J500 Media and the Environment


Please, be more vague by Lauren Cunningham

In my recent efforts to become environmentally-friendly, I’ve been searching the App Store on my iPhone for applications that can help me make smarter choices.

This shows a screen capture from my iPhone showing GoodGuide's rating of my Kiwi Strawberry Snapple.

So far, I’ve found GoodGuide. The app gives an overall rating of the product, not based on user ratings, but on a combined score of health, environmental and society ratings. It looks at product quality or safety, unnatural or unhealthy ingredients in the items and environmental impact of the company. It also has a feature that scans the barcode of items to get a sense of how “good” they are.

So after enjoying a Kiwi Strawberry Snapple the other day, I thought I’d check out just how “all-natural” the drink claimed to be. My new app gave the beverage a 3.9 out of 10 rating.

It also gave the drink a zero out of 10 for health, which I found alarming for a product that claimed to be “Made from the Best Stuff on Earth.” I looked at the nutrition facts, and as the label claimed, there were no artificial flavors or preservatives, but I also saw the 51 grams of sugar in the bottle and five percent juice content.

GoodGuide lists information about different aspects of products to help consumers pick the smartest choice.

GoodGuide told me the product contained high fructose corn syrup, a substance found in pretty much everything people eat today. I didn’t see this on the label, so I investigated a little further.

It seemed as though the app’s health rating hadn’t been updated. I found that Snapple recently switched from using high fructose corn syrup to real sugar. a switch that helps its “all-natural” claim.

It makes sense, considering the problems popping up with high fructose corn syrup. GoodGuide even lists high fructose corn syrup as an “ingredient of concern.”

For a juice drink that claims to be all-natural and “Made from the Best Stuff on Earth,” I wonder what Snapple means. The ingredients are recognizable, but it’s a stretch to say my kiwi strawberry drink was all-natural. If Snapple’s implying that fruits are the “best stuff on earth,” they should start putting more fruit in their drinks, instead of making it from “a blend of juices from concentrate with other natural flavors.” They offer some drinks made from 1oo percent juice, so why not make all drinks that way?

I also discovered the company has changed its labels and bottles recently, but only for appearance. GoodGuide gave Snapple a 5.2 out of 10 for its environment rating. Of the three areas the environmental ratings were comprised, two were scored at less than five out of 10: environmental management and resource management.

So as a consumer staring at a drink claiming to be natural and made with “real ingredients,” I’m not impressed. Really, Snapple has just made its ingredients recognizable, which I do appreciate. But to avoid greenwashing, I think they need to re-evaluate other aspects of the company.

GoodGuide is helping me along in my new way of thinking about food and sustainability. But really, I think it takes a more extensive reading of the labels of what I’m consuming.

— Lauren Cunningham

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4 Comments so far
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Lauren-
I really enjoyed reading your blog. I found it all to be very interesting.

I personally do not have an iPhone, so I can not use the application myself, but I like the concept of it. If I had that phone, I would use it myself. It seems very helpful and useful. I was surprised to read about your findings.

Do you know any more information on how they came up with the ratings? I am still a little confused on how they came to these results, and would be interested in knowing more about it.

You end your blog in a similar manner to mine. In my blog I question whether consumers are educated enough about companies’ greenwashing efforts, or if the companies are brain-washing us enough, so that consumers can never know for sure what is being put into their foods.
I think mine relates to your blog in a sense that we can’t always trust the companies to tell us the truth.

I am also interested in knowing some other ways consumers can research more about the foods they eat, if they don’t have an iPhone.

Very good blog! I found it very interesting.

-Jackie M.

Comment by jackiemcc

Jackie,

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I’m glad you enjoyed it. First of all, I wanted to let you know that even without an iPhone, people can still use GoodGuide at http://www.goodguide.com. I understand that it’s not as convenient as the iPhone app would be, but I think it’s still a valuable resource for anyone who wants to know more about products they’re using.

As far as how GoodGuide assesses each of its products, I know that the service uses information from companies’ environmental and social assessments. On its Web site, GoodGuide states that it started as a research project at UC Berkeley and then developed into an independent, what they call “for benefit” company. The organization is also a Certified B Corporation, which basically means it’s a company that challenges businesses to meet certain social or environmental standards based on stakeholders’ needs.

Anyway, I think it’s great that you raise the same questions about holding companies or businesses more accountable.
— Lauren Cunningham

Comment by Lauren Cunningham

Lauren,

I am wondering if this app focuses more on health or more on the environment… or are both equal? Do you buy the app for the health info or the environmental info? -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

Kristina,

Thanks for asking that question. The app actually has a pretty equal balance of focusing on both of those aspects, in my opinion. It doesn’t give as much information as what you might find on the Web site, but I think it still gives a good overview.

I bought the app for the environmental impact information it offered. Since taking this class, I’ve become a lot more curious about what is in products or food and what those companies’ environments are like.
— Lauren Cunningham

Comment by Lauren Cunningham




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