Why CR Is Expanding Our Green Choice Sustainability Program

We believe products should last longer, use less water and energy, and be affordable for everyone. Here's what we're doing to get there.

The Consumer Reports Green Choice designation icon above a car, dishwasher and washing machine Photo Illustration: Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports is committed to setting the marketplace on a path to a healthier and more sustainable future.

That means pushing for a consumer landscape where products use less water and energy, last longer, and are designed to be easily repaired during their life spans (and, eventually, efficiently recycled).

“Such products should enable consumers to save money by using less electricity and natural resources, of course,” says Quinta Warren, PhD, CR’s associate director of sustainability policy. “But they should also be available to everyone—in the marketplace we seek, it should not cost more for consumers to do the right thing.” 

More on Product Sustainability

These goals are, in large part, a response to your demands: Americans tell us that they want to be more sustainable shoppers. In a January 2022 nationally representative CR survey of 2,174 U.S. adults (PDF), 90 percent of Americans said individuals are at least somewhat responsible for protecting the planet; 72 percent said they sometimes, often, or always avoid purchasing products that are environmentally harmful; and 1 out of 2 Americans said they consider the environmental impact when buying products for their homes. 

It’s also clear that a more sustainable marketplace would be a more just and equitable one. “Low-income families and communities of color are disproportionately affected by extreme weather events, environmental threats, exposure to air pollutants, and a lack of cost-effective sustainable choices,” Warren says. 

For these reasons, Consumer Reports is evolving and increasing our coverage of, and advocacy around, sustainability.

Save More and Waste Less

One focus—as always—is giving consumers the tools, information, and advice they need to make smart purchasing decisions and get the most out of what they buy and own. Our latest effort is a roundup of household tips and strategies that will help you save money and benefit the environment at the same time, including:

Green Choices Are Better Choices

We also know consumers struggle to evaluate the sustainability claims, often unsubstantiated, of “green” or “eco-friendly” products and services they see in the marketplace. To make that easier, we’re building out our Green Choice designation. We launched Green Choice last year, when we factored sustainability into our car ratings to identify the vehicles that produce fewer greenhouse gasses, as well as other harmful pollutants. We then added the designation to our washing machine ratings, to help our members gauge which machines were easiest on the environment. Today, we introduced CR’s Green Choice designation to our dishwasher ratings—and also broadened our perspective to evaluate the environmental footprint of these appliances over their full life span, including their manufacture and disposal, as well as in-home use. And we plan to add the designation to more product categories soon.

Green Choice is more than just a consumer tool. For starters, it’s also a proof point, demonstrating that high-performing and eco-friendly products do not have to cost more. “Several Green Choice washing machines were also named CR Best Buys in our ratings,” says Shanika Whitehurst, CR associate director for product sustainability, research, and testing, who helped develop the Green Choice criteria. “And the same proved true when we added dishwashers to the program this year.”

We also hope Green Choice pushes companies to do more to create a sustainable marketplace. After all, consumer tools and tactics will hardly make a dent if companies don’t do their part. Consumers know this: Ninety-one percent of you feel that private businesses and corporations have a responsibility for protecting the planet. Green Choice can act as a carrot, encouraging companies to embrace that responsibility. “As companies increasingly see that consumers want more efficient and economical products, the hope is that manufacturers will develop more products that live up to sound environmental certifications like Green Choice,” Whitehurst says.

Calling on Manufacturers and Government to Do More

CR is pushing companies to contribute in other ways as well—by, for example, helping to extend the useful life of their own products, which would simultaneously save consumers money, slow the flow of goods into landfills, and reduce the carbon footprint of new-product manufacturing. 

Our product reliability ratings, based on surveys of roughly 3 million CR members per year, are one way we incentivize companies to this end—another “carrot” approach, if you will.

But we’re willing to employ the stick, too, as with our promotion of federal and state “right to repair’’ laws, which are aimed at manufacturers that force consumers to use “certified” repair technicians, often by restricting access to replacement parts and repair manuals and tools. 

If you can even find one of these hand-picked service operations in your area, their work is often unreasonably expensive, leading many consumers to throw their product in the trash and buy a new one. In fact, more than half of Americans say they’ve replaced at least one smartphone, appliance, or car sooner than they’d hoped because they couldn’t find someone to fix it. And almost 6 out of 10 people don’t think consumers have enough options as far as where to get certain things repaired. 

Based on model legislation developed by Consumer Reports and other allies in the right-to-repair effort, right-to-repair laws would give consumers the freedom to take broken products to the repair shop of their choice, and would also guarantee that independent shops and do-it-yourselfers have access to the manuals and tools they need to perform repairs. 

That’s just one of many ways that CR is calling on policymakers to help address climate change and environmental issues more broadly. We have a long history of advocating for more stringent automobile fuel-efficiency standards, and contributed in a significant way to this year’s successful effort to persuade the Environmental Protection Agency to reestablish standards at the same level as those set in 2012, which were rolled back in 2020. 

And we’ve successfully campaigned for regulations that will give consumers more choices when they seek energy-efficient and money-saving appliances for their homes—and we’ll continue to do so. This week, for example, we’re calling on the Department of Energy to set efficiency standards for a range of appliances and other household devices after it missed 28 legal deadlines to do so between 2017 and 2021. “These missed deadlines and rollbacks result in real financial losses for consumers in the form of unnecessarily high water and utility bills,” says Mary Greene, CR senior policy counsel for sustainability policy. “Importantly, these lost savings disproportionately affect low-income households who spend a significantly larger percentage of their income on utility bills than higher-income households.” 

You can add your voice to the effort by signing our petition.