EVO's Big-Tent Green Shopping Revolution

evo logo

Last week, EVO, the get-everything-green-in-one-place site launched, and it’s pretty awesome. They have a ‘Green Rating System’ for each one of their products that works like this:

Simply put, how green a product is depends on what it’s made from, how it’s produced, the distance it travels to reach the consumer, and what type of energy is used to power it. EVO has created a simple rating system to help you see the “Green Attributes” of every item listed on the site. Next to each product you’ll see 1 to 5 leaves. The more green leaves a given product has, the greener it is. EVO only features products that have a minimum of one Green Attribute.

I got a chance to do an interview with Dan Siegel, one of the founders of the company, here’s the low-down:

Me: Why a Green Shopping Mall?
Dan: My partner and I put our heads together, thinking, there’s got to be a simple way for busy people to find the Earth-friendly products they are looking for online. We took the conventional wisdom from Shopzilla and Amazon but looked at it for green, and thought, what can we build that will enable green shoppers to find what they need?

Me: And how did you find all the stuff that’s on the site? It says on the homepage over 100,000 products have been rated? Did you appropriate a bunch of elves from Santa’s workshop to go through all that stuff or what?

the first piece of the site we built was a way to leverage technology to scour the web. We got it two ways: data feeds through partners, like Target and Nordstrom, with whom we’ve created relationships. The other piece is we’ve built a crawler that can go onto the pages of smaller green sellers and can pull in product data from these sites. Then we put it through our filter.

We see green attributes and match them with other attributes. We look at everything, from labels like all-natural, to biodgradable, to chemical free, Fair Trade, LEED certified, and more. It’s a massive database of attributes. And then there’s three tiers to determine the greenness. The first is the technology, which I’ve mentioned, the second is people, who work for us and check products, and the third is the community, inviting , everyone out there to look for themselves to give recommendations and experiences of products.

Me: So how’re you going to keep it honest? What’s going to prevent a company from ‘greenwashing’ their info about a product and putting up lots of nice comments about themselves to fool your system? Shockingly (hah, hah) stuff like that has been known to happen online.

Dan: There’s fraud detection built in. So if a product was made in China, which might give it a negative point, but then let’s say a company resubmits their data without that information, they’ll actually get a worse score for not including that data. That’s just one of several ways we’ll keep people from gaming the system.

Me: What’s your end goal with this project?

Dan: Our goal is that anytime anyone shops they would find what the green rating is on that product. The traditional way economists understand consumer behavior is that we all look at three important things: price, quality and convenience. The Internet has taken convenience out of the equation, so what we’re attempting to do is offer an another rating consideration when you buy something. We want to encourage people to buy stuff that has highest green rating. Green should be the new attribute for shopping decisions.

Me: What was it that made you personally want to get involved in starting EVO? Are you an old-school Treehugger or a latter-day, post-Inconvenient Truth Greenie?

Dan: I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship but also interested in leveraging business for social change. There are these massive and aggregated markets, that are growing and mainstream. I had a personal frustration, as an outdoors person with two kids, I was always looking for green stuff online and it was hard to find. I figured someone with less passion and interest might just give up or not even bother looking for it.

Me: So where’s the cash coming from for this site? Is there some big-box store or mega-corp behind all this?

Dan: EVO is personally funded, and there’s no advertising. I’ve put a lot of my own money, and the last three years of my time into building this thing. And it’s all funded through friends and family. That’s why we’re really hoping to get the word out and get people to join the community. For everyone who joins, we’ll plant a tree!

Me: Sounds like a great place to do holiday shopping. I know I have barely started mine. Anything else you want Eco Chick readers to know about?

Dan: I really want people to feel comfortable on the site. And we are looking for information and submissions of new products, so send them over to us! You can email me directly with suggestions and ideas at dan (at) evo (dot) com.

Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.