Chinook Book Standards and Criteria

Last updated: January 2015

What makes a good business? As a company that focuses on connecting good people with good businesses, this is something we ask ourselves every day. Defining what we mean by a “good” business in the first place is challenging, and then measuring their “goodness” can be equally challenging. So working in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Commission of the City of Portland and Multnomah County, we developed a criteria framework and a product-by-product matrix to help us and to be transparent to our readers.

We start with the premise that good businesses do business in a connected way. They treat their employees and suppliers well, they minimize their environmental impact, and they support the community that supports them. We look for ways to measure these qualities, and then we add in a dose of humility and good judgment.

How we evaluate businesses for inclusion in Chinook Book

1. Independent third-party certification.

First we look for independent third-party certification of the business or product, including:

Logos for criteria

We also recognize certification from Bay Area Green Business Program, Biodynamic (Demeter), Bird-Friendly: Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (shade-grown coffee), Certified Humane, Cradle-to-Cradle, EcoBiz, Envirostars, EPEAT, Food Alliance, Food Justice Certified, Leaping Bunny: Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, LEED, LIVE, Marine Stewardship Council, Non-GMO Project, Rainforest Alliance, and Worker-Owned.

This option covers approximately 35% of the products and services we cover.

2. Self-certification

We also consider self-certification on specific claims a business is making about aspects of its operations, including percentage of recycled materials used, low- or no-VOC content in paints, rBst/rBGH-free dairy products, hormone-free animal products, antibiotic-free animal products, grass-fed animals, cage-free chickens, non-toxic practices, cooperative or small farm sustainable coffee, and co-op businesses.

This option covers approximately 1% of the products and services we cover.

3. Chinook Book Surveys

For Dining Establishments and Hotels, we require them to complete our own survey regarding their sourcing of produce, dairy, meat and seafood products.

This option covers approximately 10% of the products and services we cover.

4. Significant Substitution Advantage

For products and services that don’t fall into specific certification categories, we look at substitution advantage. This is where using one type of product or service is better than another in terms of their impact. We apply this option to the following categories:

  • Transportation: bikes, skateboards, carsharing services, biofuels, hybrid and electric vehicles, bus and transit
  • Gardening: native plants, low-water plants, compost, water-saving devices
  • Used: anything used or salvaged, including clothing, building materials, books and music
  • Energy: energy-conserving devices or materials, including insulation and weatherization supplies, ceiling fans, compact fluorescent light-bulbs, clotheslines; clean energy products, including solar panels.
  • Water: water-conserving devices
  • Experiences: local experiences, including theater, museums, gardens
  • Fitness and outdoor recreation: products and services that promote non-motorized outdoor recreation and fitness, including camping, biking, hiking, paddling, running, climbing, dance, yoga and Pilates.
  • Education: books and classes that provide education on a wide variety of practices that promote less-impactful living, including classes on organic gardening, cooking with local foods
  • Crafts: certain crafts and hobbies, including knitting and music
  • Locally manufactured goods: Jewelry, clothing, art, note cards/books/paper products, toys, fashion and gift-related items.
  • Climate change advocates: In order to highlight and support business leaders who are trying to make change on the legal level, we now support select businesses who are advocates in the fight against climate change. Actions of advocacy could include signing the Oregon Business Climate Declaration, joining the BICEP Coalition, among many others.

This option covers approximately 54% of the products and services we cover.

Applying the Criteria

Below is a complete list of product, service and business categories and which criteria option covers the category.

Grocery & Dining

Product Criteria Criteria Comments
Packaged Food 1 Organic, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance
Grocery Stores 1 & 4 Substantial presence of certified organic products required (even though coupons not always limited to those items)
Fresh Produce 1 & 4 Must be organic, Rainforest Alliance certified, or locally grown (the latter for CSA delivery services, not produce at a grocery store)
Seafood 1 Marine Stewardship Council certified, or "yellow" or "green" on Seafood Watch
Meats, Dairy, Eggs 1 & 2 Organic, or rBst/rBGH-free sources
Pet Food 1 Organic
Restaurants 3 Must complete our restaurant survey
Restaurants (vegetarian) 4 Must complete our restaurant survey
Beer & Wine 1 & 4 Organic, Salmon Safe, LIVE, or biodynamic certified
Coffee Shops 1 Certified organic or Fair Trade coffee or tea
Catering 3 Must complete our restaurant survey

Entertainment & Family

Note on entertainment and cultural events: Cultural events and institutions support a vibrant community, and the arts in general challenge and encourage us to think, question and take actions that make the world a better place. Plus, giving tickets to attend local cultural events – gifts of experience, rather than more stuff – supports waste reduction. While the overall environmental benefits of these organizations may be difficult to measure, we feel they are significant contributors to quality of life, a vibrant local economy and a healthy environment.

