Ideal Eco-Friendly Cleaner

Ideal Eco-Friendly Cleaner

Ideal Eco-Friendly Cleaner

Ideal Eco-Friendly Cleaner

Trying to achieve perfection is an unattainable goal, and this is true for cleaning goods just as much as it is for other things. Despite this, it’s really enticing to attempt to imagine what a perfect environmentally friendly cleaner might look like. 


According to the experts, this is not the best course of action. The notion of ideal in and of itself is subjective, but when you add phrases like sustainable or eco-friendly to the mix, you’ve already gone so far down the rabbit hole that you can almost taste the organic EAT ME cake coming your way.




However, as individuals prepare to reacquaint themselves with outside germs and bring more of them back into their homes, it seems reasonable to at the very least inquire as to how someone may keep their house clean while retaining an environmental awareness of their surroundings. 


In your opinion, what would the ultimate environmentally friendly cleaning product look like?



It takes a cleaning product several phases to reach the end of its lifespan, and each stage presents a new opportunity for contact with the surrounding environment. Let’s take a look at the best eco-friendly cleaning product supply chain, taking into consideration professional advice along the route.


Transparency is the first stage.



In all healthy relationships, communicating openly and honestly from the beginning decreases the likelihood of heartache later on down the road. Even in the instance of the connection between a cleaning product manufacturer and its customers, this is true to some extent.




The American Cleaning Institute, which has been in existence for 95 years and represents the entire cleaning products supply chain, has identified “increasing transparency” as one of four priorities in the industry’s sustainability efforts, according to Brian Sansoni, Senior Vice President for Communications, Outreach, and Membership at the organization. (It was followed by the statements “cutting emissions, respecting nature, and making a constructive contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”)



To be completely honest, I first thought this objective was a bit devious — after all, what does openness have to do with the environment? — but it turns out that it does have something to do with it.





Clean Product Right to Know Act, supported by the Environmental Working Group, was approved by the California state legislature in 2017. The legislation compels firms to put known harmful chemicals in cleaning goods on the labels of their products as well as on their websites.




 In an interview with Apartment Therapy, Samara Geller, Senior Research and Database Analyst at the Environmental Working Group, says that when companies are required to disclose what is in their products, they tend to reformulate rather than disclose some of the potentially harmful ingredients that may be lurking in the formula.




The upshot of this mandatory openness is formulations that are safer and more environmentally friendly. Fortunately, the consequences of this legislation are felt outside of California, since it would be impractical for (inter)national corporations to develop distinct formulas and labeling for each state they operate in.




As a result, while openness is not required for sustainability — a corporation may be environmentally responsible while keeping it a secret from the public and yet be considered environmentally conscious – transparency supports sustainability. If a firm isn’t concealing anything, it means that they have nothing to conceal as well.





Stage 2: Ingredients that are safe and effective

A sustainable cleaning product’s composition should have the following characteristics:

 (1) effectiveness; and (2) safety for both humans and the environment.

The importance of efficacy cannot be overstated, since if a cleaning solution does not clean, the fact that it is being manufactured and supplied at all is detrimental to the environment. Everything that goes into manufacturing an inefficient product is squandered, and waste is not environmentally friendly in the traditional sense of the word.



When it comes to a deep clean, you can tell how effective a cleaning product is by looking at the label. Only goods that have been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency are legally permitted to make claims about cleaning and disinfecting.

A disinfectant, on the other hand, isn’t always required for day-to-day activities.





 The president of AspenClean, Alicia Sokolowski, tells Apartment Therapy that “bacteria cannot grow on clean surfaces,” and that “cleaning with an effective soap and possibly a scouring powder is sufficient to keep the household clean and healthy, just as proper hand washing is sufficient to keep us germ-free.” AspenClean’s cleaning solutions were the first to be certified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a procedure that verifies a product’s performance as well as its safety for the surrounding environment.



Environmental safety might be a little more difficult to determine. Understanding ingredient declarations on a cleaning product label is not second nature to the ordinary customer, and phrases such as “natural,” “chemical-free,” and “plant-based” aren’t doing us any favors either. In this case, the term “greenwashing” enters the narrative because firms utilize buzzwords to indicate a greater degree of environmental consciousness than they really have.




