by Eileen Weber
Walk down the cleaning supply aisle of any supermarket these days and you’ll see an array of brightly colored bottles. Each of them expresses their powerful cleaning action like a superhero on steroids. All they’re missing is the red cape and silly tights.
Many of them also claim to be eco-friendly. From body lotions to pet shampoo to a chlorine-free line of eco-diapers, there’s something green for everybody. Even Clorox, a company whose very name conjures the scent of bleach, is getting into the act with Green Works™, their biodegradable cleaners.
A number of reports from the EPA and the Consumer Products Safety Commission show that toxic chemicals can have an adverse effect on our health. Specifically, children and those with severe allergies are most affected by these chemicals when inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
Wayne Miles, Proprietor of GoGreen, Inc. in Brooklyn, NY, said he’s been in the cleaning business for 27 years but was looking for an alternative. After cleaning the bathroom in a local homeless shelter, the residents felt nauseous from the fumes in the industrial-grade cleaners. “That was the turning point,” he said.
Since 2000, his company has been completely green. He said he’s even green at home. “Slowly but surely, I’ve been able to convince my wife.”
There have also been reports indicating the possible link between these toxic chemicals and the rising rate of cancer. In many of these cases, people do not have a family history of the disease. Eco-Me, a company offering environmentally friendly cleaning products in Pasadena, CA, was founded for that very reason.
Robin Kay Levine, the company’s CEO, strongly suspects that her sister’s breast cancer resulted from the toxic chemicals used to clean her New York City home. Her sister had no prior health problems and no one in her family was ever diagnosed with it. Since 2006, Levine has worked hard to offer cleaners that are completely natural. The ingredients are no different than what you’d find on your pantry shelves.
“Cancer is on the rise,” said Jennifer Mihajlov, Eco-Me’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “Eight out of ten cancers are environmental.”
Family illness is what often spurs people to action. For Jeffrey Hollender, President of Seventh Generation, that is certainly the case. Based in Burlington, VT, the company was founded as a result of an unexpected asthma attack in Hollender’s son.
According to the Seventh Generation web site, his son, Alex, was hospitalized for an asthma attack about six years ago. "I was so scared I chartered a plane to get to the hospital as quickly as possible," he said. "A leading asthma specialist confirmed the cause was 100% environmental and the cure included mattress covers to confine dust mites, no carpeting, and non-toxic cleaners!"
Besides household cleaners, Seventh Generation offers other products like dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, paper towels and toilet tissue. They also have a whole line of chlorine-free baby products.
The down side of many of these green products is that they often cost about 15% to 20% more than other products that include chemicals. Eco-friendly companies often fail because their emphasis is on saving the planet. That’s not a bad thing. But they often lose sight of cost effectiveness and, sometimes, convenience.
Eco-me has addressed that with their popular Eco-Me Home Kit. One of their best sellers and a one-stop-shopping for all purpose cleaners, it costs only $26.00. The kit contains disinfectant, a scrub with essential oils and scrub brush, spray bottles and a microfiber reusable cloth.
Mihajlov also said many people give their home cleaning kits as housewarming gifts. “Instead of bringing wine, you can bring this.”
There are other green cleaning products that have been on the market for some time. The eco-friendly Method Products, Inc. line has been very popular. Since their entry into the marketplace about eight years ago, they have relied heavily on word of mouth.
Developed by former roommates Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry who had their own run-in with toxic cleansers, their natural and biodegradable products are sold in stores across the country. From Duane Reade to OfficeMax, you can pick them up just about anywhere. The business partners have recently published a book together entitled, Squeaky Green: The Method Guide to Detoxing Your Home. It provides advice on how to clean without toxic chemicals.
Seaside Naturals, located in Branford, is another company that is dedicated to green cleaning supplies. Founded in 2003 by Linda and David Zielski, the company’s products are only plant or vegetable-based. There are no chemicals or toxins in their Simple.Pure.Clean. sprays and cleaners.
According to their web site, SeasideNaturals.com, co-founder Linda Zielski said, “We want to showcase our products and show people that there are local alternatives to the products they use everyday.”