About Me and the Green Stars Project: I have worked as a research scientist (BS in Microbiology, PhD in Molecular Biology) for the last 20 years (Trinity College, Dublin, and the University of California, Berkeley).
The idea of the Green Stars Project was born out of a novel I was writing, and at the time I was thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if this novel was published and someone who read it decided to carry out the idea?” By mid-2014, realizing that this scenario was pretty unlikely to come about anytime soon, I decided to start working on the idea myself. In July 2016 I quit my job (for now) to focus full-time on the project.
I want the project to remain true to its original aim and I have no plans to look for funding. I want it to be a social movement and the whole point is for individuals to express their opinions and a contribute to a collective voice, rather than for any single entity to have control. No revenue of any kind is generated from the project.
Goal of the Project: To amend the widespread gold star rating system by incorporating a second independent green star rating system based on social and environmental impact.
Consequences of this:
- It will create a culture where we think about the upstream and downstream impacts of our purchases just as much as quality and price of the product or service.
- It will provide a medium that allows us to vote as consumers for the companies and products that we believe represent a better future for the planet and its inhabitants (and influence other consumers in turn).
- It will be a highly-visible platform for us to share information on corporate activities that we believe are not beneficial for society and the planet (and again educate and influence other consumers).
What can I do? Start writing reviews of the products and services you use on whatever website or app you like (e.g, retailers such as Amazon and review sites such as Yelp) incorporating both the traditional gold star rating and the new green star rating. Note: the reviews should be posted on the sites we all use to review products and services (not here) because we want them to be highly visible. However, you are welcome to also post your review here if you’d like it to serve as an example or to start a discussion.
Overview: The Green Stars Project (GSP) is a simple idea for dealing with unethical corporate practices by impacting companies at their most sensitive point: their revenue. It allows every person with internet access to express their opinion regarding the social and environmental impacts of a product or service on any site that includes customer reviews. The existing ratings scales, usually in the form of gold stars, take into account the quality and price of a product or service. These gold star ratings, whether on retailers such as Amazon or review sites such as Yelp, greatly influence our purchasing decisions as consumers. The introduction of green star ratings will allow us to also take into account the other factors besides quality and price – the factors that determine the quality of life on this planet.
There has been a growth in awareness of the influence of corporate activities on our quality of life over the past few decades, and the level of dissatisfaction with various industries such as food, clothing, electronics, banking, and energy has grown significantly. This is evidenced by the popularity of numerous documentaries and books exposing unethical practices in these industries and, of course, by movements such as Occupy.
So, what are the issues that we mean to address by introducing a green star rating system?
This list is not exhaustive and is presented in no particular order:
- Unfair working conditions, child labor, and slavery
- Exploitation of the planet’s resources; deforestation; pollution
- Excessive greenhouse gas emissions and water usage
- Use of harmful ingredients and materials
- Lack of effort to reduce waste generation and increase recyclable or compostable content
- Enormous salary disparities between upper management and the majority of workers
- Gender inequality
- Mistreatment of animals
- Abuse of corporate power in the form of political lobbying and legal pressure
- Tax evasion
- Lack of monitoring of the material supply chain and oversight of subcontractors
- Negative impacts on local communities
Basically, we are making a statement on whether or not we want to fund these activities. Make no mistake, by buying a company’s products we are endorsing the activities they carry out. There are already specialized sources for information regarding some of the issues above (you’ll find a listing of some good resources here) but there are important reasons why we need a highly visible rating system that represents the voice of the people. A key point of the Green Stars Project is that it allows every person to weigh in with their opinion on the issues that matter most to them. Very few individuals have the specialized knowledge to evaluate all of the social and environmental impacts of a company. That’s why we need opinions from all walks of life: biologists, social scientists, farmers and food industry workers, activists, factory workers, lawyers, chemists, healthcare workers, political and financial analysts, teachers, etc. etc. Some people may have personal experiences dealing with the company in question that could provide valuable insights into company operations and ethics.
Of course, businesses that have a generally positive impact on society will be recognized too (with a 4 or 5 green star rating), so it’s not just a case of pointing out the corporate villains. In the end, the rating will represent a quick snapshot of how people feel about the social and environmental impact of a product or service, backed up by details in the individual reviews. (See the FAQs for more details on why we need a green star rating system and how it works.)
As long as people sit by passively and let things happen to them, the dynamics of the system will drive it in a certain direction—and that direction is towards self-destruction. I don’t think that’s hard to show.
Noam Chomsky, Power Systems, 2013.