What to look for in buying “Green” Cleaning Products:

The process of determining whether or not a product is “truly green” is overwhelming.  There are a myriad of claims being made on a product label or website, a multitude of certifications associated with the products, and even “green product title names” that further confuse and mislead consumers. The overall process has led to a new term:  Greenwashing. Greenwashing is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice. Greenwashing can make a company appear to be more environmentally friendly than it really is. It can also be used to differentiate a company’s products or services from its competitors by promising more efficient use of power or by being more cost-effective over time. Consumers researching their buying decisions can consult the National Advertising Division (NAD) of Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), which administers a system of voluntary self-regulation for the advertising industry. Online, site likes coopamerica.org, treehugger.com, corpwatch.org, greenbiz.com and others provide additional assistance. As blogged by Marketing Green, social bookmarking websites like DotheRightThing.org are allowing consumers to read news articles and rate the actions of the companies involved, based upon the perceived positive or negative environmental impact. Product Titles and Marketing Claims - Be careful when looking at a product title and claims on a product label, product literature or company website. Just because a product name uses “green language” does not mean that it is environmentally friendly and humanly safer. Many of the most prominent consumer products marketed as green are only green in language. Further, many of the claims are generic and overly broad in order to mislead the consumer. For example, the term “biodegradable” is used on many products and it is meaningless. You are biodegradable, the computer you are using is biodegradable, the room you are in is biodegradable, etc…as long as enough time passes and nature takes over the buildings we inhabit are biodegradable as well in a couple hundred years or if you wait long enough. That is why we only sell “readily biodegradable” products that break down in the environment rapidly. Another good one is the word “safer“. Safer than what? It is the same as when a food product is marketed as “low fat” or “less fat”.  Yeah, lower than total fat and more fat, but that does not mean good for you or “fat free”. Humanly Safer – Just because a product is “green” does not make it necessarily humanly and or animal safer. You can put cyanide in a bottle and it is 100% naturally derived, green, etc… You can then market it as such, however, no one would contest that it is not humanly and animal safer. The same can be said about a myriad of commonly sold toxic ingredients. Without mentioning any specific brand name products, bathroom cleaners often contain strong acids or harmful solvents. Some of the harmful chemical ingredients that should be avoided are heavy metals, chlorinated solvents, mineral acids, or any of the numerous chemicals that do not readily biodegrade or have other adverse environmental impact. Thus, it is important to look deeper when seeking out “truly green” products. In diving deeper, Certifications are a good place to look. Certifications are extremely helpful in the process of evaluating whether or not a particular product is “truly green“.  That being said, even with Certifications you must be careful. Many companies “self certify” their products with a fancy logo and with fancy language that supposedly substantiates the certification. That is nice to look at, but carries no weight. You must look for “credible third-party” certifications from both governmental and well reputed, not-for-profit private entities. The third-party certification entities have product ingredient screening processes, product testing, and marketing and labeling standards in place to ensure that the products and companies they are associated with are “truly green“. Here are some Credible Third-Party Product Logos to look for related to product ingredients and/or company practices:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Design for the Environment Program (DfE) – www.epa.gov/dfe

Canada’s EcoLogo Certification – www.ecologo.org

GreenSeal Certification – www.greenseal.org

The Carpet and Rug Institute – www.carpet-rug.org

The U.S. Green Building Council – www.usgbc.org

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) – www.peta.org

Environmental Choice Australia – www.geca.org.au

Kosher Approval – www.oukosher.org

The above entities substantiate product claims being made with respect to “safer ingredients“, “environmental impact“, “human safety“, “aquatic safety“, and overall animal safety“. Our product formulations are associated with the entities above when sold to the professional cleaning industry.

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