Check that label

April 19, 2011

Coming soon: carbon labels 

Most people read product labels to learn about the nutrient content of products.  But some leading retailers are working hard to make carbon labelling a reality.

A carbon label is simply a label that reflects a product’s environmental impact.  It’s an estimate of how much energy, water and other resources were used in producing the product, and how much pollution was produced.

Today, carbon labelling is still under development.  But Wal-Mart and UK food retailer Tesco, two corporations with enormous market clout, are investing heavily in developing systems of carbon labelling that will allow consumers to instantly identify ‘greener’ products, and then make their purchasing decisions accordingly.  You can be sure that once Wal-Mart has carbon labels on most of what it sells (slated to be within the next five years), its competitors will have no choice but to follow.  Voila – a transformed market!

So keep an eye out for carbon labels – they’re coming soon!  Read more about WalMart’s plans here and Tesco’s here.

The poisons in personal care products

The simple instructions on shampoo bottles – apply, rinse, repeat – belie the toxicity of some of the ingredients inside those bottles.  Personal care products are weakly regulated, and their ingredients often include known carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, reproductive toxins and more.  Yet we trustingly apply them daily to our skin, where they can be directly absorbed.  Yuck, and worse, poisonous.  For a frank overview, just check out The Story of Cosmetics, an incisive eight-minute video.

The David Suzuki Foundation has singled out the Dirty Dozen of cosmetic ingredients, and has developed a wallet-sized Sustainable Shopper’s Guide to help you choose personal care products that don’t contain toxins.  And if you’d like to check out how the products you presently use rank, the cosmetic database rates the toxicity (or non-toxicity) of thousands of brand-name personal care products.