The Primacy of Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products over Regular Ones
Due to an increase in awareness and demand from an ecologically-minded population, there has been an explosion of green cleaning products into the market. The traditional cleaning products have been linked to some illnesses such as respiratory complications as well as environmental degradation. As such, green cleaning products are seen as a relatively safe alternative. Although the use of these products has been criticized as a marketing gimmick, there is conclusive evidence to show that the benefits to the environment and the health of individuals far outweigh those of chemical cleaners.
The composition of the products ensures that they are healthier for human beings and the environment. Further, these products are safer for the workers in the industries where they are manufactured. Traditional cleaning agents pose safety risks to those who handle them, especially from chemical burns to the eyes or the skin. Barbarossa & Pastore (2015) argue that manufacturers lose an average $25 million every year from lost time and workers compensation as a result of these injuries. Green cleaning products address the health and safety concerns of the workers. To be certified green, the products must have the requisite safety and health labels with training being available to ensure that the workers use the products safely.
However, critics argue that bio based products are likely to cause more harm to the environment than conventional products. Research shows that these products damage the ozone layer thereby leading to climate change. There also lacks sufficient evidence on the health effects of the chemicals that are used in the manufacture of green products. Bearth et al. (2017) posit that this lack of data and reliable studies on their health and environmental benefits shows that the use of the products is based on politics and sentiments.
In brief, the benefits that accrue from using the eco-friendly products outweigh any doubt that may exist about their effectiveness. Since virtually every product that human beings buy potentially harms the environment either during the production, use or disposal, it is essential to consider those that minimize the adverse effects. The use of eco-friendly cleaning products is a step in the right direction towards environmental conservation and safeguarding of people’s health.
Personal Health Concerns: Reason for the Shift Towards Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
Cleaning products are necessary to the maintenance of healthful and aesthetic conditions in indoor environments including homes, hospitals, schools, and workplaces. Synthetic cleaners are highly effective in removing stains, allergens, and infectious pathogens but they have linked to a variety of deleterious health effects. The increasing awareness of the health hazards from traditional cleaners propelled the rapid growth of the green cleaning industry in recent decades. Personal health concern presents as a main reason for the shift to eco-friendly cleaning products.
Conventional cleaning agents may contain chemical ingredients considered to be carcinogens, asthmagens, reproductive toxins, or noxious air pollutants (California Department of Public Health, 2017). They vary in the type of health hazards they pose on consumers. Some of these effects may be acute including irritation of the eyes, skin, respiratory airways, and lungs while others may be chronic or long-term including serious chemical burns, cancer, and hormone disruptions (Organic Consumers Association, 2019). Volatile organic compounds that are commonly emitted by these products are associated with increased risk for asthma, cancer, liver and kidney damage as well as impairment of neurologic functioning (“Indoor Air Quality,” 2018). The increasing public awareness of these health concerns has been substantially factorial to the rising demands of green cleaning products as an eco-friendly and safer alternative to traditional cleaners.
In a study conducted by Haystack Group Survey and Mintel Survey, results reveal that the prime motivator to the shift to eco-friendly cleaning practices was personal health concerns. Forty percent of the respondents indicated allergies as a reason for purchasing green products (Yeomans, McKeon , McKeon, & Mitchell, 2010).
Dominant Consumption Factors in Green Consumerism:
Explaining the Popularity of Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
Eco-friendly products are commonly described as environmentally conscious, minimally packaged, non-toxic, and organic (Khaola, Potiane, & Mokhethi, 2014; Mostafa, 2007). Demand for these products has escalated significantly over the past two decades as the general public has become more aware of environmental and health issues perpetuated by megacorporations (Dangelico & Pontrandolfo, 2010; Prieto-Sandoval, Alfaro, Meji?a-Villa, & Ormazabal, 2016). The literature on green product consumption suggests that there are three dominant factors that have influenced the growing popularity of eco-friendly cleaning products. The purpose of this paper is to argue that the most important factors influencing this trend include environmental concerns, safety concerns, and an increase in the accessibility of green products.
Environmental concern can be described as the understanding that the environment is harmed through pollution and the abuse of natural resources by humans (Franzen & Meyer, 2010; Khaola et al., 2014; Zhou, 2013). In studies performed before the turn of the 21st century, it appears that this awareness was limited to certain privileged socio-economic groups (Berger & Corbin, 1992; Karp, 1996; Straughan & Roberts, 1999). In contrast to these older studies, contemporary research suggests that the environmentally concerned consumer is not confined to a specific social strata (Testa, Iraldo, Vaccari, & Ferrari, 2013). This dissemination of social concern demonstrates that environmental consciousness is permitting diverse groups of people; and thus, the prevalence of such thought is growing in popularity.
What does it mean to clean green? Currently, more people are inclined to live a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle from the food they eat to the products they use. This phenomenon has led to the emergence of eco-friendly or green products that claim to be more sustainable compared to traditional products. What sets a green product apart from its traditional counterparts is that the product should be made with the fewest raw materials and produced with the least amount of contaminants released into the environment with minor to no effect on human health (Markus, 2003). When it comes to cleaning products, people still opt to purchase traditional versions given the cheaper price despite studies that prove its health damaging effects. Despite costing more, eco-friendly cleaning products are a safer and sustainable alternative to traditional non-eco-friendly cleaning products because there are less health risks involved with its use.
Traditional or non-eco-friendly cleaning products contain surfactants, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), and other health-damaging chemicals which alter hormonal regulation and have potential effects on metabolism, reproductive, and nervous systems (Dodson, Nishioka, Standley, Perovich, Brody, & Rudel, 2012, p. 935). In addition, these ingredients are harmful to human health and may lead to dermal and respiratory complications due to asthmagens and carcinogens (Garza, Cavallari, Wakai, Schenck, Simcox, Morse, Meyer, & Cherniack, 2015, p. 988). Aside from harmful effects to human health, traditional cleaning products can also negatively impact the environment, affecting air quality and wildlife reproduction (Garza et al., 2015, p. 988). Given this evidence, it is alarming how manufacturers are still allowed to distribute everyday products that are harmful to consumers. Therefore, it is up to the consumers to educate themselves and evaluate the products they will purchase for their homes as well as know its contents.
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