They’re not inherently terrible words, but they’re meaningless until they’re used in conjunction with other terms. In an interview with Apartment Therapy, Lizzie Horvitz, founder and CEO of product sustainability assessment platform Finch, says that certain chemicals that you don’t understand at first glance may appear to be harmful, but if they’re synthetically manufactured in a safe way and under safe working conditions, they’re probably not that harmful. “You have to go one level deeper than just the name,” she says.



It’s important to examine not just where the component originates from, but also where it’s going to be used. Cleansing products circulate through the ecosystem after usage, whether they are flushed down the toilet or thrown away. This results in a secondary range of environmental hazards that may ultimately be transferred to people.




Often, Geller continues, “items are discovered in the aquatic environment that multiply up the food chain, so it may not necessarily be harmful at that acute level for a human being, but if it finds its way up the food chain, we don’t know what the consequences are going to be for people.” (An example of an element making its way into the food chain is microplastics, which are generally prohibited in cosmetics but still occur in certain cleaning products and have been detected in aquatic populations, as well as in the environment.)

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In the absence of memorizing lengthy lists of approved and dangerous ingredients, the most straightforward way to verify a cleaning product’s environmental safety is to search for science-backed claims and third-party certifications such as the Green Seal, Ecologo, or Safer Choice labels.




 (However, it’s important to note that certifications are similar to transparency in that a product may still be environmentally and socially responsible without one.) Furthermore, they are often expensive to get, which may be too expensive for certain small enterprises.) Alternatively, you might hire someone to perform the task for you: 



The Environmental Working Group’s mobile app gives detailed information on the safety of particular items while on the move, and Finch’s browser extension (which is currently accessible only through a waitlist) provides additional insights throughout a product’s lifespan





Stage 3: Environmentally Friendly Packaging

The use of environmentally friendly packaging is now a significant trend in the cleaning product industry. Those companies who provide refillable bottles with intense cleaning pods are at the forefront of the movement, successfully implementing two of the three R’s by lowering the overall number of bottles produced while encouraging consumers to reuse the packaging. The consequences of this are seen throughout the supply chain, with less energy being used at the manufacturing and transportation phases.




According to Blueland CEO and co-founder Sarah Paiji Yoo, the purpose of refillable cleaning products is to “reduce single-use plastic packaging and contribute to the creation of a more sustainable globe for ourselves and future generations.” It supports its environmentally conscious objective through recyclable shipping materials and biodegradable refill tablet wrappers, among other things.

Singular-use plastic is, without a doubt, detrimental to the environment.





 Multi-use plastic, on the other hand, is much less harmful to the environment. If properly constructed, it may be a one-time emission tax that is valid for a lifetime of usage and provides advantages that recycling cannot provide. 




Horvitz explains that with recycling, “you first have to presume that these end customers are doing the right thing by placing their items in the recycling bin, which is a fairly large assumption to make.” “However, even if that occurs, there are at least seven procedures that must be completed in order to ensure that the product has a second life. And you just do not have any influence over this situation.”





Companies who are members of the ACI are working hard to get control over post-consumer packaging. As Sansoni explains, “our industry’s vision is for all cleaning product packaging to be circular by 2040.” 



The company aspires to build methods of recovery and recycling that would eradicate cleaning product packaging waste by 2040. Using a 360-degree approach, circular packaging ensures that packaging can be reused in perpetuity. This includes everything from exclusively using non-virgin or compostable packaging materials to taking responsibility in the post-consumer phase, such as by implementing bottle return programs or collecting ocean-bound plastic.





While some big corporations are introducing refillable concentrates, circular packaging may be the most secure option when it comes to widely disseminated disinfectants. (Remember that there are legal ramifications to claims of disinfection and sanitization on packaging.)



 Despite the fact that companies put critical safety instructions on their packaging — for example, what to do in the case of ingestion or contact with the eyes – if a customer refills their bottle with a different product, there might be serious repercussions.




Investing in circular packaging rather than solely focusing on refillable concentrates has the additional benefit of impacting multiple industries at the same time. Because many ACI member companies produce more than just cleaning products, the implementation of circular packaging could have a broad impact across multiple industries.




