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How to Buy Smarter

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Consumer advocate and author Debra Lynn Dadd recommends looking at the following indicators of a product's health and environmental integrity:

1. Ingredients: Look for terms such as "organically grown," "certified organic," "no synthetic preservatives," "no artificial colors or fragrances." Use of the word "natural" is not regulated and can be misleading. If the ingredients list contains long, unpronounceable words and/or numbers (for example, "paradichlorobenzene", or "sodium C14-16 & olefin sulfonate"), it's a tip-off they're probably chemically-derived.

2. Packaging: Great products can still come in unhealthful packages — and vice versa. Glass bottles and jars, paper and cellophane (which is made from plant cellulose) are all biodegradable, recyclable, and often reusable. Look for "made from recycled materials" (or the three-circular-arrows symbol that indicates "recycled") on packages; when you purchase canned goods, look for containers marked "lead-free." Try to avoid plastic or polystyrene. The more minimal the packaging, the better. Every day in the U.S., we send 60,000 garbage trucks to landfills. TIP: Buy more foods in bulk.

3. Energy use: Buying locally grown food in season, or locally-produced household items, reduces the energy involved in shipping the items across the country, and should be reflected in a cost-savings to you. According to Earth Save, to produce one pound of hamburger takes 12 pounds of grain, 55 square feet of rainforest and 2500 gallons of water. TIP: Eat lower on the food chain.

4. Compassionate production: Look for items that specify, "not tested on animals," "cruelty-free," or "no animal ingredients."

5. Social responsibility: Does the company support humanitarian values, contribute to a sustainable economy, disclose product information, and treat their labor resources well?

Have you read the other articles in this series?

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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