On some weird level, simply reading the label at the supermarket can feel like a lot of work. After all, we’d all prefer to buy all of our products without looking twice, getting on to the next errand we have to run.
But if you’re trying to buy so-called “green” cleaning products, it helps not only to read the labels, but to know your green products one level beyond that – to know when the label is actually a little misleading. Having this kind of knowledge won’t only help you to become a better shopper, but it will help you to be a more responsible individual overall.
The Allure of the Green Cleaner
Anyone who wants to both run a clean home and have as little impact on the environment as possible often faces a tough choice: which priority do they put first?
Cleaning, after all, usually means producing some amount of garbage. Heck, you could take a half hour right now to clean and you’d probably fill a paper grocery bag with discarded items and other rubbish. And when it comes to the chemicals you use to clean, it’s easy to simply look the other way.
The allure of the green cleaning product is that it allows you to live up to your normal cleaning standards without the guilt that what you’re discarding is going to poison whatever poor unfortunate organic material it comes in contact with after it leaves your trash.
The problem: just how do you know when your cleaning product really is “green” – and doesn’t just advertise itself that way?
Green vs. “Green”
If you’re an experienced shopper, you know that food and product labels can be inconsistent at best and downright misleading at their worst. Just what are the standards for “reduced fat,” after all – 1% less fat than the product it’s comparing itself to?
This same idea bears itself out in the world of cleaning products. In other words, a product isn’t automatically healthy for the environment because it can be labeled as “green.”
First, let’s define what should be implied by that word “green.” If you buy a green product, you should have some assurance that it is:
- Non-toxic to the environment
- Made with natural ingredients
This seems like a fair and reasonable set of expectations. But consider this: just because a product is advertised as “green” doesn’t mean you’re getting the whole story. For example, it’s well-established that even products advertised as “natural” can contain some amount of synthetic material. And, yes, that definitely wipes out the entire point of being advertised as “natural.”
Other natural ingredients can also have harmful effects that you’ll want to be aware of; consider the plant-based cleaner ingredient limonene, a citrus-based oil that can actually cause allergic reactions. Is such an ingredient really what you expected out of green cleaning products?
Bottom line: if you want your products to live up to your own standards, you’ll have to reject label standards and become a tough-minded customer. Do your own research, set your own limits, and know what you’re buying before you’re willing to trust a label.