For the time being, refillable packaging is the only option, although there are some interesting improvements in the pipeline from firms who are investing in circular packaging practices.






Stage 4: Reduction of Emissions


Greenhouse gas emissions are overwhelming our planet and are substantially to blame for the climatic catastrophe that we are now experiencing. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, industry accounted for 23 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2019, while transportation accounted for 29 percent of total emissions. The commercial and residential sector, which includes all of our daily household emissions, accounted for 13 percent of total emissions, as a point of comparison. 




It is possible that the manner in which businesses make and transport items will have a significant influence on our total greenhouse gas emissions.

These figures include more than just the manufacturing and transportation of goods by the cleaning product industry, but the cleaning product industry does make a significant contribution to those totals. As a result, when considering the impact of a cleaning product, or the impact of any product, it is important to consider the energy that went into the product’s creation and transportation.





In the case of major cleaning product firms, the road to emission reduction is a long and winding one. According to the American Chemistry Organization’s 2019 Sustainability Report, product formulators have cut greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent since 2008 (the year the institute began collecting these figures), while increasing the use of renewable energy by 19 percent since 2008.






As Sansoni points out, “a significant issue [for member firms] is collaborating with their partners across the supply chain to minimize upstream emissions.” Company A may create an all-purpose spray and bottle it in containers manufactured by Company B, and then Company C might take over the transportation of the product from the factory to the warehouse and finally to the retailers.




 Obtaining an accurate picture of a product’s overall emissions requires all relevant organizations to collaborate in order to set targets and commit to lowering effect at all stages of the product’s lifecycle.




 Researchers from the Smeal College of Business’s Verónica H. Villena and Dennis A. Gioia conducted research that was published in the Harvard Business Review that found that taking a comprehensive top-down approach to reducing emissions is critical to developing a more environmentally sustainable supply chain across all industries.





Sansoni goes on to say that the cleaning sector as a whole is trying to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. For the time being, 15 member firms are experimenting with this approach. Some smaller cleaning product companies such as Blueland, which has already achieved Climate Neutral Certification by working with their manufacturers and transporters to reduce consumption, track waste, and offset any remaining emissions, are already in the process of becoming Climate Neutral Certified.





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Stage 5: Marketing and the Spectrum of Environmental Sustainability

Terms like “green,” “natural,” and even “sustainable” have grown more ambiguous as eco-friendly products and practices have made their way from the margins of society into the mainstream. Environmental issues are becoming more popular, which is a good thing — but the vagueness in the phrase may be confusing and deceptive.






Azora Zoe Paknad advocates visualizing sustainability as a spectrum in order to better understand the effect of a product. On her ecommerce site Goldune, a firm that curates and sells sustainable daily items, she uses this process to help customers make better decisions.




As Paknad explains to Apartment Therapy, “[the sustainability spectrum] provides you a better idea of how much opportunity there is for this product, this supply chain, or this category to expand, and why we chose it as maybe the greatest choice we could find rather than ‘This is good/this is terrible,'” he says. In addition, “I believe that gives us a little more wiggle space to speak about topics like environmental racism.”




 The fact that companies are taking responsibility for their own pollution is commendable — and the fact that they are doing so while also cleaning up other companies’ residual environmental messes (both physical and systemic) in disproportionately impacted low-income communities is even more commendable.




Ultimately, the objective is to reject fear- and shame-based marketing strategies and to support a shopping experience that is uplifting, accessible, and ecologically friendly.

With various environmental goals throughout the cleaning product business, putting particular goods on a sustainability spectrum may be beneficial in determining their sustainability.





 Last but not least, there is no such thing as an absolutely perfect eco-cleaning solution and there will never be one since the way we view our role in nature is continuously growing, and our ideals will change along with it.





Nonetheless, so long as you’re thoughtfully contemplating the cleaning products you use — or in fact, any product you use — and emphasizing sustainability in the ways that are most convenient for your lifestyle, you’ll be making strides toward a more environmentally friendly house. Whatever it seems to be on the interior of your house, that is what is best.

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