According to the many attention grabbing headlines of today, millennials are responsible for killing everything from paper towels to diamonds. On one hand we simply have less money in our pockets than our parents did to spend on frivolous purchases. However, perhaps more importantly, millennials are killing industries off left and right because we tend to spend what little money we have on products that will support causes we believe in, even if that means paying a bit more for the same thing. As the first generation to live their lives in the shadow of climate change, there is perhaps no more unifying cause among millennials than the fight to protect our environment. This is bad news for traditional paper towels, but every social trend in capitalist America has a marketing plan jogging behind it. Enter the rise of recycled paper towels. The shift toward environmentally friendly cleaning products is directly attributed to the shift in consumer prioritization away from cost and convenience towards conscientiousness, brought on by a new generation of consumers unified by their concern for the environment.
Marketing to Millennials
According to Millennial Marketing, 50% of millennials are more likely to purchase from a company if that purchase supports a meaningful cause, and 37% are more likely to do so even if that means paying more (Who Are Millenials, n.d.). This has given rise to the Green Marketing trend, where familiar products such as paper towels get revamped and rebranded as environmentally friendly. The challenge here is in identifying what it means to be green, a headache for both the producer and the consumer. Inconsistent labeling and standards combined with tone-deaf messaging can throw industries off the mark as they try to capture the zeitgeist of millennial consumerism. At the same time, consumers struggle with misinformation as they try to assess the greenness of each and every product under the sun (Bluelinemedia, n.d.). Essentially, not all products are easily rebranded under the green marketing trend. However, cleaning products are uniquely positioned to succeed. By swapping “harmful” chemicals with “natural” ones that are safer for your baby and the environment, marketers and consumers have something to feel good about.
In the recent years, a cultural shift has been seen in the manufacturing and marketing of cleaning products. This shift has led towards an emphasis on environmentally friendly, or green, cleaning products. The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines green cleaning products as “less hazardous products that have positive environmental attributes” (EPA, 2018). However, to further define green cleaning, we can look to other resources to find the definition not a physical object but rather a concept. To quote the Canadian Green Cleaners Association, “there is no hard fast definition for ‘green’ because green is a concept, not a thing. Green can be viewed as a process. . . Cleaning green is more than switching a few products or equipment” (CGCA, 2015). Through a better understanding of the topic, we can see that the shift towards green cleaning products is due to a cultural, environmental, and economic shift towards greener living, all three of which are thoroughly intertwined.
The first facet to examine is the cultural change towards greener practices due to climate change. National Geographic focused climate changes impact on the U.S. economy, stating that the entirety of the economy would have to adapt to new markets spurned by the changing environment (Borunda, 2018). Seeing as climate change affects the entire globe, this economic adaptation has manifested worldwide, with a more environmentally-minded and educated society serving as a driving point.
As of 2019, Pew Research Center polled 40 countries to decide the populace’s opinion on global warming. Their research showed that a global median of 68% of the population believe climate change to be a major threat. (Fagan & Huang, 2019). With the global populace holding climate change to be a severe issue, the popularity of green cleaning products marketed to be better for the environment rose drastically.
The Reasons for the Surge of Popularity in Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
In today’s era where the disparity in wealth between the rich and the poor constantly increases, product cost plays the biggest role in decision making. However, as new information is released regarding the raw materials used in the production of commonly used household products, more and more individuals switch their deciding factor from cost efficiency to health impacts. Harsh chemicals and the lasting effects that they have on the body and environment become a deterrent, forcing people to consider other options. It is in this way that the environmentally friendly cleaning supplies have been able to gain momentum. Ready-made alternatives and Do it Yourself (DIY) videos have allowed the eco-friendly alternative to secure a major following in recent years, as consumers decide there is no price too high for peace of mind (Watson, 2017). Backed by the promise of less harsh ingredients, easy to follow DIY tutorials, and the developing environmental consciousness of society, eco-friendly cleaning products have seen a rise in popularity.
According to Barbarossa and De Pelsmacker (2014), the household consumption of products is the leading cause of most environmental issues. Improper waste disposal of generic household cleaning supplies leads to the generation of a larger carbon footprint. Along with this, the products usually contain raw materials which are unsuitable to be used for any extended period of time. The numerous symbols and safety precautions on the containers of such items seem out of place on a product advertised for the household. Although their eco-friendly counterparts are not entirely free from ingredients with adverse effects, they are considerably safer. Stricter regulations with regards to transparency, and a variety of conformity seals, allow consumers the luxury of knowing exactly what they’re paying for.
Going Green: The Benefits of Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
The rapid changing of the Earth’s climate has become a matter of global urgency and importance. More and more sectors such as the cleaning and hospitality industry are, in one way or another, trying its best to help mitigate this problem. With environmental awareness in mind, the demand for eco-friendly cleaning products increases as the level of urgency due to climate change also increases.
For the hospitality industry, the least it can do is to reduce toxic wastes coming from its cleaning products. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (2019), common household cleaning and maintenance products can be corrosive, flammable, reactive, and toxic. Needless to say, its waste products do more harm than good in the environment. The chemicals from these products can enter the atmosphere as pollutants when used or disposed. When mixed with flood water, these chemicals can penetrate the soil which will eventually be absorbed by plants or trees. Depending on the amount and nature of the chemicals, the consequences can be fatal.
Eco-friendly or “green” cleaning products, on the other hand, utilizes non-toxic raw materials such as baking soda, vinegar, lemon, citric acid, olive oil, and many more. Shifting to green cleaning products not only do well with the outside environment but it also improves indoor air quality (Flowers, 2015). Aside from poor ventilation, chemicals from common cleaning products are also major contributors to poor indoor air quality. Using natural products such as essential oils cleanses the air and leaves a refreshing scent for the convenience of the residents. This implies that using green cleaning products entails favorable effects to both outside and inside environment.