Since the turn of the century, there has been an increase in environmentally friendly cleaning products. Companies like Good Life Solutions, Dr. Bonner’s Pure Castille Soap, and Mrs. Meyer’s have seen high levels of success when it comes to selling these products. This is because people are becoming more aware of the harmful effects of chemicals in traditional cleaning products. Consumers want to buy safer products for their families and companies need risk-free products for their employees. Not only that but people are developing a greater environmental conscience. More and more consumers feel responsible to make environmentally friendly product choices to curb climate change. For these main reasons, there has been a shift towards eco-friendly products in the past two decades.
First and foremost, the switch from traditional to eco-friendly products is due to perceived health benefits. It has been found that traditional products emit chemicals that can exacerbate or even cause asthma, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, 2017). For consumers with children, the issue of asthma is of great concern, and switching cleaning products provides a solution for child safety. Once promised the benefits of “no sneezing, red eyes, headaches, or sore throats,” consumers were more likely to accept and prefer green products (EPA, 2017). Moreover, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “soaps, detergents and cleaning compounds not classified elsewhere were cited as responsible for 10, 252 work-related emergency room visits” (EPA, 2017). Companies need to reduce liability so many have made the change to products with less harmful chemicals. Aside from health and safety, there are also a growing number of consumers who want to help the environment.
In Favor of Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products
The concept of environmentally friendly or “green” cleaning involves the use of cleaning products that contain benign chemicals in contrast to the potentially harmful components of conventional cleaning products (Espinoza, Geiger, & Everson, 2009). A 1993 executive order from President Clinton introduced the concept of green cleaning, and the practice gained significant momentum in the early 2000s (Espinoza, Geiger, & Everson, 2009). The definition of what exactly makes a product environmentally friendly is murky, but most, generally speaking, the label applies to products that have a positive and reduced negative impact on their indoor and/or outdoor environments. More simply put, environmentally friendly cleaning products reduce harm to human health and to the environment while still being effective for their intended use. Critics of green cleaning initiatives are skeptical of product performance and cost-effectiveness. However, the shift towards environmentally friendly cleaning products is a continuing trend with a multitude of benefits. The reason environmentally friendly cleaning products and procedures are successful is that they reduce the use of water and chemicals, reduce harmful waste and require less transportation energy, and foster a safer indoor environment, and pose fewer health risks to the people that use them.
Cost-effectiveness, as it relates to cleaning products, is a complex subject. Not only is the base cost of the chemical important to consider, but there are other tangible and intangible factors that ultimately affect cost. Tangible factors that affect cost include the face price of the cleaning chemical, the price of other materials used during cleaning, labor costs (where applicable), water use, and electricity use (Espinoza, Geiger, & Everson, 2009). Intangible factors to consider include health risks, odors, and environmental impact (Quan, Joseph & Jelen, 2011).
How Health Risk Lead to Advancing Use of Environmentally Friendly Cleaners
In today’s society, environmentally friendly products abound. While the concept of being friendly to the planet is not new, there is certainly a type of wave in today’s world to be mindful of the Earth. The most common switch to come to mind is that of cleaning products. There are many reasons for the shift towards environmentally friendly cleaning products. However, the most predominant would be the amount of health risk(to both humanity and the planet) associated with traditional cleaning products.
Research has shown that more traditional cleaning products carry an increased risk of respiratory illnesses, eye and skin irritations(EPA, 2019). Extended use of traditional cleaning products has even been seen to increase the risk of endocrine system irritation(Martinez-Pena, et al., 2013). While the research of traditional cleaning products’ risks is primarily geared towards the health damage done by the chemicals inside of cleaning products, there is obviously also damage done to the environment. A study done in Merida, Mexico found that there was a risk of contamination to drinking water sources and septic systems due to traditional cleaning products being used in places such as bathrooms of homes(Martinez-Pena, et al., 2013). This presents a health risk to an entire population. In America, several states have enacted new regulations for chemicals that are legal to use in cleaning products to prevent things like this from occurring(Zota, et al., 2017).
It goes without saying that cleaning is a necessary part of living a healthy lifestyle. A home that is clean is less likely to have illness-causing germs and bacteria inside of it than a home that has not been cleaned. On this same token, if it is possible to aide in the planet living a healthy lifestyle, per say, it is each beings’ responsibility to do so.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2017, March 30). Cleaning national parks: using environmentally preferable janitorial products at yellowstone and grand teton national parks. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/p2/cleaning-national-parks-using-environmentally-preferable-janitorial-products-yellowstone-and.
Kunst, Alexander (2018, June 20). Purchase of Eco-Friendly household cleaning products in the U.S. by age 2018. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/228375/people-who-buy-eco-friendly-household-cleaning-products/
Pandve, H. T., Chawla, P. S., Fernandez, K., Singru, S. A., Khismatrao, D., & Pawar, S. (2011). Assessment of awareness regarding climate change in an urban community. Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 15(3), 109–112.
Espinoza, T., Geiger, C., & Everson, I. (2009). The Real Costs of Institutional “Green” Cleaning. The Affordability of Green Cleaning. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6456/755d0b10461379fb266cb72918f25bf3d27b.pdf
Quan, X., Joseph, A., & Jelen, M. (2011). Green Cleaning in Healthcare: Current Practices and Questions for Future Research. The Center for Health Design. Retrieved from https://www.healthdesign.org/system/files/hhigreencleaning_paper.pdf
Van Lieshout, K. G., Bayley, C., Akinlabi, S., von Rabenau, L., & Dornfeld, D. (2015). Leveraging life cycle assessment to evaluate environmental impacts of green cleaning products. ScienceDirect. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Dornfeld/publication/277938924_Leveraging_Life_Cycle_Assessment_to_Evaluate_Environmental_Impacts_of_Green_Cleaning_Products/links/559c460308ae0035df2462ab/Leveraging-Life-Cycle-Assessment-to-Evaluate-Environmental-Impacts-of-Green-Cleaning-Products.pdf
Greening Your Purchase of Cleaning Products: A Guide For Federal Purchasers. (2018, November 28). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/greenerproducts/greening-your-purchase-cleaning-products-guide-federal-purchasers
Martínez-Peña, R. M., Hoogesteijn, A. L., Rothenberg, S. J., Cervera-Montejano, M. D., & Pacheco-Ávila, J. G. (2013, August 23). Cleaning Products, Environmental Awareness and Risk Perception in Mérida, Mexico. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0074352
Zota, A. R., Singla, V., Adamkiewicz, G., Mitro, S. D., & Dodson, R. E. (2017, July 29). Reducing chemical exposures at home: opportunities for action. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5561392/