This month, we’ve celebrated Earth Day on the Maid to Clean blog. But why do we care so much about the environment? Why should a cleaning company be so concerned about the products we use?
Cleaning services, as well as companies who create cleaning products, have a good reason to be concerned for the environment. Unfortunately, many products out there are filled with chemicals that cause harm to our natural spaces and our air quality.
As a green cleaning company, we believe that we have a responsibility to care for our planet in every action we take, and in every product we use. We want to give back to the local community, not harm it.
So what are non-green cleaning products doing to the environment? Why are they so bad?
Cleaning products can affect the air quality, indoors and outdoors
Have you ever felt lightheaded just from smelling the fumes of bleach or window cleaner? Or have you read the labels of cleaning products and noted that you should be using them in a well-ventilated room?
Then you’ve encountered volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These are chemicals that are released as vapors and gases from many common household products, as well as from burning gasoline and other fuel sources. And they’re not good for your health – or the environment’s.
VOCs contribute to smog and lower the quality of the air, both outside your house and inside.
Short-term effects can include dizziness, headaches, and irritation. Continued exposure to VOCs can also lead to more serious long-term effects. That’s why it’s a good idea to limit your exposure to products that release VOCs. Choose products that eliminate or limit the amount of VOCs released.
This isn’t new. Consumer actions have already had a positive impact and cleaned up the air.
For instance, cars have gained emissions requirements over the years, and people wanting more fuel-efficient options has influenced what’s available to purchase at your local car lot. And our air is a lot more breathable today than it was fifty years ago.
As another example, campaigns in the 1970s made consumers and companies aware of Freon, a man-made chemical found in aerosol cans (among other things). This chemical decreases the amount of ozone in the atmosphere, which negatively impacts the climate. Thanks to activists and consumer choices, selling aerosol cans with Freon has now been illegal for decades.
The world’s not perfect. Cars still pollute, even electric vehicles. And aerosol cans still release hydrocarbons that negatively impact the environment, even if it’s not as dangerous as Freon.
But your choices as a consumer do matter. You can still choose energy efficient vehicles, and green cleaning products that don’t release VOCs. You can also choose services that have eco-friendly values: our cleaning company never uses aerosol cans. We instead go with refillable spray bottles that don’t require pressurized carbon to operate.
Your actions really do make a difference. Refusing to purchase products that contain harmful, toxic chemicals sends a message to companies that make them, telling them that consumers want eco-friendly products.
Cleaning products can negatively affect water sources
Rivers, wetlands, lakes, and other watery habitats are full of life. They are also sensitive to change. Unfortunately, modern human life sometimes conflicts with keeping our waterways safe, and toxic, chemical-filled cleaning products can be bad news for these habitats.
When you’re cleaning, the products you use appear to be gone when they get rinsed down the drain. But they don’t just disappear. This water makes its way to a waste treatment plant, where it’s treated and returned to the system.
Unfortunately, waste treatment plants aren’t able to remove every single pollutant from the water. Certain contaminants found in cleaning products, such as ammonia and nitrogen, continue to stay in the water – and can wreak havoc on natural habitats.
Pollutants can encourage rapid algae growth. When a carpet of algae grows over a body of water, it blocks sunlight for other species. It can also decrease the levels of oxygen available, creating an inhospitable environment for sensitive species.
If a species is lucky, it can swim, hop, or fly away from the algae growth. But certain species aren’t lucky and end up dying.
Fortunately, organizations like the EPA are aware of the problem. They are working to combat the spread of water pollution, and have a number of ways you can help.
Research products and services before buying them
It seems simple to choose an eco-friendly option, right? After all, plenty of products or services are labeled “green” or “natural.”
However, these terms do not legally mean anything, and there’s no real regulation to restrict the use of these words. A cleaning product labeled as “natural” may simply refer to the fact that a small percentage of the product’s ingredients come from plants.
Misleading claims are bad for the environment, and for consumers. You may end up choosing a supposed green cleaning product, something you think is healthy and non-toxic, only to discover later that it’s no more eco-friendly than any other on the market.
While it takes a bit of extra time on your part, do some research and make sure that the products you’re purchasing are actually environmentally friendly. Look at ingredient lists, decode labels, and research the product or service you’re considering. If you’re looking into hiring a service that labels itself as “green,” consider contacting them and asking them about their methods and products. A good service will be happy to talk to you about how they keep their business environmentally friendly.
Try your best to go with products and services that are created by people who truly care about the environment, rather than by those who try to “greenwash” their products and services just to attract customers. These products will have been tested for their environmental safety and will actually contain plant-based, natural ingredients.
Better yet, when you can, use products that are guaranteed non-toxic, like baking soda, lemon juice, and white vinegar. These are effective solutions that get your home clean, and they won’t have devastating effects on the environment or your health.
Again, your choices as a consumer matter. Even if it feels like your actions won’t change the world, it does help to choose green cleaning products and services you believe in. It helps support the businesses you believe in, while sending a message to companies who are trying to make a quick buck off of a false “green” label.