The carbon footprint of toothpaste

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Every wondered about the environmental impact of your printer? Or your favorite brand of shampoo? Consumers may eventually be able to easily access this information thanks to a new initiative from Wal-Mart.

The news that Wal-Mart plans to develop a worldwide sustainable product index is latest effort by the retailer to be defined as a retail leader in sustainability. The news follows several years of wide-ranging environmentally friendly initiatives that have included testing “green” stores and working with manufacturers on reducing packaging.

Wal-Mart’s latest move may be its most ambitious yet. The merchant wants to establish a single source of data for evaluating the sustainability of products. To accomplish this, it will survey more than 100,000 suppliers around the world, including questions about their use of natural resources and other sustainability-related questions.

The company has also provided the initial funding for a Sustainability Index Consortium, which it hopes will be a consortium of universities that will collaborate with suppliers, retailers and governments to develop a global database of information on the lifecycle of products. Wal-Mart will also partner with a technology company to create an open platform to power the index.

Finally, the product information will be translated into a simple rating for consumers about the sustainability of products.

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