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How green is it?

By Linda Matchan
Globe Staff / April 20, 2010

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Example: Daniel Goleman’s dark blue T-shirt, labeled “100 % Organic Cotton: It Makes a World of a Difference.’’

What’s really green about it: No pesticides were used. Pesticides are linked to central nervous system damage in humans. Also, it takes up to five pesticide-free years before earthworms return, an essential step to recovering soil health.

What’s not-so-green about it: Toxic industrial chemicals are used to bleach, dye, and finish cotton yarn. Also, cotton resists absorbing dye, and a large amount rinses off into factory wastewater, which can end up in local rivers or groundwater.

EARTH-FRIENDLY RANKINGS

The website GoodGuide.com ranks common household products considering hundreds of variables and scoring them on their ecological, health, and social impacts. GoodGuide uses a scale of 1-10, 10 being excellent, 1 being “pretty poor,’’ according to founder Dara O’Rourke Here are the top performers for three common household products — cereal, laundry detergent, and shampoo.

The best cold cereals

1 Nature’s Path Organic Kamut Puffs Cereal: 8.2

2 Barbara’s Bakery Shredded Wheat Cereal: 7.4

3 Weetabix Organic Crispy Flakes Cereal: 7.4

Why they scored high:

They’re low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sugars, and sodium, and high in whole grains and fiber content. (Low-scoring cereals have high levels of sugar, fat, and artificial flavors.) They also are above-average environmentally and socially, using organic grain and implementing strong policies to protect the environment such as low carbon emissions and good water management policies during farming.

The best laundry detergents

1 Seventh Generation Laundry Powder Detergent, Free & Clear: 8.3

2 Ecos (Earth Friendly Products) Delicate Wash: 8.1

3 Citra Solv Citra Suds Laundry Detergent: 7.5

Why they scored high:

According to Dara O’Rourke, there is a “huge loophole’’ in federal disclosure laws whereby household cleaners — unlike food or shampoo — are not required to disclose ingredients. “The irony is that everything on top of your sink, such as personal care products, have ingredients listed, but everything below your sink, such as tile cleaner, with much harsher chemicals, do not. GoodGuide “incentivizes’’ full transparency of product ingredients: “Most of the poorly rated cleaners and laundry detergents won’t disclose them,’’ he said. (Items of concern include chlorine bleach, monoethanolamine (MEA), and ammonium quaternary compounds.)

High-scoring companies also have good environmental management policies in their factories, including low toxic pollution; and have a good “social’’ score based on their record of incidents or lawsuits related to how they treat employees and customers.

The best shampoos

1 Dr. Bronner’s Magic Organic Citrus Hair Rinse: 8.7

2 Miessence Organic Lemon Myrtle Shampoo: 8.7

3 Gourmet Body Treats Rosemary Mint Shampoo: 8.6

Why they scored high:

They had no carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive health hazards. Some shampoos contain toxic chemicals such as P-Phenylenediamine; and a form of formaldehyde (DMDM hydantoin) which is a potential skin irritant and immune system toxicant. Or, they have fragrances that can be allergy concerns or contain toxic chemicals like phthalates.