We all want a better quality environment for ourselves and our family. And your home is an environment where you spend a good portion of your time. So how can you make the environment better at your house? One of the ways of doing this is by green cleaning your home.
But how does green cleaning make your home better for you, your family, and the environment?
Here’s what you need to know about green cleaning your home.
One of the definitions for the word green:
Tending to preserve environmental quality (as by being recyclable, biodegradable, or nonpolluting)merriam-webster.com
A Brief History of Green
The roots of green (the green environmental movement) reach back to the early 1960s when Rachel Carson published the book Silent Spring which brought attention to the effects pesticides were having on the environment.
The green movement gained traction in the 1970s giving birth to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), which passed numerous environmental acts during this time. In 1970 the first Earth Day was celebrated, focusing on environmental protection. The 1970s also saw the creation of Tom’s of Maine, a brand that created natural products and promoted a natural, environmentally friendly way of life.
In the 1980s, the EPA passed a series of acts along with the publication of the first Green Consumer Guide and the start of the Seventh Generation plant-based household product brand in 1988.
Since the 1980s, the idea of green living, green products and services, and green cleaning have gained substantial popularity and made “green” a household word.
What Does Green Cleaning Really Mean?
According to the EPA:
“Green cleaning refers to the use of cleaning products that have a reduced impact on human health and the environment, often because they have been re-formulated to eliminate the most potentially toxic ingredients.”
That Is a Simple Explanation, but What Does It Entail?
If you decide to green clean your home, we recommend using cleaning products that include all or most of the characteristics below. These came from an EPA guide for federal purchasing of green cleaning products, which recommends choosing less hazardous products with positive environmental attributes.
- Use products that have no or minimal toxicity and harsh chemicals:
- Substances classified as known or likely human carcinogens or reproductive toxicants by authorities such as the National Toxicology Program, the U.S. EPA, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or the State of California.
- Potentially harmful chemicals (chlorine bleach, ammonia, anything artificial, etc.)
- Ozone-depleting compounds like those listed in Clean Air Act regulations
- Regulated hazardous materials (e.g. products classified as hazardous waste; products that trigger OSHA hazard communication requirements)
- Low toxicity in aquatic species such as fish or aquatic invertebrates
- Biodegradable – Biodegradable by standard methods and definitions as well as “ready biodegradability“.
- Reduced packaging – which could include any of the below:
- Efficient packaging (e.g., lightweight, reduced volume)
- Recyclable packaging
- Recycled-content packaging
- Refillable bottles
- Pump sprays rather than aerosols
- Packaging and dilution systems designed to reduce exposure to the products
- Low volatile organic compound (VOC) content – Various chemicals, when discharged as gases, are known to be volatile organic compounds. These VOCs can be found in household products and may have negative short and long-term effects on your health, especially when used indoors.
- Use of renewable resources – referring to biobased solvents from citrus, seed, vegetable, and pine oils. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), biobased products are derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials and provide an alternative to conventional petroleum-derived products.
Green Cleaning Products
Using the EPA’s attributes for green cleaning products found in their guide for federal purchasers, we would want to use a product to clean our house that is:
- Non-toxic or low toxicity
- Uses reduced packaging
- Low VOC content
- Plant-based or from another renewable source
So the easiest way to start cleaning your house with green cleaning products is to start using everyday, natural household items such as:
These products aren’t only completely green, but they work well for cleaning, are low-priced, and are safe to use around your pets and family. You will also have the benefit of knowing what is in them, unlike commercial household cleaning products. In the United States, there is no requirement for commercial household cleaning product manufacturers to list what ingredients are in their products, so many don’t.
Sometimes you may need a product specifically made for cleaning. Of course, if you go to your local store, you will find many commercial household cleaning products. But nowadays, your local grocery store carries many green cleaning brands and products, and you will find them sitting right next to commercial cleaning products. A few examples are below:
- Seventh Generation
- Green Works
- Mrs. Meyer’s
- Miracle II soap (affiliate link)
What distinguishes a household cleaning brand or product as green or eco-friendly?
Green and Eco-friendly Labels and Certifications
Safer choice – The safer choice label is given out by the EPA. Products with the Safer Choice label help consumers, businesses, and commercial buyers identify products with safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance. These ingredients are safer for human health and the environment. The Safer Choice label can also signify a product as being fragrance-free.
Biobased – Products that display the USDA Certified Biobased Product label state it’s third-party tested and verified biobased content. The biobased label makes it easier to determine what ingredients are in the product or even the label.
Organic – The United States Department of Agriculture issues the USDA Organic label. The certification is for food and other agricultural products produced through approved organic methods and standards.
Nonprofit Organization Issued
Green Seal – As a nonprofit organization, Green Seal issues certifications to product manufacturers and other industries based on health, performance, and sustainability standards. The Green Seal mark or label identifies the product as meeting or exceeding leadership-level, life-cycle-based criteria for sustainability.
