Going Green With Green Cleaning

We’re heading into our third challenge and we are feeling pretty strong. We had a minor set back with last month’s challenge but we are resetting and ready to go for this month’s challenge.

This month we are ridding our house of toxic chemical cleaners and going with all natural and green alternatives. Along the way we’ll show you some DIY cleaning, highlight brands and products going green, and looking into how the chemicals in your cleaning products can harm the environment and you.

Ground Rules

First, we’re not going to use any products we can’t find a full list of ingredients for. Second, if it doesn’t come from Mother Nature, we are not using it. Third, if we can’t pronounce it and we can’t trace it back to a natural source, we are not using it. Fourth, we will ensure that products are disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

Why This Challenge

So if you have been on Pinterest at all (you don’t live under a rock do you 🙂 ) you have seen thousands of posts about DIY green cleaners – but have you stopped to think about why everyone is pushing for green products to begin with? Surprise: it’s not just because all of the cool kids are doing it.

Reason 1: The Environmental Impact

There are over 85,000 industrial chemicals in use in America today. And don’t let the word industrial fool you. The chemicals found in your shampoo, cleaners, pantry, furniture – they are all considered industrial chemicals. Only a small percentage of those chemicals have been tested for safety by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

But aren’t most cleaners meant to sanitize and clean my house? Doesn’t that make them clean already? Actually no. Many of the most common and powerful cleaners are part of a group of chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOC). These are the most hazardous of all household chemicals. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and ammonia are the 3 most common ingredients in household cleaners.

Countless ounces of these chemicals are flushed down your drains and into the sewer system. Most pollutants are filtered out at waste water treatment plants but these three can’t be filtered out. That means they enter into the rivers and streams and eventually the oceans.

Photo credit: Kevin.Ward via VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

A strange thing happens though when these chemicals enter into the water ways. Plant growth explodes!! VOCs are basically supercharged plant food, cause exponential growth. The problem with the growth is that it is short lived. The excessive growth eventually ends and the plants die. But the ecosystem is not built to handle the massive die off.

The die off depletes oxygen levels in the water way leading to algae growth, which causes a further depletion of oxygen levels. Eventually the fish and wildlife in the waterway die, leaving the waterway unusable for any human activity.

Photo credit: CasualCapture via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Again, most chemicals are treated safely in waste waster treatment plants but studies have found traces of household cleaners in 69% of tested waterways.  

Reason 2: Your Health

Then there is the health aspect. Everyone knows about the acute toxic nature of household cleaners. 10% of calls to U.S. Poison Control Centers are related to household chemicals. And you’ve probably heard the PSAs about keeping those colorful detergent pods out of children’s reach. But there are long-term health impacts of these chemicals as well.

Some household chemicals have been linked to cancer and hormone deficiencies. However, because only a small percentage of chemicals are tested for safety, we don’t know what is harming us. These chemicals are also vaporized and make their way into the air we breath everyday. They have been linked to worsening asthma and respiratory illnesses.

This fact will probably make your head spin. When a company creates a new industrial chemical they submit the chemical to the EPA. But that’s it. The EPA is responsible for developing all of the scientifc research data on their own dime. If the EPA finds an issue they can stop the chemical from going to market. But here’s the part that will frustrate you…

If the EPA does not get to testing the chemical within 90 days the chemical is automatically approved for use. Now try to imagine how long it would take to test 85,000 chemicals for their short and long-term health and environmental effects. Then image how much money it would cost to do the testing and subsequently, how tight the EPA’s budget is getting.

With less regulation on the horizon, it is important that we are all aware of the chemicals we are using and how they affect us and the environment.

This Month’s Charity

This month, we will highlight a new non-profit organization: The Environmental Working Group (EWG)! This organization is truly extraordinary. What do they do? How do they make a difference? Why should you consider making a donation? So glad you asked!

What is EWG?

The EWG promotes cleaner, greener and healthier living on a large scale. They are a non-profit, non-partisan organization that has set out to educate all people on how to optimize their health and protect the environment. How? Pay attention to what household cleaning products you buy, which foods contain GMOs, and how chemicals and pesticides are infecting our water supply, farms, and air quality. EWG has researched these areas using a team of skilled scientists, lawyers, policy experts and other public health representatives. For years, EWG has worked tirelessly to educate and empower consumers to make more informed decisions about the products they purchase and companies they support. The bottom line: EWG supports YOU when government and industries fail to do so.

How do they make a difference?

EWG teams up with other environmentally-friendly corporations to fight against the use of toxic chemicals in every day products. This incredible team focuses on toxics, food, agriculture, children’s health, energy and water through research and the skilled use of available technologies. They influence everyone, from the average citizen to big markets by informing consumers of the big issues, providing funding, reforming laws that harm the environment and our lives, and advancing the science and responsible for making positive changes.

And not surprisingly, they have an AWESOME App! Check it out.

Perhaps most amazing is what EWG has done for children, protecting them from the effects of toxic chemicals and other environmental hazards including: lead, asbestos, cleaning products, pesticides and air pollutants. EWG makes a difference through the power of KNOWLEDGE and EDUCATION.

Why donate?

Aside from all the obvious reasons listed above? The Environmental Working Group relies on funding from individuals as well as Grant-Revenue Foundations. They need us to support the amazing work that they do each day. Today more than ever we need to make BIG, RAPID changes and that means influencing big, wealthy agribusinesses and – yes – our government to act NOW. Let EWG help us by giving back.

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