Ellis Jones - The Better World Shopping Guide: Every Dollar Makes a Difference

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Shopping With Your Conscience

Dec 22, 2009
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Well researched, lots of information.

Cons:No complaints

The Bottom Line: If you're looking to add more thought to your buying decisions, this book will help.


If you care about the environment but occasionally stray from your principles, "The Better World Shopping Guide: Every Dollar Makes a Difference" will help keep you on the right path.

This small book gives grades, from A+ to F, in 75 product categories, including airlines, clothing, cleaning products, computers, pizza, vitamins, office supplies and petcare.

Author Ellis Jones, a sociologist, grades in five main categories: animal protection, community involvement, environment, and social justice.

Various sources, from the Better Business Bureau to Co-op America, to the Human Rights Campaign, are used to determine standings.

Using bread as an example, here's how the book examines a product:

It ranks a generic local bakery as an A+ and then 30 other brands, with Nature's Path and Alvarado Street Bakery getting an A, and Kraft and Stovetop getting F's. 

The book offers general advice about the wisdom of buying from a local bakery, then identifies one, Alvarado Street Bakery as a "corporate hero" for its ownership structure (worker-owned cooperative), socially responsible business award and certification as a green business. At the opposite end as "corporate villain" is Wonder, for lack of transparency, poor social responsibility and a race-discrimination lawsuit.

Similarly, in the gasoline category, top-ranked with an A- is Sunoco, for its early acknowledgement of global climate change issues and other good deeds. For the worst, Exxon-Mobil-Esso, the language is harsh: "worst corporation on the planet," "renowned human-rights violator," and "No.5 in Top Ten corporate criminals."

Among the top banks are Shore Bank and Chittenden; among the worst, MBNA, Diners Club and Citibank. Why am I not surprised to find the bank where I do my regular banking and the other that holds my mortgage earning a D and an F, respectively?

This book was published last year; I don't know if the chaos in the industry since then would alter any rankings or if some of these relatively unknown but highly ranked banks are still operating.

It also offers two Top Ten--best and worst--companies, with Seventh Generation topping the good list and Exxon topping the worst.

This is a useful book to have in hand when preparing to shop. It's easy to locate information and compare products or companies, and the author takes the time to explain how rankings were compiled. Not every imaginable product is here, of course, but there are enough to help guide a conscientious consumer into making good choices.


Recommend this product? Yes

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