>I was kicking around this idea to share “Green Tips” on a weekly basis, if for no other reason to remind myself of what I can do and to help me get in the swing of things on this new endeavor.
I posted in a comment below, but will say it here, for those who might not read comments. For a long time, I thought that recycling and “going green” would be a pain in the neck, so I just didn’t do it. Add to that, that Hollywood (and one former Vice President) is now the Global Warming Prevention Committee, and I was really turned off by it. I don’t do things just because celebrities say it’s a good idea.
While I don’t jump on the Oprah Winfrey bandwagon every time she talks about a topic, book or cause, I do have to say that her Earth Day 2007 show really opened my eyes. I had no idea that it takes 100 years for a glass jar to break down. As a mother, I’ve bought more and more items in glass jars: applesauce, grape jelly, etc. Having a 4 year old who regularly consumes those items, we use more glass containers now than ever before.
I found a really insightful article I’d like to share. I’m not sure how long I’ll have “green tips” but maybe this info might convince others out there to try their hand at going green.
*Note: Emphasis in the article below is mine.
This page can be found on the web at:
Green Guide gginnews The Green Guide in the news
Earth-Friendly Cleaning Products
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis)
Friday, November 2, 2007
By Stacey Wiedower Special to The Commercial Appeal
OK, I’ll admit it. I’ve succumbed to the latest trend.
I’m an all-out follower—believer, even. Whatever you want to call it, just know that if it’s chic to be green, I’m totally chic.
I didn’t follow Leonardo, Cameron, Brad or even Al down the path toward an eco-friendlier lifestyle. My green obsession sprang from a more practical reason: I became a mom.
Once my little guy was mobile, the dangers lurking around every corner of my house were glaringly apparent, none more so than the toxic chemicals (known as cleaning products) hiding out behind my cabinet doors.
I realized that for me, simply stashing them on higher shelves out of my baby’s reach wasn’t enough. After all, if they’re harmful for him, they’re probably not good for the rest of us, right?
A little research verified my suspicions that many of the household cleaners I’d believed my entire life to be harmless—the same ones advertisements show being used by smiling, happy families in sparkling clean homes—are decidedly not.
Along with posing various threats to the environment, a lot of the cleaning agents we
commonly use pose serious health risks—and not just when they accidentally fall into the hands of toddlers who don’t know they’re not safe to drink.
“Chemicals in cleaning products can cause asthma, respiratory illness, skin irritations, even some types of cancer,” said Emily Main, senior editor of “The Green Guide,” a resource published by the National Geographic Society for consumers of green products . “The most compelling reason most of our readers switch to green products is because of their health.”
And when Memphis-based home cleaning service 2 Chicks and a Broom opened for business in 2002, owner Candace Mills’ research into green living led her to a bold business decision—to go green before green was cool.
“People who clean houses for a living tend to have higher rates of cancer and bronchial problems, and it’s been linked back to the chemicals in the products they use,” said Tiffany Watts, who helps Mills run the growing company that uses only all-natural, nontoxic products in clients’ homes.
In the beginning, Watts and Mills faced a lot of doubt from prospective clients who questioned whether green products could get their homes as clean as traditional cleaning products. But now, more clients are coming to the company because of its dedication to natural products.
“It’s amazing what you can do with all-natural products,” Watts said. “You really don’t need the chemicals.” She cited tea tree oil and lavender oil for their germ-killing properties.
Armed with this information, I began my personal quest to baby-proof my home. I examined labels of products ranging from glass cleaner to furniture polish to dishwasher detergent to find out what they contained. And what I found was pretty much nothing, at least in the way of listings of ingredients.
I found plenty of warnings plastered on these cheerfully painted containers, but very little information about what specifically caused them to warrant the skulls and crossbones buried in the fine print. I learned there isn’t a federal law that requires manufacturers to disclose the exact ingredients of cleaning products.
That scared me a little.
And it sent me on a hunt for the safer products I knew were out there. Luckily, the fact that “going green” is hot, means manufacturers and retailers are starting to sit up and take notice. And that means consumers increasingly have more choices when it comes to green products.
