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Green? Yes. But Just How Sustainable Is Your Product?

Brittni Furrow

PhD Student
School of Sustainability, Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona

BRITTNI FURROW, 22, is one of 55 graduate students and 181 undergrads studying sustainability at ASU. Furrow hopes to create a labeling system that would make it easy to see how sustainable a product is. 

"The School of Sustainability focuses on understanding the world as a massive system: To create large change and reap large benefits, you need to see how all the components interact together. My project is a good example. What does sustainability mean from a consumer perspective? Phrases such as 'environmentally friendly,' 'green,' and 'all-natural' have no meaning; they make it hard to understand what you're purchasing. There are so many ways to measure and define impact. My goal is to develop a set of mechanisms to aggregate multiple factors into one overall value. Eventually, that value could be converted into a product-label system like the nutrition labels on food, showing how environmentally friendly and socially responsible products are."

A version of this article appeared in the April 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.