What are the best sources out there for environmentally friendly consumer products?

What are the best sources out there for environmentally friendly consumer products? I don’t want to have to drive all over creation for green laundry and other cleaning products or to find carpets, bedding and other necessities that won’t bring chemicals into my home.

—Vanessa G., via e-mail

Although green-friendly goods are starting to show up just about everywhere, finding all the right products is still not as simple as a one-stop trip to the mall or major grocer. However, there are several reputable websites, mail order catalogs and storefront retailers that cater to the eco-motivated consumer.

Online shoppers need not steer their web browser any further than Gaiam.com. The company sells, via its website and a printed catalog, a wide range of green items—from phosphate-free detergents and organic cotton bedding to compact fluorescent light bulbs and backyard composting kits. In 2000 Gaiam acquired RealGoods, the nation’s foremost retailer of “solar living” products, including solar water heaters, energy-efficient lighting and household battery chargers. Beyond mail order endeavors, the merged company also gets green goods out into mainstream retail outlets via partnerships with Target, Borders and others.

Another good one-stop shop for green consumer goods is Green Home, which sells thousands of environmentally responsible home products online. From bedding and table wear to paper goods and lunchboxes, Green Home has the green consumer covered. Green Home was founded by Linda Mason Hunter, author of The Healthy Home: an Attic-To-Basement Guide to Toxin-Free Living, because she was having trouble sourcing environmentally friendly home items. Green Home also publishes the online magazine Living, a repository of feature articles on various aspects of living a greener lifestyle.

If you’re more inclined to browsing store aisles than websites, natural foods markets like Whole Foods and Wild Oats (now being acquired by Whole Foods) carry a large number of green lifestyle products on their shelves. These stores aren’t just about organic produce anymore, and now stock everything from green detergents to cookware.

Looking for more durable kinds of goods? The best one-stop source for green building materials is Ecohaus (formerly the Environmental Home Center), which stocks and ships a wide range of building materials, household equipment and supplies, kitchen and bath fixtures, flooring, countertops and cabinets, paints, finishes, wall coverings and home energy systems. The company has three stores in Portland and Bend, Oregon and Seattle, Washington, and also sells online.

For those harder-to-find green goods, check out EcoSeek.net, which bills itself as “the Internet’s first green product search engine.” The site includes links to and in some cases reviews of more than 6,500 different green products from over 300 merchants. While it’s no one-stop shop—users purchase individual items direct from individual merchants—it does make for some interesting browsing. Another good online stop is EcoMall, which lists thousands of socially responsible manufacturers and distributors of just about every type of green product imaginable.

CONTACTS: Gaiam; Green Home; ecohaus; EcoSeek; EcoMall