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The Worldwide Shift Towards Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products
Posted by: Maid in Your Hometown on: December 23, 2019

For the past decade, there has been a sharp rise in the usage of cleaning products that are environmentally friendly. Consumers have become more conscious of their own carbon footprint, as well as how their choices affect both the environment and themselves. Eco friendly brands such as Puracy Natural Dish Soap and Bon Ami Cleaning Powder have gained traction with consumers. A large percentage of the population have become aware of the harm the chemicals found in cleaning products poses to them. The rise in usage and shift towards environmentally friendly cleaning products is due to the general populations rising awareness of global environmental issues and the threat they pose to the global population.

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Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

According to the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (IJOEM), a Gallup survey on climate change awareness was conducted in multiple countries around the world. Climate change awareness was “…found to be 75% in Brazil, 41% in South Africa, 59% in China, and highest awareness was observed in [the] United States that was 94% ” (Pandve, Chawla, Fernandez, Singru, Khismatrao, Pawar, para. 11. 2011). In fact, according to IJOEM, sixty five percent of respondents to a survey stated that “ …lifestyle changes would be most effective in tackling climate change and [to] prevent further changes in climate…75% opined that personal efforts should be made to reduce the climate change ” (Pandve, et al. para.14. 2011). Clearly a large percentage of the global population is well aware of climate change and the danger it poses. Furthermore, this awareness has evidently translated into the everyday consumers choice of purchasing environmentally friendly cleaning products, as well as shopping from corporations who have begun to shift in the same direction. The awareness of climate change has made consumers aware of the fact that their purchases have an impact, not just on their own bodies, but on our precious environment.

Although scientists universally agree that there is strong evidence to support that Climate Change is real, the acceptance of Climate Change has been controversial for over a decade Although the controversy has seemingly stagnated the conversation, in recent years, consumers have begun to acknowledge that Climate Change has moved closer into the spotlight of public concern. Increased awareness of the impact of consumption on the environment conflated with changing attitudes toward “green” behavior has caused consumers to begin switching to a more “green”-oriented consumption pattern (Chen & Chai, 2010; Litvine & Wüstenhagen, 2011).

Across all green product types, green cleaning products have been accepted at a seemingly higher rate. A major driver of this shift could potentially be an artifact of closely related target segments growing. For example, as holistic remedies and chemical-free homes are in higher demand, perhaps the search for chemical-free cleaners will end in a product that happens to also be environmentally-friendly. Another explanation could be the desire to adhere to social norms or the “status quo.” As consumers typically do not adhere to the rational actor paradigm and often succumb to heuristics and biases, the inner-desire to align one’s self with the social norm—especially from social inputs that of great influence to the actor—is very strong (Samuelson & Zeckhauser, 1998).

This paper attempts to address the mechanism underlying the specific shift in consumer attitudes toward green cleaning products. Specifically, it is hypothesized increased desire to consume in a socially responsible pattern, growing overlap of goals with other target segments (e.g. holistic consumers, cost-sensitive consumers, etc.), and social norming / status quo bias have driven the rise of demand for environmentally-responsible cleaning products.

Factors Contributing to the Rise in Use of Environmentally-Friendly Cleaning Products

Climate change and modern society’s effect on the environment have become central issues in the global consciousness.  Indeed, according to the Counsel of Foreign Relations (2009), majorities in each of the 25 nations surveyed believed that climate change is a serious issue.  There are many ways that individuals can modify their behavior to reduce their negative effect on the environment.  One such option chosen by many households is to switch to environmentally-friendly cleaning products.  A general increase in the use of environmentally-conscious cleaning products is attributable to (i) concerns regarding the negative health effects of traditional cleaning products, (ii) an increase in the world population’s concern with the environment, and (iii) legislation enacted to discourage the use of harmful products.

Health Concerns Regarding Traditional Cleaning Products

New scientific research has shown that traditional cleaning products may have negative effects on the health of those exposed to the area in which such products are used.  For example, some studies have suggested that traditional cleaning products emit pollutants that can exacerbate or even cause asthma (United States Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2017).   Possible offending cleaning agents include bleach, ammonia. chlorine, and common detergents and disinfectants (EPA, 2017).  In addition, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that over 10,000 emergency room visits in 1986 were attributable to soaps, detergents, and other cleaning compounds (EPA, 2017).  In addition to acute adverse reactions, harmful chemical cleaners can also pose long-term risks.  For example, certain compounds present in common cleaners may seep into the water supply.  Exposed individuals may suffer disruption of their endocrine system (hormone regulation), which can lead to children with birth defects (EPA, 2018).

