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Author Sarah Kirton
Sarah Kirton
Created on Nov 22nd, 2022
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Greenchoice 2023: Shop by Dietary Needs & Values

Galen Karlan-Mason, Founder & CEO of GreenChoice, reveals how this grocery startup is putting an end to confusing food labeling and empty claims and promoting transparency and a lower carbon footprint.

When was GreenChoice first launched and what inspired its creation?

GreenChoice launched as a mobile app in late 2019. The concept was pretty simple - scan any food or beverage and know if it matches your dietary needs and values, with personalized dietary warnings and a simple color-coded health and climate rating (called a GreenScore®).

It’s evolved into a climate-positive online marketplace that helps you research and shop for the best products. In addition to searching GreenScore® ratings for over 360,000 products, customers can shop 10,000 natural & organic foods with filters for 90+ different dietary needs and values. 

We launched GreenChoice as grad students, out of personal frustration and desire to make it easier for people with dietary needs to shop their values.

I was a very lucky kid. I grew up in Vermont surrounded by local food and a community who votes with their dollars. My mom made sure we ate healthy, minimally-processed foods. And my dad practiced and preached “climate action” before it was a buzzword.

At the same time, I’ve struggled to shop with multiple food allergies for as long as I can remember. As a grad student in Boston, I’d leave the grocery store after hours of reading labels and Googling claims, frustrated by how hard it was to know which products matched my dietary needs and values.

We wanted to simplify all this and turn hours of research into seconds for someone trying to eat healthier and live more consciously.

How exactly does your platform work?

You create a free profile with your diets, allergies, and values. The entire site is then filtered to match your preferences.

Every product is accompanied by a GreenScore®, making it easy to compare options and know if a product is good for you and the planet. We suggest healthy, climate-friendly swaps while you shop.

You can order normal or bulk, and we deliver to your door within 2-4 days. We then estimate and offset the carbon footprint of your entire order (products, packaging, and shipping) by donating a piece of our revenue to carbon offset projects.

What can you tell us about your shipping policies?

We offer free 2-4 day shipping on orders over $50 anywhere within the contiguous U.S. unless your order is very heavy.

What selection criteria are put in place when bringing partners on board?

We’ve started with an amazing selection of over one thousand popular and new brands that are available on our marketplace. We also have a much larger database of products you can search or scan to guide your choices, whether you’re shopping on GreenChoice or beyond.

Any brand can list their products on GreenChoice, as long as they provide the data that we need in order to evaluate and rate their products.

Who created the GreenScore®?

We did, with the help of our advisors in nutrition and environmental science. We aggregate and analyze research and data from about 140 different public sources using conventional research methods in combination with natural language processing. This is what makes us so unique. 

The public data we use falls into three buckets, vetted by our team of science advisors

  • Intergovernmental organizations and federal agencies

  • Research institutes, NGOs, and non-profit third party certifications

  • Peer reviewed scientific journals

Do you think there has been a definite shift in consumer trends when it comes to going green ‘for real’?

For consumers, the answer is an overwhelming YES. The growth in the natural products industry grew a record 13% in 2020. This is because there is a growing number of consumers looking for healthier, more sustainable options. The youth of today absolutely wants to shop their values, and for many that includes trying to reduce their environmental footprint.

Are brands actually taking this step? That’s a more complicated question. Some brands certainly are. But there is also more greenwashing and healthwashing out there than ever before. This sea of confusing claims and labels makes it hard for even the most informed consumer to shop with confidence.

This is why we started GreenChoice–to meet a real demand for transparency from consumers seeking an easier way to shop their dietary needs and values. Just like I was a few years ago.

What steps have you taken to ensure sustainability and how do you see this going forward?

For us, when we think about sustainability and our role therein, there are again 3 aspects: 

  • Guiding our audience to better options - lower carbon footprint, lower water footprint - products that are less processed and made with real and not artificial ingredients. This is our focus - shifting the mindset of our customers little by little. 

  • People need to eat and so there will always be an inevitable carbon footprint associated with our diet. However, we offset the carbon footprint of all purchases made on our platform. We see carbon neutral shipping popping up more and more, but on average about 80% of the carbon footprint associated with our groceries is linked to the actual production of the products we are buying. We are able to estimate the carbon footprint of an entire order and offset twice that to provide a carbon neutral purchase.

  • Packaging is the next piece. All GreenChoice orders are shipped in recyclable packaging, with air pillows made of 100% recycled plastic. That said, this is an area that we are looking to improve since a lot of the plastic American’s recycle ends up in the ocean or landfill. We’re looking at biodegradable padding and ways to incentivize brands to swap single-use plastic packaging for composable and reusable alternatives. Of course, as we grow so will our industry influence which will allow us to drive more of that change.

What have your customers had to say about GreenChoice?

The early feedback has been awesome. Stuff like “I’m so happy I found you!” and “GreenChoice has changed what I eat and how I shop.” This is why we do what we do. For our community–whether they have dietary restrictions, want to target certain ingredients, avoid harmful additives, or lower their carbon footprint – being able to find and buy the best products for your dietary needs and values in a single place is a pretty cool experience.

How do you see the future of GreenChoice?

People don’t just care about their diet, or their allergy, or what’s healthy, or what’s sustainable–they care about all these things. But their time and attention are more scarce than ever.

We’re building the trusted platform for conscious consumers to research and find the best products for their health and the planet.

When you ask, “is this good for me or my kids?” or “I wonder how this company treats their employees?” or “is this product sustainable?” – it’s our goal to be the place where you go to find the answer in seconds.

We have the opportunity to bring unprecedented transparency to industries fraught with deception and empower tens of millions of conscious consumers to drive industry change, live healthier, and foster a just and sustainable world.

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