Why Green Cleaning?

Green cleaning is widely beneficial and surprisingly easy to accomplish.
Making our products green is not a dramatic change to be intimidated by. It’s something that is better for the health of ourselves and the planet, and something that could have been done all along if we had only realized the benefits sooner… and the consequences of conventional cleaning products.

Many of us have the sense that conventional cleaning products eliminate harmful dirt, dust, and bacteria in our personal space, which should be a good thing for our health, right? And the products either evaporate into nothing or we throw them away or wash them down the sink.
Our state-of-the-art modern waste and water treatment methods surely take care of those, right?

Well, for the most part, wrong.

sewage treatment plant

Problems with Conventional Cleaning

Unfortunately, out of sight out of mind really gives us a false sense of security. The cleaning methods used today which supposedly help us stay clean and healthy bring about a slew of their own problems. Green cleaning aims to avoid the following effects on external and internal environments.

The External Environment: Effects on Nature

In addition to resource waste and pollution caused by plastic and paper waste from cleaning products, the chemicals themselves find their way into external water sources. Small quantities washed down drains escape the water treatment system, while some tossed with paper towels and rags into the trash seeps out of dumpsters and landfills.

Cleaner chemicals such as phosphates can cause problems like eutrophication; the decrease in water quality due to depletion of oxygen content. Antibacterial compounds found in cleaners are also being banned left and right now that we have realized they allow small portions of bacteria to survive and create growth-resistant bacterial strains.

The chemical molecules accumulate over time in water, soil, and living organisms in the environment. This results in bioaccumulation and biomagnification, where especially high concentrations accumulate within animals higher up in the food chain. These animals are often the ones which we consume, such as large fish or poultry. Thus, we eventually ingest the contamination ourselves.

polluted-land-toxic

The Internal Environment: Effects at Home

It might be easy to push the above problems to the side, thinking they are distant and hard to control. But we originally use these cleaning products in our personal indoor spaces, where they arguably have the largest effect.

Here we are, trying to use cleaning products to clean our homes and personal spaces, while often actually making them worse.

Products don’t just disappear after we swipe them up and throw away the towel. Their residues are left behind on surfaces and the rest becomes airborne, allowing absorption through the skin as well as contributing to buildings having up to 100 times more air pollution than outdoor air.

This has actually led the Environmental Protection Agency to rank indoor air pollution as a top-five environmental risk to public health.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology also states that in incredible “50% of all illnesses are caused or aggravated by poor indoor air quality.” This includes minor immediate effects such as respiratory irritation, as well as links to serious illnesses such as cancer and asthma.

indoor air pollution

How is Green Cleaning Different?

Greener cleaners make some simple changes in a few specific areas
to reduce the above environmental and health impacts.

Concentrates

Cleaning products have some unique characteristics that make them ideal for going green. They are one of the only consumables able to be sold as a concentrate to be later diluted for prolonged use.

Concentrated green cleaning solutions use less water, plastic, paper, and ink in the manufacturing process. Then more of the product ships at one time, and each package lasts much longer for the consumer. This reduces packaging waste as well as emissions from trips between factory, distribution center, and consumers.

Walmart demonstrates how powerful this change can be. After implementing a concentrate-only policy, the company saved “more than 80 million pounds of plastic resin, preserved more than 430 gallons of water, and reduced more than 125 million pounds of cardboard.”

green-cleaning-products-concentrate

Packaging

In addition to reducing packaging with concentrated products, specific materials for the necessary packaging are more eco-friendly than others. Desired material properties in green cleaning products include local sourcing, biodegradability, organic content, recycled content, and sustainable sources.

Local sourcing reduces emissions in transportation, and biodegradability reduces impacts from the disposal of the products. Recycled and sustainable materials help reduce waste of raw materials and resources.

eco friendly packaging

Ingredients

Probably of more importance than the packaging is the ingredients of the cleaning products. Green cleaning products and the companies that use them aim to maintain transparency by disclosing all ingredient lists, even though the law does not require it.

Ingredients in green cleaning products are simpler and exclude harsh chemicals which are toxic or harmful to people and wildlife. Like the packaging, biodegradable and organic ingredients are important to ensure minimal effects if they escape into the natural environment.

biodegradable-ingredients

Properly Trained Staff

Products aren’t the only important aspect of green cleaning. Cleaning staff needs to have appropriate training in how to properly use green cleaning products. Many products, both conventional and green, contain chemicals which are not harmful in small quantities, but staff may not be aware of the limit and end up using too much.

Like any product, a green cleaning product could still cause more harm than good if used incorrectly. This is particularly true in commercial and industrial practices which use cleaning products in much greater quantities. Proper education and training by green cleaning services ensure that everyone knows how to use the products correctly to keep the building clean and its occupants safe and healthy.

trained staff

Legal and Financial Matters

In some specific circumstances, green cleaning has actually become law, or close to it. In particular, schools are increasingly implementing requirements to encourage full green cleaning procedures. This trend is spreading farther every year, so complying with the regulations now puts companies in an advantageous position for the future.

Contrary to common thought, the use of these new green cleaning products can also save the bank, particularly for businesses. Surface damages, difficult staff training, worker’s comp claims, and the general use of more resources can rack up costs. Safer chemical solutions in conservative packaging are often huge financial savings for many businesses and homes.

green-clean-sustain

JOIN THE CHANGE!

Ultimately, living beings existing on the planet will always have some effect on the environment. But we can minimize that effect. It can be small enough that we don’t need to worry about changing the climate or poisoning living organisms. Green cleaning works with this goal in mind.

Start using green cleaning products in your home or business today. The change is easy; all you really need to do is look out for reliable green labeling (we can help you figure that one out!). Or team up with the knowledgeable cleaning professionals at GCA to manage cleaning on a larger scale.

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