I’m happy to announce a return of the recurring competition to encourage y’all to write Green Stars reviews! The prize for this contest is a subscription to Ethical Consumer, a UK nonprofit organization that guides readers on ethical issues.
All you need to do to take part is to write a review of virtually anything – a product, a company, a local business – and include an ethical rating. This should be a score on a scale of 0 to 5 Green Stars (in half-star increments) that represents your rating for social and environmental impact. A score of 2.5 Green Stars would represent a product (e.g., a chocolate bar) or business (e.g., your local café) that’s perfectly average, ethically speaking.
Here’s a little background on Ethical Consumer.
What is Ethical Consumer?
Ethical Consumer is a UK-based nonprofit (established in 1989) that provides the following services:
- Ethical shopping guides on everything from beer to banks.
- Reporting on topics related to ethical consumption, such as conflict minerals.
As you can imagine, it takes a lot of effort from many people to follow all of these topics and maintain a database of over 40,000 companies, brands and products. To maintain independence, Ethical Consumer relies mainly on subscriptions to cover operating costs and pay its staff a living wage (like many journalistic organizations).
Ethical Consumer subscription offer for Green Stars Project readers!
Green Stars Project readers can get 14 months of Ethical Consumer access for the price of 12 – just use the code “greenstars” in the notes field on the subscription order review page. Everyone can access some of Ethical Consumer’s content for free (click on the links above to sample it) while subscribers get full access to ratings, plus a bimonthly magazine (digital or print). As a subscriber, you can also tailor Ethical Consumer’s ratings to emphasize the issues that are most important to you (e.g., animals, climate, labor conditions, etc.).
As I’ve discussed previously on the Green Stars Project, it’s not an easy task to provide a comprehensive guide to ethical consumption. It’s on my to-do list to update the ethical consumerism resources page on this site because I’ve seen some guides come and go over the last few years. Of all of them, Ethical Consumer is still the best general resource that I know of. I don’t know why I’m writing this like an advertisement because I don’t benefit financially from this, or anything on the Green Stars Project site! I guess I’m just trying to be a cheerleader for ethical consumption, as normal.
How is the Green Stars Project different to Ethical Consumer?
For one thing, the Green Stars Project is just me! It’s not my intention so much to be comprehensive as it is to illustrate the process of ethically evaluating stuff. The by-line for the Green Stars Project site summarizes the goal: User-Generated Ratings for Ethical Consumerism. The key thing here is that it’ll be user ratings – democratic, crowd-sourced “Green Stars” scores to go alongside the existing ratings on price and quality. It’s an ambitious goal but I believe it just requires a little momentum and will then reach a tipping point. Hence the competition!
My vision may never come to fruition – in fact it definitely won’t come to fruition without your help, dear readers! (So the GSP is really not just me.) In any case, even if the GSP idea does come to fruition, we will always need organizations like Ethical Consumer (and The Guardian, etc.) to provide ethical guidance and independent journalism.
So the two approaches are complementary – Ethical Consumer is a curated source of information on ethical consumption while The Green Stars Project is working towards a crowd-sourced system. Each approach has pros and cons and I think we ultimately need both. I’ve previously outlined the benefits of a ratings system that relies on user-generated data, so I’ll refer you to that post for more detail.
Why you should include ethical ratings in your reviews
As fans of The Good Place can appreciate, thinking about ethical issues is widely considered to be part of life’s purpose (An unexamined life, and all that). It also empowers us – understanding the stories behind all the stuff we buy helps us to regain a sense of control in this crazy world and also informs our choices. This is true whether we are really trying to learn something about the social impact of the meat industry or just trying to figure out what our cat litter is made from.
There’s also a sense of relief that comes from allowing ourselves to slow down enough to properly consider the implications of a decision. Thinking about the impact of our choices as consumers actually helps to cultivate mindfulness.
So that’s the pep talk! The goal of is to get you to think about ethical consumption and issues related to it. These issues are literally determining the fate of the planet and all of its inhabitants.
In my last post I worked out an ethical rating for Peet’s Coffee using a few slightly different approaches. So I’ll refer you to that post if you want guidance on how you might arrive at an ethical rating (also feel free to contact me for help).
Many people aren’t sure where to start, or they feel intimidated at the thought of tackling it. Just start with just the obvious things and don’t stress about being comprehensive. If someone asked you to rate random songs from 1 to 10, would you worry about developing some kind of perfect system for evaluating them? Just express your opinion.
Whether your main concern is global warming, animal rights, plastic waste, or labor conditions, etc., feel free to focus on that aspect. Most reviews will include a mixture of a few different issues but again don’t feel that you need to include every angle. One aspect of the Green Stars Project’s goal is that we begin to get some democratic clarity on what’s most important, ethically.
Summary: Write a review of anything and include an ethical rating. Post it on any site that you like (e.g., Yelp, Google Maps, TripAdvisor, etc., for a review of a local business, or any online retail site – even Amazon! – for a product review) and then notify me about it by posting a comment below or contacting me directly. I’ll keep the review anonymous, if you prefer.
A winner will be announced at the end of July and will receive a one-year subscription to Ethical Consumer.