Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products
Where do our cleaning products end up?
You’re absent-mindedly scrubbing your dishes in the sink. You add more soap to get the stubborn grease off one of your most-used pans. You stop to wonder: where does the soap go after you send it down the drain?
The suds and nutrients in our cleaning products enter our sewage systems. Wastewater is generally treated in our sewage plants but can flow directly into our lakes and waterways. Many conventional cleaning products contain phosphorus — one of the many nutrients we often find in toxic amounts in our freshwater resources.
Why are soaps and cleansers harmful to our freshwater?
Detergents and soaps contribute to the excess nutrients entering our waters, which can lead to the destruction of our lakes. Algae suck up the nutrients and their populations become denser.
Originally, the extra algae might help provide food for fish in the lake. However, when algae die and decompose, they suck up the surrounding oxygen, creating dead-zones and depriving other water organisms of oxygen.
How big is the impact?
How often do you wash dishes, clean your shower, wash your clothes, or use cleaning products? Now times that number by the seven million people that live in Lake Winnipeg Watershed.
That’s a lot of soap and detergent.
What can you do to help reduce the nutrients going into our water?
You can use your consumer power for good and choose cleaning products that are certified to reduce their impacts on the environment and minimize pollution to our waterways. Trying a new cleaning product is one easy Lake Friendly action you can take to reduce the amount of nutrients entering our waterways.
Certified environmentally friendly cleaning products available in store
Cleaning products may brand themselves as natural by their language or use of images (like leaves on the front of the bottle), but they may not actually be good for the environment.
Consumers can trust well-respected third-party organizations that certify environmentally friendly cleaning products, such as EcoLogo or Green Seal. There are others too, but we recommend researching other certifications before buying their products
Next time your detergent is running low, keep your eyes open for environmentally friendly products when you are walking down the cleaning products aisle at the store.
EcoLogo (also known in Canada as Environmental Choice) standards ensure that harmful impacts from the production, use, and disposal of the products are minimized. EcoLogo is one of North America’s most widely recognized certification logos.
The criteria also address biodegradation, product labeling and packaging, toxicity to aquatic and mammalian life, low risk for promoting microbial resistance, performance in the presence of soil, human health issues, and more.
Currently over 7,000 products are EcoLogo certified, including: paint, insulation, flooring, cleaning products, paper, tissue, electricity, printing inks, office furniture and equipment.
Highlights of some of the criteria in the EcoLogo standards are:
Demonstrates that the product is not toxic or harmful to humans;
Has limited effects on aquatic life;
Is readily biodegradable under aerobic conditions;
Green Seal’s mission is to use science-based programs to enable consumers, purchasers and companies to create a more sustainable world. The Green Seal organization certifies everything from coffee filters to hotels.
Green Seal uses a life-cycle approach to evaluate a product or service beginning with material extraction, continuing with manufacturing and use, and ending with recycling and disposal. Products only become Green Seal certified after rigorous testing and evaluation, including on-site plant visits.
Some of the factors considered in evaluating the products are that they are:
Contain less than a certain amount of phosphorus