How to choose the best eco or green cleaning products; Global Awareness and Packaging (Part 4)

When selecting eco cleaning products, the Global Awareness step is often overlooked. Products can be safe and natural but not ‘eco’.  The decisions you make here will depend on your own views – so ask yourself:

4. Is it as environmentally friendly as possible?

Orangutans need rainforests.

Image source DeviantArt, by hatestock

Consider the many products that contain palm oil.  Palm oil may be labelled as plant oils, palmate etc. The trees that produce palm oil grow in massive plantations in places where tropical rainforests used to grow. Don’t be misled by claims that the palm oil is certified or ethically sourced. All palm oil plantations compete with rainforest for habitat. Without rainforests we are depriving animals of their habitat, the orangutan is an example. Participating in bringing about their extinction with knowledge and foresight, that’s not eco1, 2. Also, the rainforests have been described as ‘the lungs of the earth’. We need rainforests to clean the air, more than we need palm oil.

How eco is your cleaning product?

How eco is your cleaning product? Image Source DeviantArt by AleckJo

Another common ingredient which is not eco is peroxide, or oxygen whitener. Peroxide is a far better choice than chlorine or bleach (hazardous), both are used to whiten. However, the manufacture of hydrogen peroxide is energy intensive, and often derived from petrochemicals3 . Wear more coloureds, even tennis players wear colours now!

If you cannot get a local product, whenever possible select a product endorsed by a recognised Fair Trade Organisation4. Why should someone else suffer poverty on your behalf?

Do soap nuts wash your mouth out?

Soap nuts?
Image by rustedscrapmetal from DeviantArt.

Understand your product. Soap nuts, for instance, are a very eco cleaning choice in those regions where the trees grow. Be wary of claims that the soap nuts come from plantation trees; they are very slow growing trees, it takes about 10 years before they become productive. Check the species, as the seeds from the commonly used plant (Sapindus Mukorosis) are a prohibited import to Australia because it could readily become a weed5,6.  Remember too, if it is not a local product, it has already failed at step 2, buy local.  An eco-option here is to do a bit of research on the trees native to your area. Many plants have a high saponin (soap) content, and could be useful for washing.  (for example:  Alphitonia excelsa (Red Ash or Soap Tree),  an Australian native tree (and there are others), soapwort is a herb that can be used, and the roots of the Yucca contain saponin.)

5. Is the packaging ‘eco’? Packaging is also an important eco consideration:

  • Not biodegradable means forever.

    If it doesn’t biodegrade, it’s here FOREVER! Image by !M10tje from DeviantArt

    Look for products that keep packaging to a minimum.

  • Look for biodegradable packaging, recycled packaging (eg FSC paper or cardboard, soy based inks) or at the very least recycle-able packaging.
  • Buy in bulk; it saves a lot of packaging as well as being economical.
  • Buy where you can refill your own containers.
  • Buy concentrates, don’t transport water unnecessarily.

6. Do eco cleaning products work? When you see a new cleaning product advertised, or displayed at the supermarket, do you interrogate the shop assistants about the products manufacture or ingredients? Or do you just try it and see for yourself? You will find that an eco cleaning product works as well, if not better, than the toxic chemical cleaners which are so heavily advertised and ‘in your face’ available.  Do a bit of research, or just give it a go! You have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain.

Scales of Justice

Image by LunaNYXstock from DeviantArt

The price and value of eco cleaning products is very competitive on a straight cost for cost basis. But there’s more to life than money, and eco cleaning products give you more benefits. Never forget that buying local boosts your own welfare, staying healthy is much cheaper than treating illness, and that the happiness of all creatures is necessary if we want to live in a wonderful world.

(If you’re in Sydney, check out our range of excellent Australian Eco cleaning products here.)

References:

  1. http://www.orangutan.org.au/
  2. http://www.orangutans.com.au/
  3.  http://naturesgreenremedy.com/are-baking-soda-hydrogen-peroxide-and-vinegar-truly-green-cleaning-products/
  4. http://www.fairtrade.com.au/ 
  5. http://www.aqis.gov.au/icon32/asp/ex_casecontent.asp?intNodeId=8559996&intCommodityId=25559&Types=none&WhichQuery=Go+to+full+text&intSearch=1&LogSessionID=0
  6. http://www.aqis.gov.au/icon32/asp/ex_casecontent.asp?intNodeId=8559977&intCommodityId=25559&Types=none&WhichQuery=Go+to+full+text&intSearch=1&LogSessionID=0

The Humble Candle, but which candle is best?

