In the modern age of environmental consciousness, a particular focus has formed concerning efforts to mitigate pollution at a micro-scale. Whereas prior efforts have pursued broader ends through such regulatory legislation as the Toxic Substances Control Act (1976), newer endeavors have sought to slow global pollution at a personal level. Owing to this, consumers have begun a steady, albeit notable, shift towards home products that are more environmentally friendly than their more hazardous alternatives. The root of this shift towards individualized pollution control, though, has remained somewhat enigmatic. Particularly when viewed through the understanding that industrial factors contribute the lion’s share of domestic and global pollution, a shift towards individualized regulation seems counterintuitive (EPA, 2018). The response to this enigma, though, may not be as positive as the trend suggests. Specifically, in this analysis, I will demonstrate that the shift towards environmentally conscious cleaning products is not a positive measure of personal responsibility for pollution, but rather, the outcome of a carefully orchestrated marketing campaign undertaken to reduce pollutants and increase profits, with the lowest level of industry-wide loss.
In the text of The National Environmental Policy Act, Congress speaks to this matter bluntly, stating “The Congress recognizes that each person should enjoy a healthful environment and that each person has a responsibility to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the environment.” (42 USC § 4331). In its time, language such as this represented an unparalleled approach to the threat of global pollution. By placing the onus of responsibility not simply on industrial or private factors, but all citizens, Congress indicated the clear intent that reducing global pollution would require global support. Further, this language sought to create a culture of responsibility for the environment, with every human being as warden of its continued wellbeing.
The Value of Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products
The first decades of the 20th century have generated a new competitive context for companies. An open-border market expands the diversity of products offered. Under these conditions, a consumer has learned to weigh up decisions by integrating various aspects of the products. Among the most relevant variables of the new consumer decisions is corporate reputation. In particular, cleaning product companies face the challenge of promoting environmentally friendly products not only for competitive reasons but also because this ethical behavior defines their social image.
A 2013 study by Havas Media Labs highlighted the social value of brands. At that time, of the 10 Meaningful Brands, only one of the large cleaning product companies was ranked number 9. “The customers are beginning to take a quantum leap into a human age where a life meaningfully well lived is what really counts,” pointed out Umair Haque, the director of that research (Clendaniel, 2013, para. 9).
Today consumers are more aware of the effects of chemicals on the environment and obtain more information. Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a guide for government agencies to purchase green cleaning products (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2018). The goal, in addition to caring for the nearly 2.8 million janitors exposed to chemical risks, is to lead an example of different consumption with low impact on the environment.
Consumption under suspicion is intensified in certain situations. In February 2019, in the Republic of Korea, humidifier disinfectants have resulted in 6246 reported victims and 1375 deaths by causing pulmonary fibrosis. Research by a group of academics showed a growing level of concern among the population about who and what is behind the products consumed at home (Sim, Lee, Uhm, Y. et al. 2019).
Are green cleaning products better than conventional ones?
Consumer demand for environmentally friendly cleaning also referred to as green cleaning is on the rise. Green cleaning entails the use of cleaning products and methods that preserve human health and cause less harm to the environment. Green all-purpose cleaners, laundry detergents, scouring powders and dish soaps are common in shopping malls across the United States. The growth in consumer demand for green cleaning products is due to the benefits they accrue to the environment and human health. However, some consumers undermine their benefits terming them as costlier than traditional commercial products.
Benefits of using green cleaning products
Consumers are demanding more green cleaning products because of increased environmental awareness. A consumer review carried out by Pickett-Baker & Ozaki (2008) showed that consumers were purchasing more green products and were becoming more environmentally aware. Green cleaners are manufactured using energy-efficient methods and the ingredients used are toxic-free. They are readily biodegradable making disposal of waste easy. The use of these products will lessen water and air pollution. This will help to fight climate change. The use of green cleaning products also causes less harm to human health. They are made from natural and organic ingredients that have little effect on the body from exposure.
The disadvantage of green cleaning products
One major drawback slowing down the adoption of green cleaning products is the cost. Green cleaning products are more expensive than their traditional equivalents. This is mainly due to the costs incurred in research and development that are passed on to the consumer (Aydin, I?ik & Ulu, 2016). There is also the added cost of certification by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other relevant bodies.
The use of green cleaning products has increased rapidly over the last decade. This is mainly attributed to them being environmentally friendly both in terms of their production and disposal. They also cause less harm to human health. Their environmental and health benefits will convince consumers to continue buying them despite their high cost.
Environmental Protection Agency (2019, September 10). Summary of the Toxic Substances
Control Act. https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-toxic-substances-control-act
Environmental Protection Agency (2020, April 11). Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347. Accessed via
Clendaniel, M. (2013, June 11). A Successful 21st-Century Brand Has to Help Create Meaningful Lives. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/2682291/a-successful-21st-century-brand-has-to-help-create-meaningful-lives
Sim, S., Lee, J., Uhm, Y., Kim, S., Han, E. J., Choi, K., … Lee, Y. (2019). Korean consumers’ awareness of the risks of chemicals in daily consumer products. Environmental Sciences Europe, 31(1). doi: 10.1186/s12302-019-0278-x
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2018, November 28). Greening Your Purchase of Cleaning Products: A Guide For Federal Purchasers. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/greenerproducts/greening-your-purchase-cleaning-products-guide-federal-purchasers
Aydin, M. C., I?ik, E., & Ulu, A. E. (2016). Emerging sustainable/green cleaning products: health and environmental risks. Journal of Research for Consumers, 22, 71-96.
Pickett?Baker, J. & Ozaki, R. (2008), “Pro?environmental products: marketing influence on consumer purchase decision”. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 25, 281-293.