companies interested in submitting a product for inclusion should send us a link or other information (we like pictures, third party certifications, and materials data). If your product meets our standards, we’ll let you know, and it will be included on the site. Initially it will be listed with no rating or reviews. Once published, a company may not request that their listing or corresponding rating be removed, unless the product is no longer available.
To get further involved, once a product is approved and live, a company may enhance their listing for a small monthly fee. These include a special offer for PG users, a button to increase Facebook likes or Amazon ratings, or a link for newsletter sign-ups. If there is an Amazon link, a small portion of the purchase price goes to Practically Green. Interested? Get in touch.
For those who want an even more in depth look at how we choose specific products, here are our criteria for inclusion, by the four categories Practically Green awards points in: Energy, Water, Health, and Stuff.
Product or service directly reduces energy usage and corresponding greenhouse gas emissions and/or reduces dependency on non-renewable energy sources. Examples: solar charger, high-efficiency windows, hybrid car.
Product or service directly influences behavior that in turn reduces overall energy needs. Examples: energy monitoring devices, motion sensor lighting, farmers’ markets, carbon footprint calculators.
Product or service directly reduces water usage, runoff, and/or strain on waste treatment systems. Example: High-efficiency clothes washer, dual-flush toilets, permeable pavers.
Product or service promotes capture or reuse of water. Example: rain barrels, gray water systems, rain water harvesting systems.
Product or service directly or indirectly influences behavior that reduces overall water needs. Example: shower timer, water conservation volunteering, water footprint calculator.
Products claiming to be organic must be certified by the USDA. International products are screened based on their country’s or EU standards. Products marketed as natural must be certified by one of our go-to third party certifications. If a product isn’t certified organic or natural, it must have been evaluated by and given a good health score by one of our go-to independent organizations which include The Good Guide, The Environmental Working Group, or a third-party labels like the US EPA’s Design for the Environment.
If a product meets one independent organization's criteria for a good health score but is scored poorly by another independent organization and is also not certified organic or natural, it may be included on the site with a note that highlights the concerning ingredient(s). If no product in a category meets our standards, the next best choices may be included, and this fact will be noted in the product description.
Products claiming to be organic must be certified by the USDA. International products are screened based on their country’s or EU standards. Products labeled natural must be certified by one of our go-to third party natural certifications, which currently include NaTrue, BDIH, and/or NPA.
If a product is not certified as organic or natural, the product (or service) must have been positively evaluated by an independent organization.
If a product meets one organization's criteria for a positive score but not another’s, and is not certified organic or natural, it may be included with a note that highlights the concerning ingredient(s). If no product in a category meets the threshold, the next best choice(s) may be included, and this fact will be noted in the product description.
Products may not contain artificial colors, flavors, processed sweeteners (like high fructose corn syrup), preservatives, and other chemicals or highly processed additives (even if naturally-derived). Example: candy, cereal, chips.
Products labeled organic must be certified by the USDA. International products are screened based on their country’s or EU standards. If we call something natural it can’t contain any of the aforementioned colors or preservatives, and it must adhere to our Practically Green definition of natural (see A few words about the word “natural,” above). Example: organic produce, organic yogurt, organic coffee.
Meat, dairy, poultry, and farmed seafood may not be administered hormones or other growth stimulating drugs, or antibiotics. We maintain a preference for certified organic but include other next best options. Example: nitrate-free hot dogs, organic beef burgers, antibiotic-free chicken.
We recognize the importance of other sustainability factors and topical concerns like fair trade and free-range, as well as sustainable production and packaging. However, we can’t currently include these factors in our evaluation as there is no way to award Practically Green points to their importance. That said, when something is, say, both certified organic and fair trade, we take note.
Products made from rapidly renewable materials. Examples: bamboo cutting board, cork soled shoes, wool dryer balls.
Products made from FSC certified wood or paper. Examples: FSC certified greeting cards, wooden shutters, wooden toys.
Products made from not less than 50 percent of recycled materials, post-consumer preferred, or from agricultural or other waste. Examples: recycled plastic cups, recycled shipping labels, cornhusk scrubbers.
Products or services that minimize the use and consumption of natural resources. Examples: e-billing, automatic faucet, sustainable caterer.
Products that are extremely durable and low maintenance relative to standard choices. Example: wooden toy blocks, cast iron pans, microfiber cloths.
Products salvaged, reused, or repurposed from other items or people. Examples: antique furniture, clothing swaps, wine cork coasters.
While PG favors products that are made from locally sourced materials relative to the manufacturing location, made in the USA, manufactured in facilities powered by alternative energy, and packaged using minimal and eco-friendly packaging, these factors in and of themselves do not qualify a product for inclusion on the site.
Please let us know what you think.