6 On Your Side: Consumer Confidence, Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

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(ABC 6 News) – More of us are thinking about the environment these days, so maybe you’re thinking about changing your cleaning products, and making a “greener choice.”

Before you make the switch, Consumer Reports cuts through the hype and reveals that some products marketed as green or natural might not be as great as they seem.

What does saying a product is “green” even mean? Consumer Reports says, not much. The same goes for words like “natural,” “plant-based,” “non-toxic,” and “eco-friendly.”

“These are really just marketing terms to make a product seem more appealing. It’s sometimes called ‘greenwashing’ – a gimmick meant to attract consumers who prefer to buy products from environmentally conscious brands,” explains Consumer Reports’ Althea Chang-Cook.

Still, lots of people want to make eco-friendly choices! Start by thinking about what aspect of “being green” is important to you. Should a cleaner be made from plants? Biodegradable?

While an “eco-friendly” product may use less plastic in its packaging, that doesn’t mean the product is free from harmful chemicals.

“Another important thing to know is that just because a product is ‘natural’ or ‘plant-based’ doesn’t mean it is safe,” says Chang-Cook. “It could even be toxic. That’s something you’ll want to be aware of especially if you have kids around.”

A better way to choose cleaning products is to look for one of these seals of approval from independent, third-party organizations that evaluate the company’s claims.

The seal from UL signifies a product has a lower environmental impact than other similar products – factors like a manufacturer’s energy consumption, water usage, and waste.

To be EWG Verified, products can’t include certain ingredients identified to be potentially harmful to human and environmental health.

The same is true when you see the Safer Choice logo. To get this seal, the EPA also considers to what extent a product’s packaging is sourced, made, and transported using renewable energy.

You can even search their website to see if your favorite cleaner got their approval.

Whichever products you choose, Consumer Reports says to try to use less! A drop of detergent could be just as effective as a glob, and consider buying concentrated cleaners that come in smaller bottles that use less plastic and use fewer resources to make and transport.