Are Your Sustainable Cleaners Really Sustainable?
It's 2020, people. If you haven't already, it's time to make the switch to sustainable cleaning products.
But just because a cleaner says it's "green" or "sustainable," it doesn't mean that it is.
There's little-to-no regulation on when it is and isn't okay for companies to use "eco-friendly" language (more on that in this here). It can be hard to figure out which products walk the walk, and which are just buzzwords and talk.
Here are the four most important factors that will help you determine whether or not a product you're purchasing is truly green.
1) Plastic spray bottles are not sustainable. Period.
You might be thinking: wait a minute; my plastic cleaning bottle is a "forever bottle." I'm good.
Just like pie dough, not all of the plastic created during production ends up in the final bottle. The extra ends up in our oceans and waterways in the form of plastic nurdles, a fun sounding word with not-so-fun consequences.
Nurdles are consumed by marine wildlife and found in our drinking water. That zero-waste, use-it-forever plastic bottle under your sink is directly responsible for thousands of tiny pieces of plastic in our oceans.
Not only that, but that plastic bottle won't actually last forever. Eventually, it will develop plastic "tears" and eventually leak, meaning you'll need to buy a new one. Then, best case, it will be recycled and generate tons of carbon in the recycling process, or worst case, it will get tossed into the ocean.
Cleaning products packaged in materials like glass or aluminum not only take less energy to make; they also won't harm the planet's ecosystem.
Oh, and by the way, that bathroom cleaner you bought in a milk carton thinking it was sustainable? Milk cartons are made with some plastic.
2) Most "Non-Toxic Cleaners" Are Pretty Toxic
Non-toxic means different things to different companies.
To us, it means never using any of the following ingredients: formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, glycol solvents, or artificial colors or fragrances. Also, it means every ingredient needs to be 100% biodegradable and safe for the environment.
For other "green" cleaning companies, non-toxic is just a nice word to put on a bottle without actually checking to make sure if their ingredients are non-toxic.
We know it can be a slog to read every ingredient of every product you bring into your home, but it's extra important to do it with your cleaners.
Those chemicals will end up on the plates you eat off, the sheets you sleep on, and the showers you wash up in.
Do you want to risk it?
We didn't think so.
Feeling a little overwhelmed? Here are two easy "tricks" for figuring out if a formula is non-toxic.
- Count the number of ingredients. If it's more than 10 or 12, there's probably some unnecessary junk in there.
- Do you know what each ingredient is? Simple, non-toxic ingredients usually have straightforward names like "baking soda" or "lemon oil." Toxic ingredients typically have long names you've never heard of, like "Parahthalateglydehyde."
3) Big boxes for tiny products are a big problem.
Have you ever ordered a toothbrush from Amazon, and it came in a 2 x 4 cardboard box? Us, too.
Because it's cheaper, a lot of companies buy shipping supplies that fit all their products. They opt to use the same box over and over regardless of what's going in the box.
It goes without saying that this practice is wasteful, but how significant is the impact?
The extra square footage in those bigger boxes takes more plastic, paper, and energy to make than an appropriately sized package.
Besides, a company that isn't thinking intentionally about their packaging materials isn't thinking deliberately about other aspects of their business.
Moral of the story: size matters.
4) Is the company offsetting their emissions?
It's impossible to create a consumer product without generating emissions, and we would never claim otherwise.
But, companies can minimize their impact by partnering with nonprofits that offset companies' carbon emissions by planting trees, installing and improving more efficient energy production systems, and educating the public on sustainability.
Being aware of a company's emissions goals is the best possible way to reduce your carbon footprint.
We don't want you to throw away all of your old cleaning products right now (that would be wasteful and, surprise, not very sustainable). It's okay if you're still working through an old bottle of Windex under your sink.
Living mindfully is something that happens over time with a series of small changes.
Next time you run out of multi-surface cleaner, pause and read the label. Look at what the bottle is made of. Google the company's mission statement. And if that particular cleaner isn't up to snuff, choose another one.
Do you want to learn more about non-toxic cleaning products? Click to read our guide to non-toxic cleaning products.
It's up to you what kind of impact you want to have on the planet.