Home' Nova National : September 2011 Contents 8
Natalie Geard puts being “eco friendly” to the test.
The choices we make everyday
have a profound effect on our
lives. What we eat, what we
purchase and what we use in our
home all have implications and effects.
In today’s environmentally conscious
society most of us genuinely want to do
our bit for the greater good – of our own
health and that of the environment.
Importantly, the value of leading
healthier and more sustainable lives has
become a significant focus for Australians
with a momentous shift towards more
natural and environmentally responsible
choices and practices.
One of the major impacts on our living
environment is how we clean.
Cleaning products are used everywhere
in your home.
We eat, bathe, lie and come into contact
How Green Is
with all sorts of surfaces we clean, not to
mention the air we breathe and the water
So it makes sense to be informed
about what cleaning products you use
everyday and the effects on your health
and living environment.
Laundry powders, oven cleaners,
surface cleaners, bathroom sprays and
detergents – we all use them in efforts to
maintain, clean and upkeep our house.
But when was the last time you actually
looked at what you were using and
spraying around your home?
In the past, we have thought little of
eating straight off surfaces we have wiped
with chemicals or washing our clothes
with products that have harmful side
effects such as skin irritations and emit
pollutants into local waterways.
A focus of Australian cleaning culture
has been towards achieving white and
bright results and we have been inundated
with chemical-based cleaning methods
and products along the way.
Thankfully, the array of greener
and more environmentally responsible
products on the market today has
increased dramatically via a number of
sources – those seeking to actually be
more environmentally responsible through
the provision of less harmful products
and those looking to benefit from our
conscience by buying green.
The challenge is to be able to
differentiate the products that are really
better for us and the environment and
those that are just claiming to be so.
But this is no easy feat – we are
bombarded with messages, slogans and
claims to be “green”, “environmentally
friendly or responsible” and “safe” to
influence our purchasing decisions. For the
average consumer, it can be bamboozling
So how can you make smarter,
environmentally responsible cleaning
choices and ensure you really are
Why clean green?
Why not? Apart from obvious health
reasons there are substantial environ-
mental concerns and consequences from
using chemical-based cleaners.
Most cleaning products eventually
contact the air, water and soil, and
chemicals can cause significant and
irreparable damage to animals, plants,
drinking water and food supplies.
The use of chemicals is not necessary
when we have natural alternatives available
that provide us with efficient cleaning
and sanitising qualities we need for a fresh
and sparkling clean.
The movement in the post-war 50s
was towards chemicals that delivered the
cleaner, whiter and brighter phenomenon
just look at the ads from this era to
reflect this movement. Fortunately, the
trend is now heading back towards the
long-lasting combination of ingredients
such as bicarbonate soda, vinegar and
essential oils that can deliver the same
cleaning performance and qualities as
chemical-based cleaners without the
harmful side effects.
There are also long-held perceptions
that it costs more to buy green.
Green and more natural cleaners
are reasonably priced in comparison to
chemical-based cleaners available on the
market today and, in fact, usage shows
you actually need less of the traditional
ingredients due to their stronger cleaning
By choosing to clean green you can
limit the amount of chemicals spilled into
local waterways and reduce the harmful
effects to both your health and the
Simple tips to clean green
Consumers are confronted with all sorts of
claims about green cleaning products.
Statements such as “natural”, “safe”,
“biodegradable” and “environmentally
responsible” are a few of the more
common terms used. But how many
cleaning products actually meet these
Adding to the confusion, in Australia
there is currently no standard gover-
nance or accreditation for “environ-
mentally responsible” manufacturing and
production of cleaning products, meaning
disclosure of ingredient lists and pack-
aging can sometimes deliver misleading
information about products on offer.
So what you may think you are using
may actually not be that eco-friendly
Here are some simple tips to help you
make smarter choices:
1. The important ingredient list
The most accurate way to tell if you are
using environmentally friendly products
is to read the label and, importantly, the
ingredient list to ensure the product is, in
fact, what it is claiming to be!
The problem is that most consumers
are left confused with ingredients they
cannot understand or that are unfamiliar
The best advice is that the ingredient
list should be simple, short and basic,
meaning no hidden nasties!
The other rule of thumb is if you don’t
know what the ingredient is or if it is not
easy to understand, there is a fair chance
it is not good for you or natural.
It is hard to avoid all chemicals so below we
have listed the major offenders:
● Phosphates – most commonly found in
laundry powders and damaging to our
waterways and harmful to marine life.
● Sodium laureth sulfate/sodium laurel
sulfate (SLS) – foaming and thickening
agent. SLSs alter the skin’s structure
allowing other chemicals to penetrate
the skin’s barriers, increasing the
quantity of chemicals that reach the
bloodstream. It’s also a frequent cause of
● Triclosan – antibacterial products most
commonly have this pesticide, which
can negatively affect long-term health
including reproductive systems.
● Palm oil – has many disguises in
cleaning products including plant-based
surfactant (from palm), plant-derived
cleaning agent (from palm), vegetable
glycerin, sodium laureth sulfate, cetearyl
alcohol and cetyl palmitate, just to
name a few. Its use has devastating
impacts on the natural environment
and habitat of the orangutans in South
2. Broaden your range of choice
Let’s face it, we’re a trusting bunch when
it comes to the products and chemicals
we use everyday when often they contain
chemicals and toxic substances that are
harmful to our health.
It is common practice for chemical-
based cleaning products to list ingredients
under scientific names and descriptors
making it difficult for consumers to easily
identify and understand them.
The first step towards greener
cleaning is to actually start considering
purchasing alternatives and exploring new
Question and evaluate claims made by
a range of products rather than instinctively
© NOVA SEPTEMBER 2011
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