Cleaners: Start your green engine!

Green and sustainable cleaning is here to stay and that message was loud and clear at the Soaps, Detergents, Oleochemicals and Personal Care (SODEOPEC) conference I attended last week in Orlando, Florida.

In the conference’s green session, scientist Libby Sommer from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was promoting EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) Formulator program, which, through the use of the DfE logo, recognizes products that are certified safer for the environment and human health. Sommer said the Formulator program has resulted in a reduction of more than 40 million pounds/year of chemicals of concern.

Sommer also encouraged the cleaning companies present at the conference to apply for the EPA’s Safer Detergents Stewardship Initiative (SDSI), which is primarily designed to encourage the use of safer surfactants – the raw materials used in detergents some of which have been under environmental scrutiny for decades. Deadline for this year’s application is May 30.

Topher Buck, senior project manager at the GreenBlue Institute talked about the CleanGredients online database, which lists down chemicals that are said to be safer and healthier for use in cleaning products. The database for CleanGredients surfactants was launched in 2006. Coming soon will be a database for solvents, fragrances, chealting agents and other classes of cleaning chemicals.

Not sure where and how to start greening your cleaning products? Not to worry, said Theresa McGrath, lead chemist at NSF International, a non-profit certification company.

Some of NSF’s services, said McGrath, is to help companies meet their green and sustainability goals such as obtaining the DfE logo for their products by using the ingredients listed on CleanGredients, or if they’re raw material suppliers, help them assess the greeness of their chemicals for inclusion in the CleanGredients database.

And if all went well, your green cleaners – especially if they contain plant-based ingredients and chemicals, could soon be included under the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) BioPreferred Program, said Marvin Duncan, senior agricultural economist at the USDA.

Federal agencies are required to purchase biobased products that are listed in the program, said Duncan. Several cleaning products categories are currently in the process of being designated as biobased.

All that hard work could be worth it especially when recent surveys indicate growing consumer purchasing preference for more sustainable cleaning products, said Brian Sansoni of the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA).

A 2008 survey by the SDA reported human health and environmental aspect to be the most important aspect when considering sustainable products, said Sansoni. Among surveyed consumers familiar with sustainability, 72% are willing to pay premium for sustainable cleaning products and the same number of consumers do expect to pay more for them.

With that kind of profit plus a good image, what cleaning product manufacturers would not want to venture into green?

[Photos source from the American Oil Chemists Society]

2 Responses to Cleaners: Start your green engine!

  1. Emilio Malaguti 26 April, 2008 at 6:10 pm #

    Hi Doris, congratulations for your support and your drive towards a greener world.
    In the Chemical world there is a misleading desire to certify products as “green”, which after my own review of the certifying organizations ( all private) I realized that they are all making huge and fast profits, without a real end warranty that they presenve our environment. Eventhough it is true that the products certified are driven to be safer for the end user, I am surprised that the EPA is not getting involved in directly reviewing and certifying these chemical products. Or is it that I am not informed???

  2. Doris de Guzman 28 April, 2008 at 3:37 am #

    Hi Emilio,
    Thank you for taking interest in my blog. That is not good to hear that the certification companies that you dealt with were not honest with their reviews. I think the EPA is directly dealing with the reviews of safe chemicals and has the DfE program to encourage product manufacturers to use those that they deem environment-friendly. Check out their DfE website to know more about it.

    One thing that maybe they should do is list on their website third party certification companies that they trust to do the the right job.

    A big problem unfortunately is the definition of “green products”. Any companies can say that their product or chemical is green based on their own definition, such as its manufacture uses energy-saving processes or lessen carbon emissions; the product could contain natural ingredients; or the company is reducing the product’s carbon footprint by donating part of their profits towards green energy or to plant a tree…..there are hundreds of ways to label a product green, which is why there are skepticisms such as yourself towards the green trend where some just want to profit from it without making any real contributions to lessen carbon emissions and making the environment and humans safe.

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