A new clever Chrome extension uses machine learning to assist you when shopping on Amazon. It assesses the products by their eco-friendly aspects. This helps customers make more sustainable choices without putting an enormous amount of time into research.
The browser extension is called Finch and its assessment can be used on Amazon’s top 41 product categories. The program ranks and evaluates thousands of different products. Finch founder Lizzie Horvitz is a climate activist who started fielding sustainability questions from friends while working on the sustainability team at Unilever, the consumer goods giant.
“I realized that content online was very difficult to sift through. On the one hand, you have these wonky academic papers which weren’t really meant for normal people to be reading. And then on the other side, you have these very well-intentioned bloggers who often are talking not in terms of data or facts—they’re saying things like, this is ‘eco-friendly,’ or ‘all natural,’ and that’s not really based in any type of science.” She says to Fast Company:
For each category of products on Amazon, the team behind Finch do elaborate research about the challenges that type of product faces. They then rate 10 or 20 products from that category with points varying from 1 to 10. Finally they feed the information into a machine learning tool that thoroughly learns product details from Amazon for all the other products in that category and then rates them.
“Supply chains are incredibly tricky. They’re not as transparent as they need to be. Part of what’s helping is we’re not reinventing the wheel here: We’re using a lot of datasets that are already existing . . . which are right now mostly geared towards companies and brands, and not to the end consumer. We’re really just aggregating all the information that’s already out there and putting it in one centralized place,” Horvitz says.
Horovitz explains that nothing scores a perfect 10 but anything with a score above 6.5 has the smallest environmental impact in its category.
“If it’s physical and out there, it’s probably having some sort of negative impact on the environment. So what’s important to us is to show where it falls, given the relationship to the other products out there,” she says
Finches goal is to rank all the categories on Amazon and then move on to other large ecommerce websites - and eventually “any ecommerce site out there”.
Presently, there’s a waiting list to get the browser extension which isn’t featured on any digital extension marketplaces. If you’d like to join the waitlist you can do it on their website.
Picture: Finch via Fast Company