Product Criteria Criteria Comments
Museums and Cultural Attractions 4
Theater, Dance, Music, Cultural Performance 4
Sporting Events & Indoor Sporting Activities 4
Movies, Cinema 4
Zoos, Aquariums 4 Must have a significant conservation and education mission.
Musical Instruments 4
Music/Video for Purchase 4 Used CDs, DVDs, LPs and cassettes only
Books, Magazines, Posters, Educational Materials 4 Used; Promote healthy, environmental, sustainable living


Wellness, Fashion & Gifts

Product Criteria Criteria Comments
Yoga, Pilates, Reiki, Massage 4 Promote health and well-being.
Athletic Clubs 4 Promote health and well-being.
Apparel 1, 2 & 4 Certified organic fiber; recycled or recyclable synthetic fibers; vintage or resale items; some specific natural fibers (bamboo, soy, Tencel, limestone)
Knitting 1 & 2 Same as apparel
Crafts/DIY (ceramics, jewelry, etc.) 1, 2 & 4
Gifts, Accessories 1 & 4 Made from certified or recycled materials, or made from locally found materials, or maker/organization is a member of the Fair Trade Federation.
Spa Services, Salons & Personal Care Products 1 Certified organic ingredients in the products used. (Note: We follow Whole Foods Market's "Whole Body Quality Standards" available here.)
Dietary Supplements 1 Certified organic ingredients
Health-Related Classes or Insurance 4 Must have a significant prevention, health and/or well-being focus
Cloth Diaper Service 4  
Pet Products 2 & 4 Bedding, toys, etc made from recycled and/or organic materials
Photographic Services 4 Digital only
Financial Services 4 Community banks and credit unions meet the criteria. Specific products offered by other financial institutions, including socially responsible investments and energy-efficient mortgages, also qualify.
Computers 1 Certified EPEAT Gold or higher



Product Criteria Criteria Comments
Paints, Finishes 1 & 2 Green Seal certified or low-VOC and non-toxic
Cleaning Services, Supplies 1 & 2 Green Seal certified or non-toxic
Paper Products 2 Process chlorine-free
Building Supplies 1, 2 & 4 Surplus, or FSC-certified wood, or recycled content
Furniture 1 & 2 Organic fabrics, or FSC wood, or recycled content
Hardware Stores 1 & 4 Substantial presence of individual items meeting the criteria
Linens 1 Same as apparel
Appliances 1 Energy Star certified
Repair Services 4 Upholstery services, furniture repair
Fixtures, Lighting 4 Energy Star fixtures/light bulbs or used
Home Heating 4 Biodiesel
*Realtors 4 Green real estate services
Energy Saving Materials 4 Insulation, weather- stripping, etc.

*Note on realtors: we are in a trial phase with including realtors in the Chinook Book Criteria. We are still defining our Criteria for realtors and welcome suggestions. 


Travel & Recreation

Product Criteria Criteria Comments
Fuel 1 & 4 E85 ethanol or biodiesel
Bikes, Supplies 4 Anything bike-related
Train 4  
Outdoor Gear, Apparel 4 All gear for camping, paddling, snow Apparel sports, etc. for non-motorized recreation  
Angling 4 Lead-free sinkers
Outdoor Recreation
4 Rentals, classes or trips for non-motorized recreation
Snow Skiing 1 Ski Area Citizens grade of B or better
Parks 4
Rock Climbing 4 Indoor rock climbing walls/gym
Auto Repair, Oil Changes 1 & 4 EcoLogical Business Program, Bay Area Green Business Program or Envirostars certified
Lodging 3 Must complete our lodging survey on practices
Cars 1 All vehicles having a class ranking of "Superior" or a "Best in Class" ranking in the subcompact (manual or automatic), compact (manual or automatic), midsize (automatic only), small wagon, midsize wagon, or compact SUV category (automatic only) of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)'s Green Book.
Car Washes 4 Must use recycled water


Yard & Garden

Product Criteria Criteria Comments
Plants 1 Native, organic or drought resistant plants
Flowers (cut) 1 Organic or Rainforest Alliance
Fertilizers 1 & 4 Compost, organic or yard debris services
Landscaping, Tree Care 1 & 4 EcoLogical business certified or significant commitment to using native plants, or organic lawn care
Seeds 1 & 4 Certified organic or heirloom
Pesticides 1 & 4 Certified organic or bio-control
Pest control services 4 Company must only use products rated with the "caution" label by EPA. Products containing the "warning" or "danger" label are not permitted.
Lawn Mowers 4 Reel or electric and sharpening services
Tools 4 Hand tools for use instead of gas-powered
Compost Bins 4
Bird Feeders 4
Outdoor Funiture 1 & 4 FSC-certified or bamboo
Gardening Classes 4 For organic gardening, naturescaping

Chinook Book Criteria Application: A few additional notes

Coupons: To enable the easy and efficient use of the coupon mechanism we have allowed certain retailers to offer storewide coupons as long as they have a significant presence of products in their stores that meet the Chinook Book criteria, even if not all of their products do. The two main merchant categories where this occurs are grocery stores and hardware stores. In these cases, we require merchants to include on their coupons at least a partial list of specific products meeting the criteria.

Big Box Stores: While the Chinook Book Criteria applies primarily to products and services, we cannot deny the environmental and social impact so-called big box retailers have on communities. These impacts include negative effects on land use and transportation. We recognize that quantifying these impacts is very difficult. In addition, we recognize that certain major big box retailers sell hundreds of products that, individually, meet the Chinook Book Criteria. For the present time we are evaluating "Big Box" stores on a case-by-case basis. We do currently exclude the majority of big box retailers.

Contact Us

We believe the Chinook Book Criteria is the most comprehensive, credible and practical criteria used by any publication in the U.S. We also know it is not perfect and welcome comments and suggestions for improvement. Please email if you'd like to share your comments. We update the criteria annually.