Methodology & FAQ
What does the climate impact score mean?
Truelabel's Climate Impact score shows you if a product is contributing to climate change more or less than alternative products out there (based on the greenhouse gas emissions for each product).
For example, a laundry detergent with a rating of 2 means it's in the top 20% of laundry detergents we've analyzed. In other words, it has a smaller climate impact than 80% we've analyzed.
What is Truelabel and why is it different?
Truelabel uses data science to find you more environmentally friendly products while you shop, without having to make price or quality sacrifices. This means you can make an impact on climate change on every purchase you make.
We do this by using the latest climate research and data science to estimate a product's bottom line impact to climate change using cradle-to-cradle analyses and data about products that's not easily available to consumers. While there are endless marketing claims out there (e.g. organic, compostable, made-with-renewable-energy, etc), they're designed to tell you about an attribute of a product rather than the whole picture of a product's impact on the environment. For example, a laundry detergent can be "plant-derived" but be way worse for climate change because it uses palm oil linked to desertification. "Biodegradable" often doesn't mean a whole lot because those products only break down in lab conditions.
Because we research most products in a category and find the net impact to climate change, we can show you the least impactful product choice that people like for a given price.
You can see it in action on
Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent.
How does Truelabel estimate the climate impact of products?
Most companies don't actually know the climate impact of their products because it's really complex and expensive to determine. Doing a lifecycle assessment, the gold standard of identifying a product's environmental impact, takes months per product.
Instead, we use a four step process that allows us to make estimates
Identify the aspects of a product with the most greenhouse gas emissions (GHG): products have ingredients that need to be sourced (i.e. grown, mined), put together (i.e. processed, weaved, smelted), packaged, delivered to you. Then they're used and ultimately disposed of. By using the latest academic research available, we identify where the bulk GHGs come from across this entire lifecycle. For example, for a dishwasher detergent, the type and amount of surfactant and packaging have the largest impact on climate change. For toilet paper, the raw material and pulping process matter most. In this step, we figure out what matters most.
Gather information about those product attributes that contribute most to climate change: based on those aspects we've identified matter most for climate change, we use technology to research the product's attributes. For example, in the case of dishwasher detergent, we research the surfactants and packaging. Where we don't have data, we make assumptions based on averages derived from academic research.
Calculate the GHG for those products based on the attributes that contribute most to climate change: now that we have the details we need, we tie them back to external research to estimate the GHG for each product.
Index each product: once we have each product's estimated climate impact, we rank them and estimate how much GHG you'll save by switching to a better alternative.
What does the it mean to save trees by switching to a different product?
This is the equivalent to how much greenhouse gas you're saving if you switch to a lower impact product over the course of your life.
Why trees? It's hard to know what a carbon footprint means in kilograms (kg) of carbon dioxide (CO2). But we are all familiar with trees, which absorb 23kg of CO2e every year. By switching to a product with lower GHG, you're reducing demand for products that drive these emissions. This reduction in emissions is equivalent to a number of trees living each year.
Avg # of units of product a person uses over their lifetime * greenhouse gas savings by switching to a lower impact product / C02 absorbed per tree per year
Is Truelabel 100% accurate?
Nope! But we're getting closer every day. Climate research is changing rapidly and we incorporate that research in our models regularly. As we learn about a company's supply chain, we incorporate that as well.
Because supply chains are so convoluted and often a mystery to the companies themselves, there's an inherent inaccuracy with any approach to estimating the environmental impact of a product. Our goal is to provide enough information to empower you to make an informed choice between products, not have a 100% accurate number. If you find a mistake or have a question, let us know. Thanks for partnering with us.
What are your underlying sources?
What do we look at?
All research is peer reviewed and well cited, and this list grows as our estimates get more sophisticated.
What are the specific sources?
We have a lot of sources! Feel free to email for specifics, but here are a few ones
Climate-related research: lifecycle assessment databases, lifecycle assessments, company reports covering their operations, product-specific materials on labels, and external research.
Product-related information: product labels, company reports on their operations
Academic institutions: MIT, Cambridge, Georgia Institute of Technology
Academic Journals: Nature, Environmental Sciences Europe
Industry research: Higgs, SCS Global Services, Interviews with experts
Advocacy Groups: EDF, Environmental Paper Network, Carbon Trust, NRDC
What products does this work on?
Truelabel is in the concept testing phase and works with home products on Amazon. We plan on expanding into the shopping sites and products you care most about, and to do that we need your feedback.
As an example, you can see it in action on
Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent.
Please let us know if you want to see a product or website included by clicking on the Truelabel extension or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.