Leaf Score is on a mission to help our readers find products that are healthy for them and healthy for the planet. Sustainable, eco-friendly, green, nontoxic. We live, breathe, and report on it, everyday. Welcome to LeafScore, the place for green.
Our Approach and Why it Matters
The Leaf Score site was founded in 2019, having started in 2018 as a directory at MyGeneFood.com. It quickly became apparent that there is real demand for seriously scrutinized, thoroughly investigated, eco-friendly product recommendations instead of the breezy, greenwashed top ten lists that abound elsewhere on the Internet.
Leigh Matthews (BA Hons, FdSc) heads the Leaf Score research team and prides herself on following rigorous journalistic standards and ethics, and maintaining editorial independence – put simply, our recommendations are made without input from the business side of, well, the business. If readers choose to buy a product through links on the Leaf Score site, this may support our work through an affiliate commission in some cases. Should the reader be dissatisfied and return the product, any commission is cancelled. This means there is no incentive for us to pad product recommendations, pick lesser quality goods with higher commissions, or cave to pressure from companies and manufacturers.
We want to highlight the very best eco-friendly products out there and we want to build and maintain trust with our readers. We’re in this for the long haul, and we hope you are too. That means we often spend dozens, or even hundreds of hours researching products and industry practices. We’ll let Leigh explain how she goes about gathering products for the Leaf Score Directory.
How it works
When researching eco-friendly products in a particular category, I typically begin by examining scientific literature to see if there are known safety concerns over the composition and function of the products in question. I will also look for gaps in our knowledge – the unknown unknowns – to see if products are being made using potentially problematic chemicals, components, and processes that simply haven’t been properly assessed for their environmental and health impacts. The kinds of things I look at include:
- Safety data from government agencies – the U.S., Canada, and Europe mainly, including RoHS and REACH. I also look at reports from the World Health Organization and similar credible agencies.
- Industry reports and documents – annual financial statements (are there line items that suggest compensation paid to workers or customers, or payouts and donations to governments?), present and past litigation (often a clue to unsafe practices), and evidence of legitimate steps being taken by industry as a whole to reduce environmental impact and address known safety concerns.
- Third-party reports – such as from the Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Worldwatch Institute, Fair Trade, Corporate Watch and many others. I will also check Consumer Reports for performance data and general information.
As part of the initial research, I also look at how and where products are typically made. I examine the impact that manufacture of these products has on the local community and environment, the global environment, and the workers who make them. This is where things like B Corporation status come in, as well as Fair Trade. From there, I look for sustainable, eco-friendly alternatives to any problematic processes and raw materials used in the typical manufacture of the products. When I find a good alternative, I add that to a checklist for use later when I scrutinize individual products themselves.
Why this process?
Why all the laborious research? Why not just look for the first product that screams ‘I’m Green!’ and go with that? Well, because this method makes it much easier to spot greenwashing and spurious claims. Instead of getting wrapped up in hype over a so-called ‘green’ materials and processes that aren’t actually any greener than what they have replaced, I can focus instead on the companies and products that are legitimately eco-friendly or at least more environmentally sound, healthy, and sustainable than conventional products.
This is also the point in the process where I contact manufacturers. Rather than taking marketing copy at face value, I ask questions about how they source their raw materials and the processes they use, start to finish, in making their products. And, if they’re lacking green certifications that are standard in their industry, I ask why. You can tell a lot by how (or if!) companies respond to such queries, and this all goes into my reckoning when deciding if a product makes the cut for the Leaf Score Directory.
Asking questions also encourages companies to deepen their commitment to environmental responsibility while acknowledging and supporting those already doing the work. Of course, some products do meet a whole swath of the eco-criteria on my list but do not make it into the Leaf Score Directory. Why? Because I also want to be reasonably confident of a company’s customer service records and commitment to their wider community and the environment. After all, if a product looks good but you can’t get help fixing it if something goes wrong, chances are you’ll throw it away, which isn’t very eco-friendly.
The wider mission
In some categories, pickings are slim for eco-friendly housewares. This might mean that some of the eco-friendly products listed are made by companies who don’t have an overall commitment to environmental stewardship or sustainability. Where relevant, I include information like this in a product review, so you can make a more informed choice.
My hope is that by highlighting and promoting the ‘greener’ versions of, say, a corporate giant’s inventory, this will create an economic incentive for them to transition their whole inventory to sustainable goods. And, on the flip side, by putting the ‘little guy’ – the eco-friendly start-up you’ve never heard of – right up against larger companies and well-known brands, you can make a more robust comparison and choose the right product for you, your family, your budget, and your comfort level.
Hopefully, by now, you’ll have realized that I genuinely care about the recommendations I make. And, as much as I’m an optimist and idealist, I’m also pragmatic. Even if we might hanker for a zero-waste, minimalist lifestyle, some home products are hard to live without. Thankfully, there are greener alternatives for almost everything we use in our daily lives. These products can be healthier and safer for your family and those making the goods, as well as for the wider environment.
I want you to know how and where to find these sustainable, eco-friendly alternatives. In closing, whether you’re replacing your old yoga mat, buying a new mattress for a guest room, or simply picking up shaving cream at the store, I want you to feel confident that the legwork has been done for you and that the products listed in Leaf Score are worthy of your attention and your dollars.
Final thoughts from the Leaf Score team
We’re here to expose the problems with conventional manufacturing and highlight truly eco-friendly goods. We want to make it simple for you to switch out toxic products for greener alternatives. This is all part of our team effort at Leaf Score to help make meaningful changes that support a happier, healthier environment for all of us. Listen to Leigh talk about what inspired Leaf Score on the Gene Food Podcast: