Green Cleaning is defined as cleaning to protect health without harming the environment. Green products are created using safe, nontoxic, and biodegradable ingredients. Unlike conventional cleaning products, eco-friendly cleaning products not only reduce air and water pollution but fight ozone depletion and climate change. Storage bottles are recyclable.
Sustainability refers to the attitude of protecting the earth. Sustainability focuses on the meeting the needs of the present without sacrificing the needs of future generations. This means choosing to use products that are biodegradable, low toxicity, and low volatile organic compound (VOC) content, reduced packaging, and low life cycle energy use.
Standard cleaning products like ammonia and bleach cause indoor air pollution and damage the tiny airways in the lungs called alveoli. The noxious fumes leave potent residues behind that continue to damage the lungs long after the odor has left. Initially eye irritation, coughing, chest pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps cause suffering when these products are inhaled. Chronic exposure can lead to liver failure, kidney failure, birth defects, emphysema, brain injury, and cancer. In the United States, unintentional ingestion of toxic household chemicals costs $2.3 billion in health care per year.
Common household cleaners contain potent ingredients. Volatile organic compounds, phenolic compounds, and petroleum solvents which are not biodegradable get in the groundwater and lakes to cause eutrophication. Eutrophication is the process by which an entire body of water becomes enriched with nitrogen and phosphorus causing excessive phytoplankton productivity and algae buildup. This is toxic to aquatic organisms and all fish. Chemical cleaners produce over 30,948 tons of hazardous waste per year.
A good tool to help identify green products is the ecolabel. Claims using the words eco safe, environmentally friendly, or green are just advertising. Ecolabels are intended to help consumers reduce harm to the environment by making sustainability obvious. Having recyclable or recycled packaging merits an Ecolabel. Ecolabels are voluntary and form a sustainability measurement directed at consumers. In North America, major appliances and automobiles use Energy Star ratings. Some labels quantify pollution or energy consumption using index scores or units of measurement.
Ecolabels are established by Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). These labels have high trust levels when endorsed by governmental recognition as formal certification marks (CTM, CM, or CertTM) and represent their environmental impact.
Some of the ecolabels certify best business practices. For example, a commercial cleaning company best practices would include using cleaning textile accessories, cloths, and mop heads, that are microfiber to reduce water consumption, using cold water to decrease energy usage, and transportation plans that minimize fuel consumption. The EU Ecolabel gives extra points if at least 50 percent of their vehicles limit exhaust emissions and 10 percent has zero-emission vehicles.
One example is the Safer Choice label. The Safer Choice label is from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is a Design for the Environment (DfE) label on antimicrobial products, such as sanitizers and disinfectants. To have these labels stringent requirements and high standards must be met. Other ecolabel examples include Green Seal™ Standard for Cleaning Products for Industrial and Institutional Use , Ecologo Standard for Hard Surface Cleaners, and Ecologo Standard for Sustainability for Carpet and Upholstery Care Products.
Green stickers are mandated by law. To address potential inefficiencies or waste, detergents are required by law to state the proper dilution, handling, temperature, and usage.
SCS Certified Biodegradable
SCS Biodegradable Certification applies to liquid products such as cleaners, degreasers, detergents, and soaps. The Biodegradable Certification is designed to verify that products degrade safely and efficiently under worst-case circumstances and prevent chemicals from entering the environment at a rate that could reach harmful concentrations before degradation can occur.
U.S. EPA Safer Choice
The U.S. EPA Safer Choice program (previously U.S. EPA Design for the Environment Program) advances EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. The program uses EPA’s chemical knowledge and resources to carefully evaluate products and to label only those that have met the program’s leadership standard.
Green cleaning products are less hazardous for the environment, people, and animals in homes, schools, offices, and factories. Read the label to be sure you are protecting your world.