Certified green cleaning: Design for the Environment

If you’re shopping for energy efficient appliances, you know to look for the ENERGY STAR label. If you’re looking for bath fixtures, toilets, or shower heads, Water Sense gives you insight into the most water-efficient products. And the new EPEAT label provides a standard for multiple environmental attributes of home electronics.

These government-created or supported certifications help with bigger-ticket purchases… but what about day-to-day items that can impact you home environment (as well as the natural environment), and possibly your family’s health? Turns out there’s a certification program for those kinds of products, too. The Environmental Protection Agencies Design for the Environment program has largely flown under the radar since its founding in 1992, and the launch of its certification label in 1997; in those eighteen years, though, DfE has certified more than 2000 industrial and consumer products for high health, safety, and environmental standards, including cleaning products, inks, car care, and odor removal products.

Realizing that it didn’t have the name recognition of some of the other programs mentioned above, DfE has gone on a bit of a promotional blitz, releasing a video explaining its work, and tips for choosing and using green cleaning products.

A few of Design for the Environment’s suggestions for green cleaning

  • Look for the label: Before you buy, look for the Design for the Environment label on household cleaners. The label means a product is safer for people and the environment, thanks to testing by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Products that earn the EPA’s Design for the Environment label have been evaluated by EPA and contain only those ingredients that pose the least concern for human health and the environment while still getting the job done.
  • Follow directions: More of a product isn’t necessarily better – with any household cleaner, follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully and use only as much of the product as you need to get the job done. And always store household products in their original containers so that you can read the label for proper disposal instructions.
  • Clear the air: Some household products contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – organic compounds that evaporate easily and can contribute to indoor air pollution and health concerns. If the label says to use a product in a well-ventilated area, turn on the exhaust fan or open up windows to provide the maximum amount of outdoor air possible.
  • Kids and chemicals don’t mix: While Design for the Environment products are safer for your family, it’s still a good idea to supervise children around household cleaners. Avoid accidental poisonings by following the storage instructions on product labels and store cleaners out of reach of children and pets.
  • It doesn’t need to be sudsy: There’s a common misperception that lots of suds equal clean.  But often suds come from unnecessary foaming agents and they don’t help clean things. Many safer, greener cleaning products don’t add extra foaming agents. If you use more of a product than needed to make suds you’re throwing away your soap. And in the laundry too much detergent can damage fabrics. So use the amount directed to clean, not to make lots of suds.

Got your own tips for green cleaning (including DIY ideas… you don’t have to buy ready-made cleaning products)? Share them with us…