Eco Tip #3
Welcome to the third instalment of our Eco tips series, where we will discuss the different options for eco-friendly cleaning products.
We have become accustomed to using harsh chemicals and detergents to clean our home. Although they may do a good job, they are having a negative effect on our health and the health of the planet. Cleaning products have been identified as one of the main sources of indoor air pollution, contributing to air pollution inside being between two to five times higher than outdoors, and given that we spend more than 90% of our time indoors, this is a major concern. One of the main contributors to bad air pollution is Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which is an ingredient in many household cleaners. When used, these VOCs evaporate and react with nitrogen oxides to form ground-level ozone, that negatively affect our health – including asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Many detergents also contain phosphorous and nitrogen-based compounds, and although they are not harmful to people, they can build up in our waterways (lakes, rivers and the sea) and cause a process known as Eutrophication – an excess of nutrients in water, that leads to the growth of plants/ algae that deplete the oxygen supply and can be damaging for wildlife.
It’s really not surprising that these chemicals we use to clean our home are damaging, given that most of them come with COSHH warnings on the back stating that they are, ‘Hazardous’, ‘Corrosive’, ‘Irritant’, ‘Harmful’ or ‘Toxic’. Luckily, there are plenty of environmentally friendly and natural options available, which are just as effective for all of those dirty jobs. Click the button at the bottom of the page to find out about all the different brands and to see their full range of products.
On top of the toxic ingredients used, most cleaning products tend to come in durable single use plastics bottles or containers. These containers are designed for multiple uses, but tend to be thrown out once the original contents have been depleted, contributing further to the plastic problem. There are lots of fantastic solutions to reducing the plastic waste that results from household cleaners. Most notable are bulk buying, liquid refills, and concentrates.
Many brands offer the option to bulk buy a product, in sizes ranging from 2L to 20L, essentially allowing you to ‘refill at home’. Although it doesn’t completely eliminate the use of plastic, a recent report by Which? the consumer choice company, found that using large bottles of household cleaners can reduce the amount of plastic needed by up to 47%, as well as reducing the space needed for transporting. Buying bulk also has the added bonus of being a cheaper way to buy household cleaners. Many of the bulk containers have the additional benefit of being made from recycled plastic, such as Ecoleaf and Bio D, whilst Greenscents uses biopolymer bottles made from sugar cane waste. Greenscents are also the only brand mentioned that allows their containers to be returned and reused.
There has also been a growing interest in products you can refill. Many brands offer the option to refill either reusable plastic or glass bottles at a network of refill stations dotted around the country or through a postal service. Brands that offer liquid refills at various stockists, include Miniml, SESI and Fill refill. Other brands offer concentrated refills. Concentrated products have a major advantage in that they do not require vast amounts of water, the main ingredient in most cleaning products, to be transported around – reducing the amount of packaging and saving on carbon emissions. Which? found that concentrated products used more than 75% less plastic packaging and 97% less water. Brands that offer concentrated refills include Smol and Splosh. Splosh supplies refill pouches with enough concentrate to fill up three bottles, saving 85% on plastic waste, even more if you send it back to them, allowing them to refill the pouches or upcycle them.