Methodology

Our goal at Leaf Score is to highlight products that are healthy for you and healthy for the planet. To that end, we created the rating system you see outlined below. We rate all the products in the LeafScore directory with our leaf rating system. If a product appears on this site, it is trustworthy and sustainably made with as little environmental impact as possible, however, some products are more pristine than others and budget plays a role as well. Where information is available, we factor in the carbon emissions and other climate impacts associated with the production and operation of a product.

Leaf Score

1 Leaf

Mostly synthetic ingredients, some environmental engagement, overall better than comparable products

Leaf Score

2 Leaves

Blend of synthetic and organic ingredients, some eco certifications and energy-saving/environmental advantages over comparable products

Leaf Score

3 Leaves

Mostly organic ingredients, but some synthetic, impressive roster of eco certifications, better energy-saving and environmental engagement than comparable products

Leaf Score

4 Leaves

95% or more organic ingredients, certified organic, all major eco-certifications, zero potential for off-gassing, excellent engagement with environmental responsibility and minimal carbon emission

Leaf Score

5 Leaves

100% organic, no synthetic ingredients, pristine product, all major eco-certifications, best energy saving ratings, made by socially and environmentally responsible company

Our process

Our research begins with these source materials:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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, we also look at how and where products are typically made. We examine the impact that the 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, we look for sustainable, eco-friendly alternatives to any problematic processes and raw materials used in the typical manufacture of the products. If /when we find a good alternative, we add that to a checklist for later use when scrutinizing 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, we 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 we contact manufacturers. Rather than taking marketing copy at face value, we 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, we 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 our list but do not make it into the Leaf Score Directory. Why? Because we 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.

A note on products we choose

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, we include information like this in a product review, so you can make a more informed choice.

Our 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.