Wal-Mart Study of Products' Environmental Impact Getting Help from ASU

Arizona State University assistant professor Jay Golden will assist a major project by Wal-Mart to rate the ecological impact of the products it sells.

Here's how the New York Times describes the three steps of the project: The first will involve Wal-Mart's gathering information from its suppliers about the sustainable practices of their companies.

Step two would involve scholars at the University of Arkansas and the Arizona State University who would create a database and build a system of metrics used to evaluate the life cycle of products. Step three is translating the information in the database into a tool that consumers can use to evaluate the sustainability of products.

Golden is also the director of the National Center of Excellence on SMART Innovations for Urban Climate + Energy, which "focuses on business, technology and policy innovations related to climate change and energy," according to its Web site.

The Times states:

Mr. Golden, who will help study the supplier data and create the index, said a supplier could engineer a laundry detergent that removes all retained water from clothes, so that they come out of the washing machine much dryer than they do today. That could save water, as well as energy by cutting down on time in the dryer.

But because that new detergent could end up being hurtful to human skin, part of what Mr. Golden and others involved in the index intend to do is determine where trade-offs should and should not be made.

Sounds like Wal-Mart will become one-stop shopping for people who want to live as green as possible.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.