Thursday, April 15, 2010

Conscious Cleaning?

There's a lot of cleaning going on around the house this week. The guys are painting the exterior trim, power washing the fence, and cleaning up the flower beds. All this outside activity has me stuck in the house on a gorgeous spring day, so I thought I would help Mom clean the inside of the house. Who knew a pug could be so helpful?

Mom switched to eco-friendly cleaning products a few years ago and has never looked back. Over time she has researched various products and tried them out to see which ones were not only good for the planet but also good for the house. Like the clean house, meaning they were effective. I know that lots of people clean their houses with good old baking soda, vinegar, and water, but Mom is not there. Yet.

Mom and I also believe in supporting great eco business because the more we support them the more readily available their products are, the more people make the switch, and the more Mother Earth smiles upon us all. Eco friendly cleaning products have come a long way in the past few years and there's really no excuse for not using them.

Mom got this product free when she bought the Brita pitcher for Josie's family. This product is not something she would buy because it isn't really green. Items labeled green, eco, natural, and earth friendly aren't necessarily good for the environment. Companies can claim their products are green by using these terms but if they're not really green it's called greenwashing. Companies don't have to disclose the ingredients of their cleaning products because they are protected trade secrets. I don't know about you, but Mom won't buy products that don't list their ingredients unless it's something that doesn't warrant an ingredient list like an apple.

The Green Works wipes have an ingredient list but in lieu of researching the ingredients, Mom just scanned the barcode with her GoodGuide scanner. How do you think it scored?

4.3 overall score = N/A health, 3.7 environment, 4.8 society

Mom then checked the web version of the GoodGuide and received this score:

5.6 overall score = 8.0 health, 3.7 environment, 5.1 society

What? How come the scores aren't the same? It looks like the scores from the scanner reflect the company itself and not the product. This just doesn't make sense to me and I'm more confused now than I was before. But let's move on and take a closer look at the wipes.

The label claims the ingredients are 99% natural, but what about the other 1%? Think 1% doesn't mean anything, think again. Clorox lists the ingredients for these wipes but not for their conventional products. Hmmm. I wonder why.

The wipes are biodegradable. That's a great thing because no waste means they won't take up space in a landfill but this is only if you compost them. And the plastic container is made from 25% post-consumer recycled plastic and is #2 plastic which is highly recyclable. I'm not sure about the cap, but I'm going to look into its recyclability.

The Sierra Club logo is displayed near the barcode with the following: "The makers of Green Works products are proud supporters of the Sierra Club's efforts to preserve and protect the planet." It's also noted that the logo is used with permission, but that this does not constitute a sponsorship or endorsement of any company or product. So Clorox supports The Sierra Club but not vice versa. Interesting. I don't really know what to make of that but I do know that this product has not been tested on animals. Yeah! I don't want anything tested on me and my friends.

I've concluded that I need to conduct further research on this product. Remember, Clorox is a large company that makes lots of products that aren't good for the environment. Simply stepping into the green arena doesn't make you green. While it is a step in the right direction, I hope their attempt with Green Works is about doing the right thing and not simply about making money, but I doubt it. You will need to decide for yourself if you want to use Green Works wipes but remember to take everything into consideration before you make your choice.

Mom bought this Terracycle cleaner a few months ago and has yet to use it. Many of you recognize the Terracycle name from their efforts in the recycling world. They buy trash from consumers and turn it into products. Trash like drink pouches, chip bags, candy bar wrappers all become useful products that can be purchased in stores across the country. It's a brilliant business model that's good for you and for the environment. The brains behind Terracycle, Tom Szaky, started the company almost a decade ago and it's grown into one of the greenest I've ever seen.

The all-purpose cleaner was not listed on the GoodGuide. This isn't necessarily a bad thing and could just mean that it hasn't been reviewed yet. Instead of writing it off with the thinking absence usually signifies guilt, I chose to take the high road and gave it the benefit of the doubt until I could read the ingredients.