“I think some aspects of the green movement are going to become more mainstream,” Main said. “I think the hype we’re seeing now is going to have more and more impact on how businesses develop products.”
So, ironically, our consumption-based lifestyle might actually have a positive impact on the green movement’s reach. As the trend toward greener living gains wider acceptance, consumers will demand more green choices at better prices. Businesses will respond to consumer demand, and that—with continued help from our Hollywood role models—might be what it takes to create change.
It’s certainly made it easier for me to switch my household from harsh-chemical cleaning products to all-natural, organic, biodegradable ones.
Assuming—incorrectly as it turns out—that it would be hard to find green products in the stores I regularly shop, I started my search for green cleaners online. That turned out to be a good move, because I got cleaning products for my whole house (all-purpose cleaners, glass cleaners, dish soaps, toilet bowl cleaners, furniture polish—you name it) for less than $40 at drugstore.com. (The site has sales often and offers a lot of e-mail discounts. Everything I bought at the site was on sale and with free shipping.)
But I’ve since realized that most of the products I purchased are now available, not just at specialty stores like Wild Oats, but at mainstream stores including Target and Kroger. Another surprise was that green products are affordable. Prices are a little higher than traditional cleaners, but not much.
“If you’re willing to spend that extra 50 cents and know that your health isn’t being compromised and you’re also not compromising the environment, it’s sort of worth the extra 50 cents,” Main said.
And most importantly, these products work. I’ve done my own testing on at least 15 different all-natural, nontoxic cleaning products, and I’ve pored over consumer reviews at reputable sites like epinions.com and sustainlane.com. I’ve also listened to what the experts have to say about how to interpret the sometimes tricky claims on product labels to identify a product that’s truly green.
“You want to look for the most specific information you can find. Not environmentally friendly or earth-friendly, but nontoxic,” said Linda Chipperfield, vice president of marketing and outreach at Green Seal, an independent nonprofit that evaluates and certifies products that meet its strict environmental standards for production and use. For example, look for: ‘100 percent recycled plastic’ or ‘this product is nontoxic to humans and animals.’
” ‘This product is environmentally friendly’ doesn’t mean anything,” she said.
Green Seal, whose label (or seal) is found on many industrial green cleaning products, is in the process of certifying products that meet its new standard for household cleaners.
“This fall there will be several products that will be certified under the standard,” Chipperfield said. “Several of our cleaning manufacturers with industrial products that are Green Seal certified are looking to get household cleaners certified as well—and these are the products you can buy on grocery store shelves.”
For consumers who are interested in greening up their cleaning supplies, Main offers some advice on getting started: “The best thing to do is to look at what you use the most often,” she said. “Usually that’s dish soap. And those are relatively comparable to their traditional counterparts, price-wise.
“Mainly, don’t be discouraged if you try one brand and it doesn’t work as well as you’d like it to. Try more brands and you will find something that works.”
She adds that the biggest obstacle for many consumers in making the switch is perception.
“People want that scent—that chlorinated odor—that makes them feel like they’re getting their dishes clean,” Main said. “But it doesn’t add to the quality of the product; it’s just esthetic, really. That’s the hardest habit to break, though, because people really want that ‘clean’ smell and feel you get from the harsh-chemical cleaning products.”
Personally, I’m happier now that I’ve scrubbed that “clean” smell right out of my house. And I’d like to think my baby boy will thank me for it.
In my quest to detox my cleaning supply cabinet, I sampled about 20 all-natural, nontoxic products. Here’s the short list of my favorites:
Method omop non-toxic microfiber floor love: $24.99 at Target.
This all-in-one hardwood floor cleaning kit includes a simple-to-assemble “mop,” three compostable sweeping cloths, one microfiber mop pad and a 14-ounce bottle of omop wood for good almond non-toxic floor cleaner.
What I love: The microfiber mop pad is machine-washable and the cleaner’s almond scent is light, not overbearing.
What I hate: The mop itself is a little hard to maneuver when I try to really scrub.
