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Change your brands, change the world

Poor Earth Day. In the midst of dramatic global climate change, you would think this holiday would get more love, but April 22 always comes and goes so quickly. Before you know it, it’s April 23 and you haven’t even found a tree to hug. It’s a truly sad affair.

However, it’s important to remember that Earth Day isn’t the only time to celebrate and protect our planet. Just like Christmas isn’t the only day to spread cheer or Halloween isn’t the only time to dress up like a dead ’80s pop star and stuff your face with peanut butter cups, Earth Day isn’t a once-a-year thing. It’s simply a reminder of how we should act every day.

Treating the planet and its inhabitants well is often easier said than done, though. It’s admittedly very hard to always act socially and ecologically sustainable, especially on a college budget. Luckily, I recently stumbled across a book on my roommate’s desk called “The Better World Shopping Guide”. The book, written by Ellis Jones, is my new favorite tool. It gives thousands of companies grades A through F based on how they act in regards to human rights, the environment, animal treatment, community involvement and social justice. It is based on over 20 years of data collection from public and private sources, and it sorts the results into over 70 product categories to make it easy to compare companies to one another.

The findings in this book are quite surprising. Some major companies are doing much better than you would expect, while other seemingly innocent brands are severely polluting the environment or enforcing child labor. Seventh Generation, for example, has been rated the No. 1 company on the planet for its dedication to being socially responsible and environmentally sustainable. CoverGirl, on the other hand, continues to use unnecessary animal testing, is on the bottom rung of the “Ladder of Responsibility,” has been on MM’s “Worst Corporation” list for two years and has spent over $46 million on Washington lobbyists. Needless to say, what you don’t know can be frightening.

After scanning the book’s pages for hours (when I clearly should have been doing my homework), I decided to compile a list of some of the best and worst brands in each category, keeping cost and accessibility in mind, so that it’s easy to compare products and make fast, smart decisions. I have featured a few of them and their assigned grades here, and hopefully you will consider making some of these simple changes next time you hit the town:

Seventh Generation (cleaning supplies, laundry, etc.): A

Procter & Gamble products (Tide, Dawn, Swiffer, etc.): F

Gap: B

Macy’s: F

Colgate: B

Crest: F

Jif Peanut Butter: B-

Skippy: F

Speed Stick: B

Secret: F

Chipotle: A

Taco Bell: F

Tressemé: C

Pantene: F

Neutrogena: B-

CoverGirl: F

Google: A-

Bing: F

Pepsi: B

Coke: F

Gatorade: B

Powerade: F

Barbasol: C

Gillette: F

Kiss My Face (lotion/body care): A

Dove: F

These are just a few of the thousands of companies listed in The Better World Shopping Guide, and I highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself ($8.96 on Amazon), checking out the website (www.betterworldshopper.org) or purchasing the smartphone app “Better World Shopper” to get more information on how to make easy changes as a consumer. It is actually quite simple to make a positive impact on the world by merely being more aware of the products you buy and the companies you use; luckily, making a difference does not require dramatic life changes or a huge budget. Trust me, my wallet doesn’t even remember what a $20 bill looks like.

Hopefully we can all make progress in the upcoming year, and perhaps next Earth Day we will have a little more to celebrate (and maybe we won’t have to trudge through snow to do so). It’s important to start now though because, after all, we only have one shot at getting this right.