As we continue profiling some of the exciting commitments people around North America are taking during the EcoChallenge, today we turn to Denver, Colorado where Christy Cerrone, a University of Denver Housing and Residential Education Sustainability Team member has been examining her purchasing habits and making more local and more sustainable purchases– and fewer purchases overall. She is part of a team of 12 from University of Denver who are taking on trash reduction, energy efficiency, alternative transportation, sustainable food options and sustainable purchasing. Here are a few of Christy’s reflections from her EcoChallenge blog:

On Gas Stations:

One of the most unsustainable things I can think of purchasing is gas for my car. Even though I usually only get gas once a month, I knew that I would have to get gas during the challenge (even if I rode the bus to work every day) and yesterday was the last day I could stretch the gas tank. I wanted to find the “least UNsustainable” option, so I did some research using the “Better World Shopper” guide (they score 75 product categories with five criteria: human rights, the environmental, animal protection, community involvement, social justice) .

We don’t have the top three rated gas companies in Colorado, so the best options around here got “C” or “C-” on the guide. These are Costco, 7-11, Sinclair, or Valero/Diamond Shamrock. I did some digging and found that the Western Convenience I sometimes go to near my house is apparently affiliated with Phillips 66 which got an F in the Better World Shopper rating. Other “F” stations: Conoco, Texaco, Exxon/Mobile. So, while no purchase of gas is good for the environment, I guess now we have a bit of information about which are a little better. Now we just need cars that get 100 miles per gallon or run on garbage and banana peels like in “Back to the Future”!

On the Dirty Dozen, Climate Counts and Guide to Greener Electronics:

Here are a few purchasing guides that are super useful. Dirty Dozen and Clean 15-– tells you which produce has the most and least pesticides and herbicides and which are most important to buy organic. Climate Counts rates dozens of companies in dozens of sectors on their commitment to fighting global warming. Greenpeace has created a Guide to Greener Electronics rating companies on their “policies on toxic chemicals, recycling, and climate change.”

And on Greenwashing and Buying Shoes:

As suspected, finding sustainable running/walking shoes is no easy task! Lots of statements on everyone’s webpages about what they’re doing for sustainability, but how do you know what is real and what is just “greenwashing”? (Wikipedia definition of greenwashing: “a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that a company’s policies or products are environmentally friendly.”) For example, Brooks touts their biodegradable midsole, but if you put shoes in a landfill it doesn’t really matter if the middle layer is biodegradable– it is still in a landfill and the rest of the shoe around it will be there for hundreds of years. The examples are everywhere, but here are a few of the better things I found: Patagonia has a pretty comprehensive environmental commitment.  “Simple” shoes have “ethical supply chain guidelines”.  And 25% of New Balance shoes sold in the US are made in five factories in the US. Still lots of work to do, so for now I am sticking with my old shoes for a while longer…

Only two days left in this year’s EcoChallenge! Share a story with us or contribute at www.ecochallenge.org!

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