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Daily Choices Help Counter Climate Change by Christine MacDonald


Shop with the Planet in Mind


Until recently, we’ve been asked to choose between the economy and the environment. Now we’re realizing that the two are closely linked, and that our continued prosperity depends on how well we take care of the natural systems that sustain life—clean air, water, food and an overall healthy environment.


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lthough the worst impacts of climate change are still decades away, experts say it’s already a costly problem. In 2012, U.S. taxpayers spent nearly $100 billion—approxi- mately $1,100 apiece—to cover crop losses, flooding, wildfires and other climate-related disasters, according to the Natural Resources Defense Coun- cil. That’s more than America spent last year on education or transportation. Given the lack of action on climate change by Congress, more Americans are looking to leverage their purchasing power to make a differ- ence. Yet, as consumers trying to “shop their values” know, it’s often difficult distinguish the “green” from the “gre- enwashed”. Natural Awakenings has rounded up some tips that can help.


Dismiss Meaning- less Labels Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., who leads the Consumer Safety and Sustainability Group for Consumer Reports and its Greener Choices and Eco-labels online initia- tives, says companies take far too many liber- ties in product labeling. The dearth of standards


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and consistency across the market- place has rendered terms like “fresh,” and “free range” meaningless. Also, there’s more wrong than right about the “natural” label put on everything from soymilk to frozen dinners, she says. While critics of the U.S. Depart- ment of Agriculture’s USDA Organic label say its regulations are not tough enough, Rangan says at least we know what we’re getting. The same is not true of many claims decorating con- sumer goods, Rangan advises. Plus, producers get away without identifying myriad other controversial practices, she says, including genetically engi- neered ingredients. To help consumers protect them- selves, the Consumer Union and other nonprofit public advo- cates have made their evalu- ations easily accessible via cell phones and iPads. The Web-based Good Guide’s evaluations of more than 145,000 food, toys, per- sonal care and household products are at shoppers’ fingertips via an app that scans product barcodes on the spot.


Calculate Impacts A number of easy-to- use online tools help us


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