I always hear that companies are “bad” for the environment, but I never seem to know about it until I’m caught holding the company’s product in my hands. Where can I find information to help me shop with a conscience and avoid future embarrassments?

The humiliating memory of a rally for the removal of paper products from all public restrooms has helped me to understand your query. It’s not the rally itself that embarrassed me; just that when I put down my “If it’s yellow, let it mellow” sign to seductively apply Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm within eyesight of the rally’s attractive activist organizer, my attempt to get him to notice my savvy consumer choice failed. He noticed, all right—and let me know it when he contemptuously scoffed that the once quaint and wholesome beauty-product company had sold out: Burt’s Bees is now owned by Clorox.

I was able to transform this social pitfall into a positive learning experience. After a Google rampage, I learned that many of the seemingly green-status companies are owned by corporations who don’t historically stand for environmental responsibility.

But there are ways to stay aware of such buyouts, to learn which are truly bad and which are benign, and to keep up with other important news to lift your consumer credibility out of the low-flush toilet.

My namesake (OK, I at least pretend it is), www.TreeHugger.com, is an excellent resource for green-consumer news and general tips for greening your wardrobe. Or greening anything else, for that matter. This site has a lot of information about buying fair-trade, sweatshop-free, organic and other environmentally conscious products.

The Leaping Bunny site (www.LeapingBunny.org) offers a Compassionate Shopping Guide that lists companies who don’t test on animals and don’t rely on ingredients that have been tested on animals.

Before you know it, you’ll be kicking up your feet, clad in fluffy organic socks, with a sigh of relief that you’re living the life you always wanted. Your possessions now speak louder than words.