My dad has a knack for spotting Internet trends and picking up on really cool gadgets (pretty sure he was one of the first people in Canada to get a Kindle), giving me the distinct pleasure of plugging into new Websites or tools before they officially become “mainstream.”

During a recent conversation, my dad shared his latest gem, which stumbled upon while reading a book by Daniel Goleman called, "Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything."  In the book, Goleman suggests that we can re-train ourselves to become more eco-conscious shoppers and, in turn, force companies/manufacturers to become more sustainable. (Read a recent review of the book by Jonathan Birchall of The Financial Times.

The book not only outlines theories and approaches to reducing our negative impact on the environment, but also highlights companies and Web tools that make it easier to do so, including one I just had to share called: GoodGuide. GoodGuide offers reliable, up-to-the-minute information about the health, environmental and social impacts of consumer products.

The Web site is easy to navigate and has everything consumers need to help make healthier, more sustainable shopping decisions. For example, you can browse products by category or company, say you’re looking for a healthy cereal, GoodGuide has detailed ratings on all the cereals on the market, ranked from best in category to “products to avoid.”

Each rating is based on three key peformance areas: Health Performance (nutritional value and certifications), Environmental Performance (energy consumption, water use, waste management, etc) and Social Performance (workplace diversity, working conditions, corpororate giving, etc). The ratings from each area are then averaged to give a GoodGuide rating, out of 10, of the overall impact of the product, with 1 being a product you should never purchase and 10 being a healthy, eco-friendly “must buy.”

GoodGuide is an extremely useful tool for consumers and even provides a live-streaming list of recent product recalls, so you can ensure you steer clear of anything that might be unsafe. The site also offers lists of the best places to buy the products and gives a range of prices, so consumers can not only feel good about what they’re purchasing, but also save some money in the process.

And, for you iPhone users, GoodGuide also has a handy iPhone app (read a review from Unplggd) that can tell you how the product you’re thinking of buying was made, if it contains any harmful chemicals and how it compares to similar products – right from the grocery aisle.

GoodGuide is an example of a responsible company that’s helping consumers shape their environment in a positive way, by showing them the facts and giving them the knowledge they need to make better choices.

Visit the site for yourself at: You just might learn something.

-Contributed by Gretchen Doores. You can follow her @canadiangal84