Clean and Green – is it worth buying eco-friendly cleaning products?

Everyone wants a clean house, but what price do we pay for our spotless counters and clean loos? In the US, 69 percent of streams contain traces of disinfectant and detergent compounds from household cleaning products. Some ingredients will break down in wastewater treatment plants but others don’t so they end up discharged into seas and rivers to pollute aquatic life (and threaten our own water). Seeing as it’s still Earth Month, it’s seems apt to chat pollution.

Water pollution is a big problem – WWF says 80% of marine pollution comes from land based activities – and it’s not just industrial waste that’s to blame. Household cleaning products contain major culprits too. There are so many that can be harmful to our health and environment, but two to highlight are phosphates and APEs (alkylphenol ethoxylates).

APEs can mimic the hormone oestrogen harming the reproduction of salmon and other fish (I actually wrote about the feminisation of fish in The Ecologist a few years ago) and phosphates act as fertilisers which promotes the growth of algae blooms that starve marine life of oxygen. So it basically all dies. The over-use of farming fertilisers causes a similar contamination in waterways and imbalance in marine environments. There’s a ton of info online about other chemicals and their effects – for starters check out the Wiki page on the environmental impact of cleaning agents.

So what can we do? Go green with our household cleaning products of course…

Ecover-green-cleaning-products

I moved house recently and had to do the fun task of stocking  up on new cleaning products – none of the local corner shops had anything as advanced as eco-friendly cleaning products so I bought the nearest thing to a natural ingredient, Bicarbonate Soda Spray.

Then by chance, the Ecover PR team got in touch (magical timing) and asked if I wanted to try some Ecover cleaning products – of course, would love to. I’m already a consumer – I use Ecover Laundry Liquid, Stain Remover (it’s excellent) and Washing Powder, as well as Floor Soap (when I had wooden floors).

My favourite Ecover product that I was sent to try was Window and Glass Cleaner; because I have to actually be inside my shower cubicle to clean the glass walls, I don’t feel like I’m suffocating myself with crazy chemicals with this. I can jump in, clean and not worry about how I’m going to breathe.

What’s under our kitchen sink and in our toilet bowl inevitably ends up in our rivers and streams so choosing greener products, where possible will at least help minimise our contribution to the problem (obviously it won’t eradicate the problem, but what if we EVERYONE used better products? Then we’d really make a difference!).

I’ve always been aware of toxic waste, whether it’s the environmental impact of manufacturing chemicals, the potentially harmful pollutants we expose ourselves to at home, or what we release into the wider world. Who knows, maybe in years to come it will be law or standard practice to use safer and greener products. Let’s hope so. 

For brands like Ecover products still do the job of anti-bacterial cleaning but ingredients are plant-based so they actually break down and don’t pollute the environment. It’s a no brainer really! For more reading, Ecover gives a nice round up of the ingredients it does and doesn’t use in its FAQs section here. Ecover also now owns method (another green-clean brand I love using) so there’s even greater chance that more people will convert. And on the subject of household / waterways pollution, I read a good post on what we should and shouldn’t flush down the loo (hint: it’s not very much) on another green living blog.

Oh and talking of loos, I might as well impart some random hygiene trivia: Did you know that around 16,000 germs hang around a toilet seat and up to 40,000 in the metre square area after the loo is flushed with the lid up? Since reading that a few years ago, I’ve always flushed with the lid down, to keep all the pesky bacteria in, and never keep my toothbrush above the loo either.

Happy cleaning xx

Share a shower

share a shower campaign by method

share a shower campaign by methodI’ve been meaning to write about this campaign for a while, so I’m glad I’ve finally got round to it…A campaign by my favourite cleaning brand (oh dear that sounds sad!) – Method – who I honestly think are brilliant. In fact I love the brand through and through because every part of the production, design, ethos and branding has been thought about from a sustainability and environmental point of view. Their bottles are made from old bottles, and non-toxic cleaning products that biodegrade instead of toxic chemicals that don’t.

One part of what they do comes from the Cradle to Cradle vision. Cradle to Cradle begins with the assumption that the problem is not that we are too many or that we consume too much, but that what we consume is not designed properly.

I really agree with this because a) we can’t keep the population down (without drastic one-child Chinese style birth control policies) and b) we can’t stop people from consuming or wanting to develop themselves, especially developing nations. So what we make and how we make it has to be the thing that changes. Unfortunately I don’t think companies, especially large corporates, will make a change to the way they do things unless there’s an economic reason or government regulation.

One day (hopefully), all plastics will be biodegradable or made from an alternative material because oil will become a genuinely rare commodity but until then, we’ll have to turn to clever people, like the ones at Method, who are already busy in their labs concocting environmentally innovative ways of doing things. Hoorah!

I digress from the campaign, I know, but let me quickly tell you about the other principle they stand by, which is green chemistry. In a nutshell this is a belief in the precautionary principle (avoiding ingredients where there is any shred of doubt over safety) and assessing each ingredient against all the possible effects on people or the environment – e.g. how the ingredient is sourced, how it’s used and its impact on the environment once it’s been disposed. There are also lots of other great strategies – like trying to make all their factories recycle 100% of their water and waste and spread the word about  – but I’ll let you read about the rest here.

Back to the campaign! Basically, team Method wants us to share a shower and use less water. They say ‘an average shower uses 63 litres of water so if everyone in the UK shared a shower – just once – we could save 1.5 billion litres of water.’ A few celebrities and brands are on board and if you ‘pledge to share a shower‘ Method will send you a £1 voucher and you’ll be in with the chance of winning a year’s worth of Method cleaning products. Err… I’m in! While obviously the campaign is more conceptual than practical, the valuable idea of saving water is there. Join the Share a Shower Facebook page to try the app and enter the competition.

It’s seems relevant to make the point here, one that many have made before, that the water we waste at home is so small in comparison to the water lost through leaks in the water system. According to Leo Hickman’s post on the Guardian’s environment blog last week, ‘Thames Water lost 669.9 million litres of water a DAY – equal to 32% of the total it delivered – through leaks in 2009/10, according to Ofwat.’ Incredible and hypocritical for water companies to pass the blame (and guilt) to the consumer. I digress again, but despite this statistic we should all still all do our bit and save water!