The list of ingredients is a little vague, even for me: water, grease cutters and performance enhancers (linear alcohol ethoxylates), and essential oil cleaners, all derived from natural sources. Linear alcohol what? The same rule applies to household cleaners that applies to packaged foods: if you can't pronouce the ingredients, you shouldn't eat it or use it. I wish I could tell you that I researched linear alcohol ethoxylates or that Mom is a chemist that knew what it was as soon as she read it, but neither are true. But an eco friendly company like Terracycle wouldn't make a product that isn't good for the environment, right? Maybe. Since I haven't figured out the ingredients mess, let's take a look at the packaging.

Could you tell just by looking at the bottle that it was a soda bottle? A good old #1 plastic bottle from who knows where. What a great way to recycle all those plastic bottles! There are two endorsements on the label: one indicating the product is a Canadian environmental choice and the other indicating the product has zero footprint. Both sound totally cool but do they mean anything or is this another attempt at greenwashing? The Canadian eco logo is the strictest certification given by the Canadian government and the zero footprint label is Terracycle's own label indicating the product is made from a waste stream bottle. I'm not sure where the bottle top and sprayer originated or if they can be recycled so I have to do additional research. The jury (me) is still out on whether this product is really green but my paws are crossed that it is. I really like Terracycle and can't believe they would make a product that isn't good for the planet.

It's hard to tell from the picture but this product gets a lot of use. Mom uses this to clean the windows of pug snot residue. Not that there is any but she's a bit of a clean freak. The maker of this window cleaner, Earth Friendly Products or ECOS, is a tried and true brand in our house but let's see what the GoodGuide had to say.

Scanner scores: 7.9 overall = 8.0 health, 7.3 environment, 8.4 society

Web scores: 8.1 overall = 8.0 health, 7.2 environment, 9.0 society

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that the scanner and web scores were different. What gives? Why the discrepancy? I've made a mental note to email the GoodGuide people to get to the bottom of this because it's very confusing. The good news is that the cleaner scored a great overall score which makes me happy.

The list of ingredients is easy to read, even for me: purified water, vinegar, ethanol (derived from corn), and coconut based surfactant*. The asterick after the last ingredient indicates that it does not contain SLS. SLS is sodium lauryl sulfate and is a big no-no, but unfortunately it's found all around the house because it's commonly used in soaps, shampoos, detergents, and toothpaste. It's used in these products because it's cheap for the manufacturer to use but not cheap for your body to use in terms of your health. It gets absorbed by the body and is a known hormone disruptor - yuk! Mom avoids using anything containing SLS or its relatives like the plague.

This product is not tested on animals but there are many, many products on the market that are. The bottle is #1 plastic and will definitely be recycled when it is empty. As with the Terracycle top and sprayer, I'm not sure of its recyclability. ECOS is made locally in Winnetka, IL and that's another reason Mom loves it. Purchasing locally made products is not only earth friendly (no pun intended) but is great for the local economy too. And check out what it says on the back label:

Thank you for using our natural, non-toxic product. Each time you use our products, you are helping to maintain a healthier and sustainable home, lifestyle and environment. One by one, we can change the world and make it a better place. Let us know what you think, and tell your friends about us.

How cool is that? These guys are really commited to doing the right thing and it shows in their high society scores. I'm doing my part by telling you, my friends, about ECOS and I hope you'll give their products a try. Mom also uses their laundry detergent and loves it.

Conscious cleaning is easy to do when you know what to use. By reading ingredient labels, using online tools like GoodGuide, and researching companies, you can make smart, conscious decisions. You owe it to yourself and the planet to clean your house with a clean conscious.


Those Elgin Pugs said...

Oh Stubby, What a great post!!!
We love your knowledge!!!
If you need help cleaning I can come over with Izzy and Anakin. We can tie a sponge to Izzy's tail and she does floors and Anakin dusts. I'll supervise. Once again...I'm just like my Daddy...hee hee.
Your Josie Girl

dw said...

