Environmental awareness otherwise known as “going green” is a broad philosophy deeply rooted in the concept of environmental conservation and improvement. In recent years, the concept of going green has certainly made its mark on popular culture, and as direct consequence has revealed a darker side to the movement.
Cultural myths have made it difficult for the average consumer to discern fact from fiction. This is especially the case when it comes to the green cleaning industry. Below is a list of three commonly held misconceptions related to green cleaning.
Myth 1: All cleaning products labeled “green” are non-toxic.
Reality: Words like “green,” “natural” and even “biodegradable” are marketing tactics used to put an eco-spin on a particular cleaning product. Unfortunately, the federal government doesn’t regulate the use of these terms, which makes it easy for niche marketers to perpetuate false or misleading claims.
To try and combat this problem, the Environmental Protection Agency has released a list of recognized labels and partners who are committed to manufacturing environmentally responsible cleaning products. The list is by no means all inclusive, but consumers can search for products here.
Third Party Certification
Another way to verify if a product is actually green is to seek out products that have been certified by third party organizations like Green Seal. Green Seal only certifies cleaning products that are non-toxic and non-corrosive. The products must also be free from carcinogens and mutagens, and truly biodegradable. The biggest problem with third party certification is that many of these organizations do not cover smaller manufacturers.
When all else fails, it is also possible to confirm that a product is actually green by doing independent research. A good place to start is with the ingredients list. The list of potentially dangerous cleaning chemicals is endless, but here are some chemicals to avoid: Alkylphenol; Ammonia; Butyl Cellosolve (Butyl Glycol, Ethylene Glycol, Monobutyl); Chlorine Bleach (Sodium Hypochlorite); Glycol Ethers (Ethylene Glycol Mono-butyl Ether, EGBE or 2-butoxyethanol); Monoethanolamine (MEA), Diethanolamine (DEA) or Triethanolamine (TEA); Phenols; Phosphates; Phthalates (fragrances); and Triclosan.
Myth 2: Green cleaning equals higher costs.
Reality: Many business owners feel pressure to “go green,” but worry that green cleaning products will end up increasing costs. In actuality, going green can be good for a company’s bottom line in more ways than one.
Most industrial cleaning products contain a cocktail of toxic chemicals that can easily compromise the health and well-being of employees, especially cleaning staff. According to a recent review of workers’ compensation by Washington State, six out of every 100 custodians must take time off from work each year to recover from job-related injuries. Eighty-eight percent of custodial injuries involve skin or eye irritation, skin burns or chemical inhalation.
Opportunity to Reduce Workplace Injuries
By switching to less toxic, environmentally friendly cleaning products, business owners have the potential to reduce on-site injuries (and subsequent sick days), decrease workers’ compensation claims and even lower insurance rates.
Another key cost-saving component of green cleaning involves packing and shipping costs. Green products are typically sold in concentration (they must be diluted prior to use) with minimal packaging. When ordered in bulk, this can significantly lower shipping fuel costs because more of the product can be shipped at once. The minimal packaging also takes up less storage space than conventional products.
Green cleaning can also reduce hidden cleaning expenses. Because most conventional cleaning products are highly toxic, they (along with rags, brushes, gloves, absorbent pads, etc.) cannot be simply thrown in the trash. Instead, they are subject to strict disposal regulations that often require extensive employee training. Using non-toxic, environmentally friendly products can minimize both disposal and training costs.
Myth 3: Non-toxic cleaning isn’t as effective.
Reality: There is some truth to the above statement because not all green cleaning is created equal. The relative effectiveness will ultimately depend on the type of cleaning being performed, how much product is being used and the type of surface being cleaned. These same rules exist for most cleaning products (green or commercial).
Green Cleaners Not Disinfectants
Green cleaning products are highly effective in a variety of home, work and lodging settings, but it’s important to note that green cleaning products do not serve as disinfectants. As a result, certain environments such as healthcare settings, cannot be 100 percent green. However, these environments shouldn’t completely eliminate green cleaning. Many cleaning products can still be made “greener” by reducing harmful chemicals without compromising safety in sterile environments. Additionally, the use of certain cleaning supplies, such as microfiber mops and wipers, can also be used to reduce the spread of hazardous chemicals.
What some people fail to realize is that green cleaning is a combination of both cleaning products and procedures. Even in instances where a facility cannot go completely green, there are a variety of procedural steps and programs that can be implemented to minimize human and environmental hazards, improve indoor air quality and protect the health of employees.
This is a guest post by Briana Davis on behalf of National Purity, a chemical
manufacturing company selling environmentally friendly industrial strength degreasers. She contributes content to the National Purity Blog.