Being aware of how our choices as consumers affect the natural environment is becoming a part of our 21st century paradigm, and for good reason. It is important to solve problems using green solutions if we wish to do our part to affect positive change to our natural world, and not to continue with our past (and even current) practices of releasing of harmful toxins into the environment because of what we’re buying.
Common toxins found household products we use to keep our homes clean are major culprits to adding to contaminated eco-systems. While we’re all spring cleaning, there are lots of products that have an environmentally friendly label on the front that are designed to get our attention. These products are supposedly made from natural products. But, are there other ways to be sure that what you’re buying really is friendly to the natural environment, while also being pleasant to smell, effective on dirt, grease, grime, and mold, and readily accessible too?
A brief history of commercial green cleaning products
Commercially available green cleaning products have been around for longer than one might think, some dating back to the 1950s. But, the popularity of these cleaning alternative have been slow to catch on, much like other eco-friendly products and solutions. A lot of the impetus to develop these kinds of products have had more to do with how traditional products affected human health. This concern is what curtailed the use of DDT, which was effectively looked upon as a cleaner of sorts – the kind that ‘cleaned’ pests from food crops, but made people very sick while it was at it.
Yet, pretty soon, the leap from human health to environmental health was made at last. This began in earnest in the 1970s, at the time that the Environmental Protection Agency was formed. Products that were plant-based began to find their way onto the shelves over the next two decades as the environmental movement gained momentum. And by the the ’90s, Executive Order 13101 was issued by the U.S Federal government, which mandated that green cleaners should be used exclusively, among other environmentally sensitive mandates, in all federal buildings. Further to this, the health benefits of green cleaners when it came to janitorial staff was beginning to be recognized as both ethical, and productive where commercial building maintenance is concerned.
Ingredients you won’t find in green cleaning products
Despite eco-friendly products entering more and more into the mainstream, shopping for green consumer products isn’t easy. A lot of this has to do with the corporate practice of greenwashing, which is a marketing tactic that labels products as being green in absolute terms without the process of manufacturing it being held in balance to that claim. Sometimes, it’s just plain, old-fashioned deception to fool consumers by playing on their good intentions.
Needless to say, here’s a select list of what you won’t find in a green cleaning product:
- phosphates or derivatives
- EDTA or NTA (used to dissolve scale)
- alkylphenol ethoxylates (NPE, et al.)
- dibutyl phthalate
- heavy metals
- ozone-depleting compounds like CFCs
So, when you’re shopping and reading labels, consider what may or may not be in your green cleaner of choice and what you might be introducing to your local eco-system. Thanks to Options For Life green cleaning products for this list.
Benefits of green cleaning products
When you’re spring cleaning, or even just seeing to your weekly cleaning schedule, one of your goals is to be thorough. But, another goal of course is to try to reclaim your space and your comfort from dirt, dust, and a myriad of other substances you’d just as soon not see in your home. You want to feel comfortable and be healthy. Choosing eco-friendly products, whether you buy them or make them yourself, is absolutely in line with this goal.
Here’s a select list of benefits to consider when thinking about why you should bother with a green cleaning product:
- better air quality for residents means better health
- better for your skin
- plant-derived cleaners are less ‘smelly’
- biodegradable or recyclable packaging means less landfill
- for commercial concerns, green cleaner use adds to LEED score
Green cleaning products you can make yourself
Another huge benefit to green cleaners of course is that they are often derived from natural, and very common elements. This means that when you’re in doubt about whether a commercial cleaner really is green, it’s pretty easy just to mix them yourself rather than trying to spend time worrying about the claims you’re reading on some product label.
Here are some examples of homemade green cleaners ingredients that make your spring clean a less expensive, and frankly, a less stinky, prospect:
- white vinegar (excellent de-scaler, germ-killer, odor eater)
- lemon juice (natural anti-mold properties, de-greaser)
- baking soda (a great abrasive that absorbs and de-smellifies)
- olive oil (for wood polish, mixed with lemon juice)
- citrus rinds (for deoderizing garbage cans)
- rubbing alcohol (kills germs and fungus)
- salt (natural abrasive, anti-bacterial)
- lavendar and tea tree essential oils (naturally anti-microbial)
- WATER (the KING of cleaners)
There are a number of green cleaning recipes out there just waiting to be found!
Green cleaning: the past informs the future – again!
Once again, we see that the idea of progress is actually pretty circular, not linear. Many of what we now consider to be cutting edge green cleaning solutions are actually derived from materials that humanity has always relied upon. Pot ash-derived soap, lemon juice to remove stains, and good old-fashioned water as a base solution for all kinds of green cleaning solutions are being recognized as important answers to the question of a green spring cleaning.
Looking to the past, and basically simplifying how we approach the age-old issue of how to keep a clean house, is the most modernized solution there is.