Maybe it’s the mass amount of information I’ve learned from living on The Mighty Susquehanna, or maybe it’s that one Environmental Bio class I had in college that I LOVED, or maybe it’s that the smell of bleach makes me feel like I’m going to have a panic attack, but either way – I know that traditional cleaners (bleach, ammonia, etc.) are bad for the environment. But just how bad are they?
According to the EPA in this article, traditional cleaners can present substantial personal and environmental health concerns:
- Cleaning products are released to the environment during normal use through evaporation of volatile components and rinsing down the drain of residual product from cleaned surfaces, sponges, etc. Janitorial staff and others who perform cleaning can be exposed to concentrated cleaning products. However, proper training and use of a Chemical Management System (a set of formal procedures to ensure proper storage, handling, and use) can greatly minimize or prevent exposure to concentrated cleaning product during handling and use.
- Certain ingredients in cleaning products can present hazard concerns to exposed populations (e.g., skin and eye irritation in workers) or toxicity to aquatic species in waters receiving inadequately treated wastes (note that standard sewage treatment effectively reduces or removes most cleaning product constituents). For example, alkylphenol ethoxylates, a common surfactant ingredient in cleaners, have been shown in laboratory studies to function as an “endocrine disrupter,” causing adverse reproductive effects of the types seen in wildlife exposed to polluted waters.
- Ingredients containing phosphorus or nitrogen can contribute to nutrient-loading in water bodies, leading to adverse effects on water quality. These contributions, however, are typically small compared to other point and non-point sources.
- Volatile organic compounds (VOC) in cleaning products can affect indoor air quality and also contribute to smog formation in outdoor air.
Personal health, water and air quality, wildlife… the list of environmental and health concerns stemming from the slew of bottles underneath our kitchen and bathroom sinks is incredible. I think I knew this already… I must have, right? But I felt so overwhelmed by it all. Is “environmentally-friendly” good enough? What does that even mean? Some of the “natural” cleaners are close-ish in price to their bleach-filled brethren, but some of them are substantially more expensive. Why is that? Why are some brands exclusive to one store or another, and some can be purchased on Amazon? I felt like I couldn’t really make sense of it all, and there was so much information to take in. I started small and made small replacements, but my real commitment to “greening my cleaning” was when I was introduced to Grove Collaborative (this is my referral link – you get a free Mrs. Meyers cleaning set and I earn $10 of product credit if you decide to purchase from them).
Grove Collaborative is a flexible recurring shipment service (though you can absolutely opt out of regular monthly shipments) that exclusively sells products that meet their high standards for being “non-toxic, effective, sustainable, and cruelty-free”. They “value safety, transparency, social welfare and exclusively work with partners who do, too..and also carbon offset every shipment that goes out the door”. Basically, they took all of the hard work out of figuring out what to buy and from whom.
Grove sells products from brands like Mrs. Meyers, method, Seventh Generation, and of course has their own line of sustainable, eco-conscious cleaners, household products, and more. The beset part? It’s all at a discount that makes them cheaper than picking them up at the grocery store. Some of my favorite products I’ve gotten with my Grove VIP membership ($19.99/year and gets you free shipping on every order (flat-rate $2.99 otherwise), free gifts throughout the year, access to sales/new products, etc.) are:
- Grove’s cleaning concentrates and glass spray bottles
- Coconut scrubber sponges
- 100% recycled plastic trash bags
- Mrs. Meyers Room Refresher
- and LOTS of others, but these are my super-go-tos
As an added bonus to the savings and the referral program (and in true taste to their mission), Grove has a “carbon offsetting” program to help offset the emissions created by their business. According to their website, they purchase credits to fund projects that help reduce pollution, like wind farms and energy efficiency retrofits. It makes it feel so GOOD to put in the time and money to make green cleaning switches when they company you’re supporting is continuing to support their Earth-focused cause in additional ways (with said money).
Have you wanted to “green” your cleaning? Or have you already made some switches (or maybe Grove isn’t at all new to your and you’ve been Grove-ing for months!)? Feel free to use my referral link (the one where you’ll get a free Mrs. Meyers cleaning set and I’ll get $10 toward my next purchase – win-win!) if you want to get started: https://www.grove.co/referrer/75471345/