Before you go shopping – whether on-line or bricks-and-mortar – inform yourself about the product in question and keep an open mind about alternative ways of achieving whatever it is you ultimately want the product for.
How to get information
It pays to check reviews in magazines (possibly on-line) about the products you are interested in. You may be able to glean useful information even from reviews that are not primarily environmentally oriented.
Familiarise yourself with the various labels used in your country, some of which may give the impression of evaluating the environmental aspects of products while actually being more concerned with other ethical aspects such as fair trade or animal welfare, or just with quality; some are almost pure eyewash and merely stand for producers’ associations.
One can also – of course! – ask questions here, though I am not sure how we view questions about specific brands or products.
Sources of information
I am familiar with the situation in Germany, but perhaps others can contribute similar tips for other countries – I have marked this as community wiki.
Many of the labels given in the information for Germany are internationally used, and the NABU judgement on them (thumbs-up/-down etc.) can be understood without reading German, though that is needed to understand the detailed evaluation.
- Look at the reviews in the magazine Öko-Test (German Wikipedia article) Their web-site is http://www.oekotest.de/ .
- Bear in mind that Öko-Test often evaluates products from the point of view of consumers’ health rather than environmental impact.
- For a gallery of labels evaluated for their significance for the environment, see http://siegelcheck.nabu.de/ by the German environmental organisation NABU. This labels the labels as below. Clicking on a label tells you more about the criteria it represents and how the NABU regards it.
- Genuinely green: one or two green thumbs-up
- Sometimes helpful: a sideways thumb
- Allows no conclusions about environment impact: (no thumb)
- To be avoided: a red thumbs-down