Overall take: It’s pretty great. A must-have for hardwood floors and the only product like it I’ve found.
Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwashing Gel, Lemon Scent: $3.49 at Target.
This liquid dishwasher detergent is biodegradable, nontoxic and phosphate-free. It comes in a 45-ounce bottle.
What I love: I love the quote (from the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy) printed on all the brand’s packaging: “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” I know it’s a marketing tactic, but it works. I feel good about using these products.
What I hate: The container is smaller than the traditional brand I used to buy, but the price is higher.
Overall take: This gets a full load of dishes clean without the residue or chemical smell I’ve noticed after using traditional detergents. But I still feel the need to keep a box of traditional dishwasher tabs handy (on a high shelf, of course) for loads heavy on pots and pans.
Earth Friendly Products Furniture Polish: $4.49 at drugstore.com (on sale, regularly $5.99.)
This product, which contains olive oil and orange oil, protects and cleans furniture, cabinets, paneling and vinyl.
What I love: It smells like oranges, not chemicals. And I’ve tried it on all types of furniture with good results.
What I hate: The consistency is kind of creamy, so if you accidentally spray too much, it streaks. A little goes a long way.
Overall take: I’ve retired my old brand of furniture polish. This works just as well, smells better and doesn’t cost much more if you shop around for the best price.
Method The Daily Granite: $3.99 at Target.
Designed for cleaning and polishing granite and marble surfaces, this product comes in a 12-ounce bottle and has a mild scent.
What I love: It easily takes water spots off my hard-to-clean, dark gray-brown marble vanity top.
What I hate: Nothing. I think this product is great.
Overall take: When I set out to find a natural, nontoxic product to clean a marble vanity top, I didn’t hold out much hope that one existed. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered this cleaner—and also pleased by how well it works.
Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid, Natural Citrus Scent: $2.49 at Target.
This hand-wash dish soap comes in a 25-ounce bottle and a variety of scents. (Natural Citrus is my favorite, but Free & Clear is another good one to try—it lives up to its claim and is completely colorless and odorless.)
What I love: It works great, suds nicely and has a light, fruity smell. It’s also widely available—I’ve found it at several mainstream stores.
What I hate: Nothing. I’ll never go back to traditional dish soap.
Overall take: This was the first green cleaning product I tried and it’s also my favorite. It lathers and rinses as well as any traditional product I’ve used, and it’s mild on hands (and baby toys).
Sun & Earth All-Purpose Cleaner: $3.59 at Wild Oats.
This all-purpose surface cleaner comes in a 22-ounce bottle and a Fresh Citrus scent derived from natural orange oil.
What I love: This spray cleaner does a great job at lifting spots off countertops—even white ones.
What I hate: Though not unpleasant, its scent is strong.
Overall take: I pitted this cleaner against a mustard stain on my all-white kitchen countertop, and the cleaner came out ahead. It did a better job than a couple of traditional brands.
Earth Friendly Products Window Kleener: $2.99 at drugstore.com.
This all-natural, vinegar-based glass and surface cleaner comes in a 22-ounce spray bottle.
What I love: It gets my bathroom mirror squeaky clean and streak-free with no more elbow grease than harsh-chemical glass cleaners.
What I hate: It’s made with vinegar, and that’s what it smells like. But the odor is light and still beats the smell of traditional glass cleaner, if you ask me.
Overall take: I’ve tried several brands of glass and surface cleaners, and this is among my favorites. It gets the job done with little effort and great results.
Method Cleaning Wipes, pink grapefruit scent: $2.99 at Target.
Similar in packaging and use to their traditional brand counterparts, these convenience wipes come in a package of 30.
What I love: These wipes don’t leave your hands gritty or smelling like harsh chemicals. And they get the job done.
What I hate: When I attempt to pull a wipe out of the package, I usually pull out two, not one. I wish they came in a baby wipe-style container.
Overall take: I put this product to a tough test: cleaning grime off the seal of my freezer door. I was amazed by how easily the wipes lifted it off. They’re also great for quick cleanups in the kitchen or bathroom.