How can I find out how environmentally responsible a company is?
—Michael Waldron, Ithaca, NY
Ever wonder how “green” that new shirt really is? Or what kind of organizations are receiving money from your long distance phone company? Do you know if your favorite beverage company is using recycled plastic?
A little detective work can turn you into an informed consumer. Check your local library for the Directory of Corporate Affiliations (to find out who owns whom) and the Corporate Giving Directory (to find out where a company’s donations go). Organizations that provide information on the environmental and social impacts of corporate activity include Corporate Watch (www.corpwatch.org) and the Right to Know Network (www.ombwatch.org/rtknet). Uncle Sam can help, too: Both the Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (www.sec.gov/edgarhp.htm) provide access to corporate track records.
After you know who the bad guys are, you can transfer your business to the good guys by buying products approved by Green Seal, the Washington-based certifier of environmental goods, or by patronizing eco-conscious mail-order companies. For an extensive directory of green businesses, check out Coop America’s Green Pages (available online at www.coopamerica.org/gp).
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