In recent years, increased emphasis has been placed on the importance of environmentally responsible consumer behavior (Suresh & Devadasan, 2017; Kianpour, Anvari, Jusoh, & Othman, 2013). This increased emphasis has been aimed at massive international corporations all the way down to the average person. There are several factors that have led to the growth of the “green” industry and an increase in environmentally friendly products. Most people would likely point towards the increasing emphasis on the gravity and consequences of climate change that is portrayed in the media (NASA, 2019; Wihbey & Ward, 2016). Additionally, research has indicated that purchasing environmentally friendly products can be more cost-effective than shopping for “standard” products that may not be environmentally friendly (Biswas, 2016). Furthermore, celebrities and recognizable public figures have increasingly shifted towards supporting environmentally friendly products and initiatives (Goodman, Doyle, & Farrell, 2017). All of the previously stated variable have led to consumers becoming more informed and educated, which is critical for the worldwide changes that need to made to reverse or reduce the negative effects of climate change. Consumers are learning that common, older products contain harmful chemicals and additives that may be harmful to their friends and family members (Silent Spring Institute, 2014).
The shift towards more environmentally friendly cleaning products has been driven by the increasing emphasis on the realities and dangers of climate change, companies producing cost-effective environmentally friendly products, and the increasing amount of celebrities and recognizable public figures endorsing these products.
The Shift Towards Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products
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Earth is a home to us all. It is arguably the only planet that can sustain life. Its resources, although abundant, is limited and can never be replenished once depleted. Various chemicals found in cleaning products pose considerable risks to both humans and the environment, and the damage caused by these toxic chemicals to the environment is the reason why we are experiencing problems on a global scale. Several significant steps have been taken by governments and businesses around the world to create a solution to the continuous destruction being dealt with the environment by cleaning products that contain toxic chemicals. Chemicals obtained from petroleum and natural gas are called “petrochemicals.” These chemicals have serious debilitating effects to the sea, atmosphere, climate, and to local ecosystems, and most cleaning products are made of these non-renewable, and non- or less-recyclable petrochemical-based ingredients and materials.
The goal of achieving sustainability is the reason for the shift towards environmentally cleaning products. Businesses and consumers from all over the world have actively participated in their respective governments’ efforts to achieve sustainability by creating environmentally friendly cleaning products. Zhu et al. (2016) state that with the arising of global climate change and resource shortage, in recent years, increased attention has been paid to environmentally friendly materials. This statement supports the fact that the collective efforts of consumers, businesses, and governments around the world, in the recent years are what pushed cleaning product manufacturers to seek sustainable resources for the production of their products.
Understanding the Change Towards Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products
We are exposed to toxic chemicals everyday, whether we realize or not. In the safety of our home, there are many household products that can harm us as much as it helps us in completing the everyday chores. The cleaning products that we use have chemicals that are hazardous, which are all mixed together, making an even more deadly concoction. We are then exposed to these chemicals when using these products, thus unintentionally harming ourselves. Due to this fact, many have opted to choose to buy environmentally friendly cleaning products. Not only are they reducing human contamination and helping the environment, but they are also reducing the chances of having any related health problems.
Chemical exposure is not limited to one part of the world and is becoming a global health hazard. Cleaning products are used every day and everywhere, whether it be the workplace, school, or even in someone’s home. Due to their potency for killing bacteria and other unwanted substances, the ingredients that are used in many of these products are dangerous and most likely fatal to ingest. However, due to its ability to travel in the air, we are continuously inhaling these chemicals, while unaware of the consequences. According to Lentz (2013) “we are birthing a generation of polluted children” (p. 302). Babies are defenseless from these chemicals even before they are born, and “exposure to these toxicants has been linked directly to increasing childhood diseases” (Lentz, 2013, p. 302). In addition to children, adults are even more at risk due to their long-term exposure, and the chances of getting any related health problems increases if their place of employment requires them to work closely with these chemicals. For instance, Pechter (2009) stated that “janitors are among the occupational groups reporting the highest number of work-related asthma and cleaning products have been as the exposures most frequently associated with their symptoms” (p. 46).
Modern day consumers are often overwhelmed by the number of choices for various products, especially home cleaning supplies. Countless brands promise similar results, but many consumers are opting for a different methodology entirely. The shift towards more environmentally friendly cleaning products is evident in not only purchasable items on store shelves but also in homemade variations. As awareness about humanity’s impact on the earth and its environment continues to spread, consumers are more carefully choosing everyday household products. The growing popularity of environmentally friendly cleaning products can be attributed to protecting health, limiting negative impacts on the environment, and reducing costs.
Consumers seeking to rid their homes and spaces of dust, allergens, and germs often choose eco-friendly alternatives due to health concerns. According to the EPA, cleaning products “may contain chemicals associated with eye, skin, or respiratory irritation, or other human health issues” (“Greening Your Purchase of Cleaning Products: A Guide For Federal Purchasers,” 2018). As consumers continue to expand awareness of these potential concerns, the move towards safer “green” options continues. It is recommended that purchasers also examine any chosen products carefully, taking into consideration the ingredients, manufacturer information, and any product studies.
Environmental concerns also lead to more consumers choosing green products, as issues such as global warming, the impacts of plastic use, and sustainable resources continue to remain prevalent in consumers’ minds. As Manuela D’Agata states, “Unless we adopt a sustainable approach to everything we do, we run the risk to negatively affect our day-to-day health, well being, and productivity” (D’Agata, 2019). Choosing environmentally friendly cleaners supports this vision, replacing potential harmful toxins with safe and sustainable options.
The Shift Toward Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
Cleaning products for the home have never been particularly good for the environment. Industrial cleaners discharged without proper cleanup have been far worse, yet there is a measurable shift toward home and heavy industrial cleaning products that are less dangerous to the environment. The overwhelming scientific consensus that the environment is being devasted by humans has influenced marketing practices to appeal to American consumers’ desires to help the environment, at least in some small ways. Market research have identified consumers that are willing to spend more on eco-friendly products as “the green consumer,” and those green consumers have become a much sought-after demographic (Yoshi & Rahman, 2015). Given that environmental conditions are not going to improve in the near future and that media emphasis on the harm people are doing to the environment, market forces will continue to drive the shift toward eco-friendly cleaning products.
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