think green

Celebrate Earth Day with Eco-Friendly Cleaning & Storage Products

Earth Day means celebrating all that Mother Earth does for humanity, and taking the time to examine how our actions may negatively affect her. In addition to planting a tree and making a vow to recycle more, consider utilizing eco-friendly storage and cleaning products as a lifestyle change to celebrate the earth and reduce your carbon footprint.

Implementing Eco-Friendly Storage Solutions

Storage comes in all shapes and sizes, so what you use completely depends upon the type of storage solution you need.  According to Seattle home organizer and interior designer Sara Eizen, furniture should serve more than one purpose, especially when used in small spaces. Consider stores like Bambeco, which, according to its website, offers sustainable furniture and décor, “ALL reclaimed, repurposed, renewable, recycled, natural or organic.” For example, the Bambeco recycled railroad tie bench could serve as an entryway seat on a daily basis and double as extra seating when house guests arrive.

If you’re the handy, Pinterest type, you may consider creating your own eco-friendly storage options. Those in need of a new hobby may take up basket weaving to create versatile storage options for the entire home. According to Mother Earth News, “Many types of material are suitable for basket weaving, but one of the best is reed,” which is strong, pliable and light. Other earth-friendly materials that might lend to great DIY projects and environmentally safe storage options include:

  • Clay – Create storage containers for anything small with molding clay
  • Cardboard – Cover an empty diaper box with fabric to create an under-the-bed storage bin
  • Glass – Clean glass food jars when empty to store small items like nails or dry food in the kitchen
  • Wood – Make something new out of something old, such as a shelf from an old barn

Eco-Friendly Cleaning

Changing the products you use to clean your home can also reduce your carbon footprint. In this case, it’s not just about the containers products come in being recyclable, it’s about how what is inside those containers affects the environment.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, cleaning products can present several health and environmental concerns. “They may contain chemicals associated with eye, skin, or respiratory irritation, or other human health issues. Additionally, the concentrated forms of some commercial cleaning products are classified as hazardous, creating potential handling, storage, and disposal issues for users.”

Because the eco-friendly standards vary widely for each product type, it’s better to familiarize yourself with the ways to verify that a product is, in fact, eco-friendly. The following certification programs are recognized industry-wide as a determinate in a product’s environmental safety. Look for one of these labels on a product that claims to be eco-friendly:

According to Eartheasy.com, “one in three people suffer from allergies, asthma, sinusitis or bronchitis,” and commercially-produced, chemical-based products can contribute to these ailments. Alternatively, Eartheasy provides recommendations for several homemade cleaning solutions and combinations therein that will yield quality cleaning results and help the environment.

Green Cleaning

When Green Isn’t Really Green at All

As you work toward a greener lifestyle, keep in mind that it’s not just about what eco-friendly products are made of, but how they are manufactured and packaged that makes the real difference for the environment.

In 2007, NPR released and article that identified these “Six Sins of Greenwashing” – a phrased coined to indicate how product manufacturers will lead you to believe their products are environmentally friendly when, in fact, they miss the mark:

  1. Hidden Tradeoff – focusing on one environmental element of the product and ignoring the fact that several other attributes do not comply
  2. No Proof – making a claim that a product is green without easily accessible proof or certification to substantiate it
  3. Vagueness – broad claims like “all-natural” or “green” that are too vague for the consumer to fully understand
  4. Irrelevance – focusing on an environmentally friendly claim that, while truthful, is irrelevant to whether the product is actually green (such as saying the product has no CFCs, which were federally banned over 30 years ago)
  5. Lesser of Two Evils – giving a product the title of “green” when the product category is bad overall, such as “organic cigarettes”
  6. Fibbing –lying about the environmental safety of a product

So, before you move toward any products suggested here or otherwise, it’s important to fully read labels and do your own research into the manufacturing process, packaging materials used, and ingredients before committing to that product.

Resources

Michelle Mia, “Eco-friendly shelves, bins and benches save space, too,” The Seattle Times, http://seattletimes.com/html/pacificnw/2012073312_pacificpfootmarket20.html

“Company Overview,” Bambeco, http://www.bambeco.com/about_us/bambeco_about_us.asp

Flo Hoppe, “Over Two, Under One: Basket Weaving with Reeds,” Mother Earth News, http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/basket-weaving-zmaz83jfzraw.aspx#axzz2yM30zXID

“Environmental Preferable Purchasing (EPP) – Greening Your Purchase of Cleaning Products: A Guide for Federal Purchasers,” Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/epp/pubs/cleaning.htm

“Non-Toxic Home Cleaning,” Eartheasy, http://eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_solutions.htm

“Eco-Friendly Product Claims Often Misleading,” NPR, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16754919

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