An innovative new Chrome browser extension called Finch helps customers find sustainable products more easily. The extension uses machine learning to sort products on Amazon based upon their sustainability.
This not only gives consumers more control over their shopping experience but takes away any uncertainty about product quality. Products must meet rigorous standards, and the team bases all of its rankings on extensive scientific research and datasets.
How Finch makes us kinder to the environment
Finch founder Lizzie Horvitz explains that the extension ranks the top 41 product categories on Amazon. This includes tens of thousands of different products, such as mattresses, shampoo, toothpaste, and even toilet paper. For each category, the team performs detailed research on the environmental challenges each product faces.
Using paper towels as an example, the team studies industry-specific reports on how paper towel manufacturing causes deforestation and runoff from paper mills. They also utilize research from other groups that study the environmental impacts of various companies. One such group is CDP, a nonprofit that asks companies to divulge climate risks involved in their operations.
Then, they rank 10 or 20 products in the category using information from the reports. Lastly, the team inputs the data into a machine learning tool. The AI takes product details for all other products in the category on Amazon and gives them an automatic rating.
Horvitz says that supply chains often don’t disclose as much information to the public as they should. However, she says that there’s enough data out there to help consumers choose more eco-friendly products. Unfortunately, many consumers get sucked into greenwashing scams because they don’t have the time to do proper research. Well-intentioned customers often fall victim to these companies misleading claims, but this is where Finch comes in.
They consolidate the vast amount of data available on , making things more transparent for consumers.
How Lizzie’s passion for raising awareness about climate change led to Finch
Lizzie got the idea for Finch while working on the sustainability team at Unilever, the multinational consumer goods company. She’s always been a climate activist. But she wanted to do more to help the planet. As friends and family started asking her products, she realized that the public needed access to the right information. People can’t make informed decisions about sustainable products without having done proper research.
However, Lizzie knew that sifting through thousands of academic papers wasn’t feasible for the average person. Not only is the scientific jargon difficult to digest, but it also takes time that most people don’t have.
It’s not just the lack of research that affects consumers, however. Many bloggers and influencers in the sustainable and eco-friendly space promote products that don’t pass the “Finch test.” While these bloggers mean well, they often make claims about without the science to back them up. Along with the mountains of data that most consumers overlook, shopping for eco-friendly products is more confusing.
Sustainability made easier
With this in mind, Lizzie wanted to make shopping for sustainable products much easier for the average consumer. She knew most people want to make better choices but don’t know where to start. So, using her experience with corporate sustainability and passion for research, she launched Finch.
Basically, the mission of Finch is to help people better understand how their everyday decisions can impact climate change. While Lizzie notes onthat any form of consumerism won’t solve the problem, choosing sustainable products can still make a difference.
Given a choice between an eco-friendly product and an antigreen one, it’s always better to pick the former. Finch gives control back to consumers by adding transparency to the shopping experience. They’ll better understand the products they’re buying and how they impact the planet, from manufacturing to delivery.
The basics of how Finch works, and installation instructions
Once you install Finch in your browser, you’ll see a rating whenever you click a product. Lizzie says nothing scores a perfect 10. However, products with a 6.5 and above already have a small carbon footprint.
“If it’s physical and out there, it’s probably having some negative impact on the environment. So what’s important to us is to show where it falls, given the relationship to the other products out there,” she tellsin an interview.
When you’re using the extension, keep in mind that there’s not always a clear-cut answer on a product’s impact. For example, reusable cloths may produce more greenhouse gases than paper towels in some cases. If the consumer washes the cloths in an old washing machine and does small loads, paper towels would have less impact. The founder discusses these types of scenarios on the website’s blog to help consumers make the best choice.
On the website, you’ll also find “wise guides” that give pointers on common products. They include consumer goods like tampons, pillows, mattresses, deodorants, and more. The team also provides extensive details on their rating process if you’d like more information.