How to Tell if Your Cleaning Products are Environmentally Friendly
Making environmentally friendly cleaning choices as a company is more confusing than it used to be. Many cleaning companies now claim vague things like “eco-safe” and “environmentally conscious.” Those product claims don’t always mean what we assume they do. We may think a product has no impact on the environment when it is actually only marginally better than products of the past. So, how do you tell if you’ve chosen a cleaner that is truly environmentally friendly? Here are a few things you should keep in mind.
Look for Canadian-Specific Green Claims
These days, organizations and governments understand that environmental issues are often too complicated for those without a scientific background, or without a ton of time, to understand. So, organizations often come up with a certification that helps people make better decisions. One example is ENERGY STAR for appliances.
Another example is the ECOLOGO® program. It is similar to the USA Green Seal program; in that it certifies many different types of products that offer a reduced environmental impact. The standards themselves are taken from ISO standards for environmental impact.
In order to bear the ECOLOGO label, products are tested by Underwriters Laboratories Canada to see if they pass the standards. There are a few cleaning products that meet ECOLOGO® standards. It’s important to note that the program has different standards for different types of cleaners, from hard surface cleaners to carpet and upholstery cleaners. Always be sure you’re using an all purpose cleaner or a cleaner that fits your specific purpose.
You may also be interested in choosing environmentally friendly paper products for your office, bathrooms, or other company uses. There are a few sustainable claims common in Canada which can help you make better green decisions when buying paper products including:
- Forest Stewardship Council
- Sustainable Forestry Initiative
- CSA Group
Look for Ready Biodegradability
You’ve probably heard of biodegradable products or those that can be broken down over time to join the natural life cycle of the Earth after you use them. Cleaning products can be biodegradable too. However, according to the EPA, it isn’t enough when a cleaning product is biodegradable. After all, plastic is biodegradable on a long enough time scale. Instead, the EPA advises that you choose “ready biodegradable” cleaners.
Unlike the general term “biodegradable,” ready biodegradable is strictly defined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and can be tested. Essentially, certain chemicals in the products must biodegrade to a certain percentage within 10 days. Then a cleaning product can be considered ready biodegradable. It will rejoin the natural cycle of things faster and therefore will have less impact on the ecosystem.
Consider the Ingredients
When in doubt, you can check out the ingredients of the cleaning product to see if it has any red flags. Sometimes, you may need to look at the product’s Material Safety Data Sheet or other specifications to discover the full ingredients and potential effects of the product.
Ingredients you may want to avoid include:
- Alklphenol ethoylates: These chemicals are found in many detergents and cleaners. The chemicals are an endocrine disrupter to wildlife. The endocrine system affects an animal’s ability to reproduce.
- Phosphorus and nitrogen: These chemicals are nutrients for plants, but too much of them in a body of water can actually lead to poor water quality. Cleaners with these ingredients should be used sparingly.
You may also consider if your cleaning product includes bleach or other disinfectants. Such cleaning products should be used in areas with high contact surfaces (like doorknobs) and rarely on surfaces that aren’t frequently touched (like walls in a typical office environment). That way, you limit the use of cleaning products that pose higher risks to the environment.
See an ingredient that you’re not familiar with? The environmental standards published by the EPA or other government bodies can help you figure out what the ingredient is and does. Don’t forget that the packaging itself may be an environmental pollutant.
Get Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products from JAN-PRO Canada
JAN-PRO Canada has already done the work of tracking down environmentally friendly cleaning products for you. Our cleaners do not produce bad chemical smells, but also do not sacrifice cleaning power. We use the EnviroShield™ system which combines a sprayer with an environmentally friendly cleaner. Work with us to get the peace of mind you need to know your company is doing it’s best to protect the environment.