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GoodGuide: "The Ph.D. in Your Pocket"

The bread breakdown at GoodGuide.EXPAND
The bread breakdown at GoodGuide.

When it comes to shopping, you want to make the right choices. You want to buy things that don't cause pain for others or excessively rape the environment. You want Michael Pollan's great bald dome to beam down on you from on high, nodding approvingly as you coast from website to website, filling one cart with frozen grass-fed beef patties and another with green dishwashing detergent.

Enter the four-year-old Berkeley-spawned business GoodGuide and its team of sociologists, toxicologists, and environmental life cycle assessment experts. GoodGuide's customizable toolbar provides scores for companies and over 100,000 products on a variety of user-generated criteria -- from social responsibility to animal welfare to nutrition -- to encourage customers to shop responsibly,whether they're looking for organic produce with a shallow carbon footprint or a mail-order cake made in accordance with the strictest of labor laws.

The company considers itself "a Ph.D. in your pocket." That might be stretching it -- even if founder Dara O'Rourke and many of the company's associates do, in fact, posses Ph.Ds. Still, you download the mobile app, you can scan products at grocery stores (assuming you still buy groceries at actual brick-and-mortar establishments) and get an immediate verdict on whether they jive with your previously expressed values. For example, at 8.2, Straus is the highest-rated milk -- in a general rating. Lundberg Wehani Rice rolls hard with an 8.5. And local favorite La Brea Bakery's Wheat Loaf is saddled with an unbecoming 2.9.