Shifting to Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products

While the benefits of environmentally friendly cleaning products to the planet are frequently discussed, what is sometimes overlooked is how good they can be for consumers directly.  Contrary to popular belief, eco-friendly cleaning products are often more cost effective for consumers than some name brand products.  Green cleaning supplies are also safer to use around the house.  Perhaps the most important benefit, however, is the benefit to the consumer’s personal health.  Overall, environmentally friendly household cleaning products are a smarter choice for the average shopper.

While recent studies suggest that consumers are more willing to pay the extra cost of eco-friendly products (Biswas & Roy, 2016), it is important to look at just what the cost difference really is.  Work done out of the University of British Columbia shows that while the common perception is that the more ecologically responsible products are more expensive, the difference is relatively insignificant.  The average cost per 100 ml of non-green cleaning products was surprisingly found to be only $0.04 higher than the average cost per 100 ml of green products (Chang, Jang, Au & Li, 2015).  This cost difference could be further reduced, however, by looking beyond just store bought products.

Many effective cleaning products can be made using household supplies such as vinegar, bleach, or hydrogen peroxide that many people already have on hand.  When this is taken into account, the cost of ecologically dangerous cleaning supplies can actually surpass the cost of non-green products.  When looking at the minor difference in costs between the two types of store bought cleaners, and factoring in that similar products can be affordably made at home, it is easy to see how a switch to green household cleaners can be economically advantageous.

The Harmful Effects of Cleaning Products on the Environment

Being in a cleanly space is incredibly important for ones physical and mental health.  Most know the importance in being sanitary to promote wellbeing and prevent sickness, but not everyone considers the effect being clean has on one’s mental state.  Cleaning and organization “helps us feel better about ourselves, it keeps us productive and it may very well keep us physically fit” (Ryback 2016).  While there are clear advantages to being clean, such as the aforementioned ones, it would behoove us to be more meticulous when it comes to choosing the products used in the process of this cleaning.  Our society has made it far too easy for us to reach for the simple, yet often times more damaging, option.  There are countless ways in which this can be seen, from fast food all the way to cleaning products, it is far too justifiable for someone to reach for the cheaper, heavily packaged item over one that may be more environmentally friendly.  The over consumption of single use products along with the harmful chemicals are detrimental to the earth.  There are several steps every person can take to create more environmentally friendly habits.

One can easily go out of their way to ensure they are lowering their use of plastic and single use products.  It does not come as a surprise to anyone that plastic is bad for the environment; however, many do not understand the ramifications plastic and single use cleaning products truly have on the earth.  Not only is there an unwarranted amount of excess packaging, but there is also lots materials required to produce these products.  According to the company Durafresh (2016), people are using 110 million trees and 130 million gallons of water every year due to the immense number of paper towels being used.  Over the course of ten years, this will be equivalent to over 1.1 billion trees and 1.3 billion gallons of water.  These materials could have had a far better use, causing this to have a monumental effect on the environment.

References

Durafresh. (2016, June 07). The environmental impact of paper towels. Retrieved from http://durafreshcloth.com/881-2/

Ryback, R., M.D. (2016, July 11). The Powerful Psychology Behind Cleanliness. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truisms-wellness/201607/the-powerful-psychology-behind-cleanliness

Biswas, A., & Roy, M. (2016). A Study of Consumers’ Willingness to Pay for Green Products.

Journal of Advanced Management Science, 4, 211-215.

Chang, K., Jang, P., Au, S., & Li, Y. (2015). An Investigation into Sustainable Cleaning

Products. University of British Columbia.

Counsel of Foreign Relations. (2009, August 12). World Opinion on the Environment. Retrieved April 25, 2019, from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/world-opinion-environment.

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 25, 2019, from https://www.epa.gov/p2/cleaning-national-parks-using-environmentally-preferable-janitorial-products-yellowstone-and.

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2018, November 28). Greening Your Purchase of Cleaning Products: A Guide for Federal Purchasers. Retrieved April 25, 2019, from https://www.epa.gov/greenerproducts/greening-your-purchase-cleaning-products-guide-federal-purchasers#One.

Chen, T. B., & Chai, L. T. (2010). Attitude towards the environment and green products: consumers’ perspective. Management science and engineering4(2), 27.

Litvine, D., & Wüstenhagen, R. (2011). Helping” light green” consumers walk the talk: Results of a behavioural intervention survey in the Swiss electricity market. Ecological Economics70(3), 462-474.

Samuelson, W., & Zeckhauser, R. (1988). Status quo bias in decision making. Journal of risk and uncertainty1(1), 7-59.

Pandve, H. T., Chawla, P. S., Fernandez, K., Singru, S. A., Khismatrao, D., & Pawar, S. (2011, September). Assessment of awareness regarding climate change in an urban community. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299094/

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