Green Washing — the Good Kind
Hate germs but love the planet? Fortunately, a growing array of greener cleaning products lines stores' shelves these days. We asked sanitation experts of all ilk to name their favorite planet-preserving solutions, emphasizing that they couldn't be financially tied to their chosen brand. The result is a list that can comfort even the most neurotic germophobe.
MRS. MEYER'S CLEAN DAY
NICOLE CRONIN co-owns Mas Sake, a popular San Francisco restaurant that serves Japanese-Mexican fusion cuisine. She replaced her business's bleach products with greener cleaners, purchased renewable energy via a partnership with Village Green Energy, and added a 25-cent surcharge to each table's bill to help pay for the green measures.
"My favorite products for the kitchen are the countertop sprays from Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day. They have essential oils, and their scents are refreshing. Also, none of Mrs. Meyer's products are antibacterial; they believe good soap and water are all that's necessary. This is how my mom raised me — she'd use just vinegar and water to clean before these brands were around. Mrs. Meyer's does the job just as well as brands that aren't environmentally friendly, and their products aren't tested on animals. They also don't contain bleach, petroleum distillates, phosphates, or anything else that could emit harsh fumes."
CLOROX GREEN WORKS
MARK NEWMAN-KUZEL is the founder and CEO of Maid in the U.S.A., a 20-year-old housekeeping company in Los Angeles that cleans movie studios, the homes of Hollywood celebrities, and retail stores including Gap and Patagonia.
"Our team prefers to use Clorox Green Works products, which are both green and effective. They have a light, fresh smell that reminds me of being outdoors. The plant- and mineral-based biodegradable ingredients are chosen for their natural abilities to dissolve and remove dirt, oil, and grease. None of the products are tested on animals, which is very important to me. Also, you can buy it as a concentrate to mix in your own bottles, thus extending the reach of your purchase." [editor's note: The Sierra Club is a partner of the Green Works brand.]
ECO MIST SOLUTIONS
As vice president of rooms for Fairmont, ANDREA TORRANCE oversees all aspects of housekeeping for 61 upscale hotels and resorts worldwide. The Toronto-based chain has created a stewardship program to lessen its properties' environmental footprint.
"I like to use the stainless-steel cleaner from Eco Mist Solutions. It's outstanding for removing fingerprints, smudges, and food stains and won't damage finishes. Eco Mist products are derived from 100% toxin-free renewable resources, keeping my home safe from allergens, carcinogens, skin irritants, and unwanted scents. And I feel better knowing that my family has less exposure to toxins."
JOHN WYCHE is the founder and CEO of TrashCo, a Miami-based waste-management company that sanitizes dumpsters and responds to hazardous-waste spills. A police sergeant, Wyche got the idea for TrashCo while searching for criminal evidence in trash cans.
"TrashCo is committed to sustainable environmental practices, so I tried a lot of products in my search for a nontoxic, biodegradable cleaner that would kill all the germs in garbage containers. I settled on SpectraSan 24 after a test that included a random sampling of garbage cans and dumpsters that were found to contain seven different bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella. Post-test results were 100% free of bacteria and fungi. SpectraSan 24 truly exceeded my expectations."
YOUNG LIVING ESSENTIAL OILS
BETHANY BUCHANAN owns an eco-conscious nursing home, Grace Homes, in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Buchanan, a registered nurse, has been a healthcare professional for 16 years, including eight years in hospitals.
"I use Young Living Essential Oils' Thieves Household Cleaner in my care home. I love its warm cinnamon-and-clove scent — my home never has the bleachy disinfectant smell other facilities have. I also appreciate that it's highly concentrated, so it comes in a smaller bottle that's also recyclable. Some studies I've read show that it kills more than 99% of bacteria and viruses, so I feel confident in it from an infection-control standpoint. It cuts the daily grease and grime effectively and leaves behind a pretty shine on wood surfaces. It contains 100% plant and mineral ingredients, so I don't worry about my staff's lungs being harmed from inhaling fumes."
