Yesterday our team took a trip to the local Wal-Mart, and we were on a mission: to hunt down products that we feel have opportunities for improvement in various areas of sustainability. Hallie, our fearless mission leader, provided us with a helpful list of questions to answer in our search for said products. One of our tasks was to find a product that had extraneous packaging (makeup is a great example). Upon finding this product, we were to brainstorm how this product might creatively reduce their packaging.

Not only were we to find products that could use some improvement, but also products that are good examples of socially responsible companies. For instance, Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” is a perfect example of a socially responsible practice. Dove ads feature real women of all different types to show that everyone is beautiful, not just the models you see in magazines. They also help promote self-esteem in young girls and faciliate programs as such.

Further, they’ve partnered with Wal-Mart to run a TV commercial entitled “Let Your Beauty Sing”, featuring real women singing a modified version of the song, “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” in different settings of their every day lives.

I’ll admit, our team was a little overwhelmed by the thought of being let loose in Wal-Mart, with over 10,000 products on the shelves. But surprisingly, we were able to zero in on certain types of products right away that we knew to be less than sustainable.

The Sustainable Product Index that Wal-Mart is developing will eventually be like a nutrition label for sustainability, where suppliers are required to disclose information about their products on the products themselves. Right now Wal-Mart has asked their suppliers to fill out a questionnaire regarding four areas: Energy & Climate (reducing energy costs and GHGs), Material Efficiency (reducing waste/enhancing quality), Nature & Resources (responsibly sourced raw materials) and People & Community (productive/vibrant workplaces and communities).

The goal is to give consumers enough information to make informed purchasing decisions, truly putting sustainability in the hands of the consumers. What are your thoughts on the Index? Do you ever think about these areas when shopping at Wal-Mart? Do you usually go for convenience over everything else?