Gee, Stubby, maybe I can get you to come over and help clean here! BOL! I use a few Green Works products from time to time, though not the wipes. I don't know if they're really green or not, but at least they're not made mostly from strange chemicals, and they smell fresh and clean without smelling chemically. I also use 7th generation sometimes, and they've been advertising a lot lately. My cousin also likes Burt's Bees Wax products (mostly personal care products). I guess every little bit helps! Now if there was only a way to not invite those darn dust bunnies in in the first place!

Tweedles -- that's me said...

Hi Stubby
My moms says she will need to go look for the cleaners you talk about.
Something that came to my mind is a bad memory of something. Mommy was cleaning with Pine Sol and I licked the floor that she cleaned. Then my mouth started foaming. It was scary. I am sure all the stuff you mention is safer for little pug mouths,
thank you for enlightening us -
as always

Stella, Gunther and Betty said...

Stubbs! This is the greatest post! Mom is always cleaning. Well not always, but we are good at messing things up, specially with our fur flying about. We're going to have her check out those cleanables!

Stella, Gunther and Betty

Apollo said...

Hi Stubby,

Has your Mom ever attended the Greenbuild Expo? My Mommy attended in Chicago a couple years ago. She said there was a LOT of information on green cleaning products, specifically Green Seal Certified Products. If products have this, then it means they've met certain requirements. Check out this web address:

Salinger The Pug said...

Hi Stubby! Cool post!!! You will be VERY happy to know that mom cleans almsot everything in the house with plain ol vinegar and cloth towels! She does it in the name of being a cheapass, but we're glad that it's a green thing too!

Mom and dad just got one of those steamer things to clean the kitchen and bathroom floors and they LOVE it! It cleans with regular old tap water! Mom totally thinks of you when she busts it out!

Happy Friday dude!



Hi Stubby,

Thanks for the reminder. Our house is pup-proof too!

Riley and Star.

Stubby said...

Hi Josie Girl! I might need Izzy and Anakin to help me clean this place up because the workers are making a mess! I'm afraid my peaceful weekend plans are going out the window because the vacuum is coming out to play!

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi dw! Of course I will come over to your house and clean but you have to feed me!

Green Works are okay for now but please look into ECOS. Their products really are better and you can buy them at Jewel.

It's funny that you mentioned Burt's Bees because they are owned by Clorox too. It's a shame they had to sell out but by doing so they became available to the masses and that's a good thing.

Stubby xoxo

Pee-s: If you figure out a way to not invite the dust bunnies in the house please let me know. They drive Mom to drink!

Stubby said...

Hi Tweedles! That Pine Sol incident sounds like it was so scary. How awful! Your moms must have been beside themselves worrying about you.

The ECOS products are definitely safe for little pug mouths but if you're like me, you only like dirty stuff, not stuff that's been cleaned!

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Stella, Gunther & Betty! Thanks for the compliment! I'm so glad everypug is finding this post so helpful. I can't stress enough how important it is to read labels and only use products that you could/would eat. We have to take care of each other and the planet so that we're all around for a long time!

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Apollo! Mom has never attended the Greenbuilding Expo but she did attend Green Fest last year. I'm going to have her check out the Greenbuilding Expo and encourage her to attend.

I'm going to check out the Green Seal Certified Products. Thanks so much for providing the link. I hope other pugs will check it out too.

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Salinger! I'm so happy to hear that your mom cleans with vinegar and cloth towels even if it is only to save money. There is absolutely nothing wrong with cleaning like that and I'm super happy to hear that she doesn't use paper towels.

I've seen the steamer thingys on tv and they look very cool. Maybe I could get one for Mom for Mother's Day. I'm sure she'd love it!

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Riley & Star! Your house looks spic & span to me. Of course that's how all our houses should look but don't. Pup-proofing is important in maintaining a healthy home.

Stubby xoxo

dw said...

Hi Stubby, I've seen the ECOS products at Jewel, but never really looked at them. Good to know they are planet friendly! I will have to check them out the next time I'm at the store. :)

THE PUGLET said...

Hey Stubbs ~

We have a steamy cleany thing too. My human got kinda addicted to it for awhile, but usually we just use microfiber cloths and method stuff.

The scanner/website mismatch is confusing. Makes it hard to be as green as can be.