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Social shopping for the socially conscious

Five Limes connects green shoppers to ecofriendly goods.

Five Limes ratings
Alonovo ratings

In the market for a laptop bag made of recycled soda bottles or a solar-powered iPod charger? You could spend hours searching online for boutiques that stock those green goods. Or you could go straight to Five Limes, a social-shopping site linking to stores that hawk ecofriendly products, such as Green Home for nontoxic bedding, BTC Elements for organic blue jeans, and Green Office for recycled-paper Post-Its. Five Limes is "something like an Angie's List for green products," as Sustainablog puts it. Five Limes saves a history of your activities to tailor search results accordingly and to help you hook up with other users.

Shoppers get to rate the quality and sustainability (see graphic above left) of stuff for sale with up to five limes--or you can toss a lemon at junk. The ratings at the Alonovo marketplace are far more thorough and customizable (right). But unlike Alonovo, which offers a broad swath of products, both green (Fair Trade coffee) and ungreen (leaf blowers), Five Limes focuses exclusively on the burgeoning market serving consumers who care about Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (aka LOHAS). Once you locate the perfect bamboo-fabric sweater, Five Limes takes you to the merchant to pay. Vendors can feed their products for free to the site, which takes a cut of referred purchases.

Five Limes is still a work in progress; for example, a search for LED only retrieved one $28.99 lightbulb that's supposed to last a decade. Some of the sites Five Limes links to offer products still in development or that you can't buy yet in the United States, such as USB-rechargeable batteries. Still, the Web 2.0, social-networking aspect is ideal for niche communities, in this case for ecofriendly shoppers looking to make transactions, forge relationships, and pool their resources to attract broader attention.