FLORENCE FISCIAN directs the environmental-services department of the Metropolitan Jewish Health System’s Menorah Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care in Brooklyn, New York. Prior to joining Menorah in 1996, she was the housekeeping supervisor for St. Vincent Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
“My favorite cleaning product is Glance NA from JohnsonDiversey. Menorah is right next to Manhattan Beach and has floor-to-ceiling windows everywhere. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the fantastic views, so the right glass cleaner is important to us. It's also important for us to be a responsible nonprofit, so we do our best to be green. We use Glance NA throughout our 275,000-square-foot building. It's good for all surfaces, has no ammonia, is non-streaking and quick-drying. It also meets all Green Seal characteristics.”
Cleaning consultant LESLIE REICHERT is the author of The Joy of Green Cleaning and an expert on removing toxins from the home and workplace; her clients include the utility National Grid and the toy company Hasbro. Known as "The Cleaning Coach," Reichert is a TV regular, appearing to give viewers green-cleaning demonstrations and advice.
“I’m a fan of Full Circle cleaning tools, which are both beautiful and ergonomic. They’re made of renewable, recycled, and biodegradable materials, and work as well as the leading non-green products. I love how Full Circle solves cleaning issues right in their design: Many of their brushes stand on end so the brush can dry, keeping bacteria growth down, and counters neat and clean. Many of their products are made from Bonterra, a “plastic” that’s made of the cellulose and starch in plants. The brushes are dishwasher-safe and can be used in even the hottest water (most bioplastics can’t).”
MARY FINDLEY is a sustainable-living coach in Eugene, Oregon; the president of a cleaning company called Mary Moppins; and the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Green Cleaning.
“During my years of cleaning homes professionally, I turned to the Super Concentrated All Purpose Cleaner & Degreaser from BioKleen after several clients complained that the products I was using caused allergic reactions. I tested various organic cleaners and found they worked on light soils but when it came to soap residue on shower walls or grease or oil they required multiple applications. BioKleen does an effective job handling tough cleaning jobs when it’s used in higher concentrations. It uses nontoxic and environmentally safe cleaners, and never any chemicals such as phosphorous, sodium laurel sulphate, or toxic filler agents. Plus, concentrated products reduce carbon footprints and plastic waste. They save you money, too.”
LAURA LUKAS is the sustainability coordinator at Chicago’s Blue Plate Catering, working to make her food company as environmentally friendly as possible.
“My favorite cleaning product is the All-Purpose Cleaner from Method. I use it for all of my surface cleaning in my apartment, from bathroom to kitchen, and am never let down. With other cleaners, after I’m done I want to wash the product’s smell off my hands and open the windows to air the space out. After cleaning my apartment with Method’s cleaner, I can relax and just enjoy the light fragrant scent of lavender. I also love that it’s inexpensive and you can buy bulk refillable bottles instead of buying smaller spray bottles each time. Finally, it’s great to know that it’s biodegradable and the bottle itself is made from recycled materials.”
GWENDOLYN CORBETT owns and operates Bear's Den Cottages, a nature-and-wellness retreat in Ohio's Hocking Hills.
“Citra Solve Natural Cleaner & Degreaser, which is concentrated, is very versatile, cleaning bathrooms, kitchens, floors, grills, stoves, and cars. It can also act as a paint remover, laundry spotter, or carpet deodorizer. It’s effective on a variety of materials from ceramic to metal to linoleum to upholstery. Instead of having separate containers for a bath, toilet, stove, floor, you only need one cleaner, one container. It effectively deodorizes with a fresh, natural and nontoxic smell — my guests comment frequently on how pleasant our units are when they arrive. It’s also gentle on the environment and on humans because it’s nontoxic, biodegradable, and the company doesn’t conduct animal testing.”
DAVID LIPSCHUTZ owns Blind Faith Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant in Evanston, Illinois, at which the defining values are seasonality, sustainability, respect for nature, dedication to service, and a love of great food.
“I recommend the E2 Degreaser by EcoLogicSolutions, a company that’s dedicated to biodegradable cleaning products. They have the utmost integrity and I feel good knowing that they are Green Restaurant-certified. Many companies can say they're green but you have to walk the walk and they do. I wanted our customers to know that we really are a certified green restaurant and we take great pride in that. This product does the job you need for equipment and floors. It's nontoxic, there are no fumes, and it’s not dangerous to your skin. These are not 'trendy' products. This is a company that is very dedicated to making the planet a better place to live."