Cradle to Cradle – The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is a nonprofit organization that is transforming the safety, health, and sustainability of products. They evaluate material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness of a product. They then issue achievement level labels based on their evaluation of those five areas.
EcoLogo – The UL (Underwriters Laboratory) gives out Ecologos for products, services, and packaging that reduce environmental impact. Ecologo certifications indicate a product has undergone rigorous scientific testing, exhaustive auditing, or both to prove its compliance with stringent, third-party, environmental performance standards.
Green Cleaning Services
If you don’t have time to do the green cleaning yourself, there are plenty of green cleaning services available. Just do a quick Google search, and you will find them in your area. But what makes these cleaning services different from a normal house cleaning service?
Certified Green Cleaning Products
Green cleaning services will use green cleaning products with one of the certified green or eco-friendly labels as well as natural, non-toxic everyday household products. The green products would also follow some or most of the previously mentioned positive environmental attributes
They will more than likely be plant-based and include most or all ingredients on the label. This would also mean their products would not contain any harsh chemicals which a normal house cleaning service may use.
Microfiber Cloths, Dusters, and Mop Heads
To minimize paper waste and overall elbow grease, many green cleaning services will use microfiber cloths, dusters, and mop heads when cleaning your home. They are especially versatile for cleaning, and they absorb liquids and dust and reduce bacteria and the use of cleaning products.
Green Cleaning Vacuums
Green cleaning equipment for green cleaning can mean using vacuums and other equipment that are energy efficient. It can also mean using vacuums with high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filters. HEPA-filtered vacuums effectively capture fine particles and minimize particles from being reintroduced into the air.
Green Cleaning Procedures
For a safer and healthier environment, a green cleaning service may use different colored microfiber cloths, dusters, and mop heads for different rooms. This avoids microfiber rags being used in the bathroom and then accidentally being used again in the kitchen.
Other green cleaning procedures would include reducing the amount of water and cleaning products for cleaning and recycling whenever possible.
The Benefits of Green Cleaning for You, Your Family, and the Environment
If natural, green cleaning is the way you want to clean your home, then you’re going to be reaping three major benefits:
1. A More Safer and Refined Home
1. No toxic or harsh chemicals around your home – Commercial household cleaning products may contain toxic and harsh chemicals. If they are left sitting around the house, they can pose dangers to small children and pets, and if swallowed, can be fatal.
2. Cleaner air inside your home – The EPA estimates that indoor air is 2 to 5 times as polluted as the outdoor air. Toxic, harsh chemical-based household cleaning products and artificial air deodorizers, when used in the home, pollute the air with VOCs. These VOCs can cause a host of health problems, including cancer. Using green household cleaning products will help decrease indoor pollution in your home.
Dust, pet hair, and dander can cause indoor pollution. Using a HEPA-filtered vacuum will remove 99.97% of all particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns or more, reducing asthma and allergy causes in your home.
3. Save money – You can save money using cheap everyday household products to clean your home. If a green cleaning service cleans your home and they use energy-efficient cleaning equipment, this will help reduce utility bill costs.
2. Healthier for You and Your Family
By using natural and plant-based cleaning products, you greatly minimize the exposure your family and pets will have to toxic and harsh chemicals. The toxic and harsh chemicals in commercial cleaning products can be carcinogenic, endocrine disruptive, and dangerous to your nervous and immune systems. Some common and instant reactions when using toxic cleaning products can be:
- Skin irritation or rash
- Nose, eye, and throat irritation
- Respiratory and lung problems
- Headaches and lightheadedness
When you green clean your home, you avoid unnecessary harsh chemicals and reduce allergens in your home, and as a result, help keep you and your family healthier.
3. Improve the Environment
- Saving environmental resources – Green cleaning can save electricity (fossil fuels), paper products (trees), and water and reduce waste (land for landfills).
- Reducing toxins in the environment:
- Water – The environment is susceptible to toxins and harsh chemicals from commercial household cleaning products when washed down the sink. If not treated properly, they can end up in natural water environments and adversely affect aquatic creatures.
- Air – VOCs don’t only affect your indoor house environment; they can also contribute to smog.
- Recyclable – Products that are made from lightweight, recyclable packaging and are recyclable will cut down on waste and resources in our environment. Reusing bottles and microfiber rags also contribute to environmental waste reduction.
- Biodegradable – Biodegradable products break down and degrade in our environment and landfills by natural elements. Using a non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning product should break down without leaving any toxins in the background.
Conclusion: Green Cleaning and Green Living
The green eco-friendly movement started over 50 years ago, and it is more important now than ever before. We only have one earth, and with over 7 billion people on it, it’s going to be hard to preserve it unless we all participate in some type of green living.
The bottom line is that you should avoid any product that has the potential to harm you, your family, or the environment. A green-cleaned home will give you peace of mind of knowing that you are helping your family avoid unnecessary health problems and helping the environment.
To learn more about green cleaning products and the environment, check out our article – Are Green Cleaning Products Really Safe for the Environment?