This Earth Day, you may want to turn over a new leaf and opt for “green” products—not just for your kids and family, but for the sake of the environment. But you may have noticed that when it comes to “green" products, quality can vary a lot and that most of them cost extra. Here at Consumer Reports, we’ve noticed the same thing.
But we've also found a handful of green products that perform as well as or better than traditional ones. They’re listed below. (Keep in mind, however, that there's no standard definition for claims like "green," "natural," or "nontoxic" on any product, and that those claims often go unverified, as well.)
Dishwasher detergents: Go green? Yes
Green update The detergents that perform best in our tests (Cascade Complete products get top scores) usually have environmentally unfriendly phosphates, which boost algae growth in fresh water, threatening fish and plants. But greener, phosphate-free options held their own in our latest test. More than three brands scored very well and cost less than a few conventional cleaners.
Smart Picks Biokleen With Natural Oxygen Bleach Powder, 26¢ per load; Method Smarty Dish, 25¢ per load; Ecover Tablets, 24¢ per load.
Laundry detergents: Go green? Maybe
Green update None of the eco-friendly laundry detergents we recently tested earned our top scores, but we found a couple that are worth trying, especially for your less grungy loads. And one of them is about half the price of other brands. (For really dirty laundry, Tide 2X Ultra with Color Clean Bleach Alternative for HE and regular machines is best.)
Smart Picks For conventional top-loaders: Method Squeaky Green 3X Concentrated HE 31¢ per load. For high-efficiency washers: Seventh Generation Natural Powdered HE, 36¢ per load.
Dishwashing liquids: Go green? Yes
Green update In our latest tests of dish detergents with eco-friendly claims, most did a very good job cutting grease and removing food. One by Ecover was excellent overall and costs less than the top-performing conventional dishwashing product.
Smart Pick Ecover Ecological Dishwashing, 6.2¢ per tablespoon.
Shower cleaners: Go green? Maybe
Green update Most "green" shower cleaners haven't wowed us. We found one decent choice by Green Works, but it wasn’t great on mildew removal. So for really slimy jobs, you might want to pick a conventional cleaner like Comet.
Smart Pick Green Works Natural Bathroom Cleaner, $3.50.
Nonrecycled TP and paper towels still get the top overall scores in our tests. But we recently found that a few recycled brands are catching up in price and performance.
Toilet paper: Go green? Maybe
Green update Recycled TP brands we’ve tested haven’t proven as soft or durable as conventional TP. But they broke down easily in our disintegration tests—that’s good news if your home’s plumbing system is sensitive. And some brands can save you money.
Smart Pick If you’d like to give recycled TP a whirl, try Marcal Small Steps, 8¢ per 100 sheets.
Paper towels: Go green? Maybe
Green update In our recent tests most recycled paper-towel brands were trounced by big national brands like Bounty and Viva as well as store brands from CVS and Walgreens. Only one product held its own, and it didn’t cost more than top-rated Bounty.
Smart Pick White Cloud Green Earth, $2.07 per 100 sq. ft.
Sheets and towels
Textiles like sheets and towels with green claims are now easier to find and more affordable. But there are no standards for terms like "natural" or "eco-friendly." Here’s how to find legit green products:
- Look for organic labels USDA-certified organic textiles must be grown without most synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Organic cotton is an especially green choice because regular cotton is one of the most pesticide-intensive crops.
- Check processing methods "Organic" textiles can be processed with chemicals like formaldehyde or synthetic dyes. The "Oeko-Tex Standard 100" certification offers some assurance that formaldehyde and other chemicals are restricted.
- Don’t be misled by claims on "bamboo" products The origins may be natural, but turning those fibers into fabric isn’t. It usually takes strong chemicals to convert bamboo into rayon fabric—a process that’s not environmentally friendly.