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