Good Guide - Green Product Info To Your Phone

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Sep 11, 2008

We have written a lot about providing consumers with just-in-tine information about products on their mobile.  Shoppers can receive an SMS about sustainable fish or climate impact of products already.  This is the idea of the new GoodGuide, a new start-up spun out of the University of Berkeley. Good Guide provides 'green' consumer information for shoppers who want to buy products in line with their values.

The brainchild of Dara O'Rourke, an enterprising UC Berkely professor, Good Guide came online yesterday.  The 61,000 products already in the database contain hundreds of datapoints. They are organized into three categories: health, social and environmental impact. Currently, there are two product types only: personal care and household chemicals. Food, electronics, toys, and apparel are to be added over the next several months.

"I think there's a burgeoning awareness that there is a global supply chain behind a product," Dara O'Rourke told in a recent article. "People are seeing that there are real costs to these everyday low prices. The question is, can we deliver this information in a way that is simple and easy and helps people make decisions?"

O'Rourke spent years compiling a database of the'greenness" of products, drawing on more than 650 data sources to create product metrics.This has been a major barrier of many of these consumer guides accessible by mobile as assembling the data points is expensive and time-consuming to do. 

In the Wired article, O'Rourke notes that "most shampoos are pretty similar, so there isn't a lot of difference for most products, but there are some where your purchase can make a huge difference," He also points out that "there's no question that there's still huge gaps in the data, but we're taking a big step forward on what is the most comprehensive and reliable set of data ever made available to the public for free."

Consumers will be able to receive text messages about products based on the product UPC code. O'Rourke also promises an iPhone app in the next few weeks.  Most excitingly, GoodGuide will have an open API that exposes the site's data for other applications and organizations that want to use it.

Products are ranked by a total score, and visitors can add green and top-rated products to a personal shopping list. 

Research has shown that consumers respond best to 'action asks,' that is, buy or no-buy recommendations that show a consumer in very simple terms what to do in the grocery aisle. It remains to be seen how successful scores are in changing consumer behavior. 

The second issue Good Guide has to grapple with -- as many of the mobile consumer info lines -- is creating awareness so that a shopper knows about Good Guide. This will require significant marketing and public relations. There has also been concerns about whether shoppers really want to bother thinking about which toothpaste is more environmentally friendly.  While low-cost consumer products may be less of a concern for many people, there is significant market research that shows that consumers are not only hungry for actionable steps to protect their own health and well-being but also to engage in easy-to-do environmental actions.

We are excited about the open APIs that will lower the cost of entry for many environmental and other organizations in providing product information, making wide-spread use more likely through multiple channels. 

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