Many candles

We light many candles at once, to make an impact

The humble candle, for passion and love, Birthdays and Christmas, remembrance, devotion and so many other things. Before electricity, candles were precious, expensive, and lighting a candle had meaning. Now you can get candles very cheaply; but lighting a 10c candle doesn’t seem to have the same meaning. So we light many candles…

When we researched candles to find out which candle is best, we considered as many aspects as we could, giving health the highest priority.

Smoke from paraffin candles is toxic

Smoke from paraffin candles is toxic

The common paraffin wax candle was rejected early. Paraffin is a by-product of the petrochemical industry. Dr Peter Dingle (1) found that burning three paraffin wax candles in a room put as much toxins in the air as idling a car in the room. Not good for anyone’s health. It seems it’s healthier to stand by the motorway and breathe in the exhaust fumes! On the plus side, paraffin is very cheap, and you can afford to burn many candles at once, a bit like moving onto the median strip of the motorway and getting the exhaust fumes from all sides.

Hand holding soy bean

93% of all soy beans grown in the USA are Genetically Modified.

The new kid on the block, the soy candle, was cited to have Eco credentials, and was enthusiastically researched. The report by USDA which showed that most of the soy produced in the USA is Genetically Modified (2). Exit the soy candles; GM is not supported by us, for many reasons best discussed in a separate article. I can hear you arguing that soy is safe enough to eat… true, some soy is. Most soy is not. If it is non-GM soy, then it’s better to eat it than burn it.

Next we briefly considered palm oil candles. You don’t have to look too far to find that palm oil is grown in many SE Asian countries.  If we burn the oil in our candles, more rainforests will be cleared to grow more palms to produce more oil. We need rainforests to stabilise the earth’s atmosphere, they are the lungs of the earth.

Orang utans lose their homes to palm oil plantations

Save the rainforests for the Orang utans

They are also the home of the Orangutan, a species close to becoming extinct. Our candle needs are not important enough to go up against that, and we want to feel good when we light a candle. Destroying rainforests doesn’t make us feel good. (3,4)

So far in the candle options, paraffin is out, soy is out, palm oil is out. It’s not looking too good for our birthday cakes!

The final contender is the beeswax candle. The wax made by bees, which coats the side of the ‘frames’ in a commercial beehive, is excellent for your health. It is simply scraped off the hive, warmed and strained to remove any bits of twigs etc., and then moulded or rolled with a cotton wick in the middle. Simple, clean, and it has a divine honey smell (without adding anything to create a smell)

Beeswax candle, pure, clean and naturally honey scented

Beeswax candle, pure, clean and naturally honey scented

Many, many bees work hard to make the wax, they are little guys, and although they work fast, we burn candles fast too.  On the down side (yes, without the bad there is no relative good), beeswax is more expensive than the other waxes, which means you start to cherish lighting a candle, making the lighting of a candle a more meaningful past-time. Birthday candles are suddenly appreciated more, a candlelit dinner becomes more special, and the candlelit bath becomes a real indulgence. When we have ‘special moments’ any old time, they take the shine away from the real special moments. Let a beeswax candle bring back the passion and love to your special moments. Gaze into its’ mesmerizing flame and breathe in deep, enjoying the non-toxic honeyed air brought to you by many, many busy little bees gathering nectar from the flowers. What could be more delightful, more natural, less processed? As far as being good enough to eat, look into the health benefits of honey, propolis and royal jelly. Just plain good for you!

a candle for love

A candle for love

When you think it through, Beeswax Candles are the champion candle choice. In fact it’s our only candle choice!

http://www.drdingle.com/

http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/adoption-of-genetically-engineered-crops-in-the-us.aspx

http://www.orangutan.org.au/

http://www.orangutans.com.au/

Photos from: sxc.hu hand holding soy bean by pennylayn : deviantart.com orang_utan_II_by_mimose_stock , many_candles_11054611_by_stockproject1-d4c097o , 616___candle_hands_by_WolfC_Stock , Interstate_3_by_Polly_Stock