Last month, we focused on finding greener transportation choices to incorporate into our daily lives. In April, keep working towards a sustainable lifestyle by switching out your harmful household products for greener ones!
Many cleaning and other household products contain chemicals that are harmful to both people and the environment. The chemicals from your shampoo, dishwasher and laundry detergent, bathroom cleaner, and other products all get washed into the water stream. Even when this water goes through wastewater treatment facilities, low levels of toxins ─ like bug spray and herbicides ─ can still reach the ocean and drinking water sources. Everyone’s small shifts away from harmful products can add up to keep toxic chemicals and pollution out of our drinking water and the ocean, where they can harm marine life.
Are your cleaning products “dirty”?
Planning on doing some spring cleaning in your home? Something many of us don’t realize is that the products we use to clean may actually be, in some ways, dirty. Chemicals like ammonia, nitrogen, and phosphorus are among the worst environmental hazards found in cleaning products. Wastewater treatment facilities often fail to adequately remove these chemicals from water, allowing them to reach drinking water sources and the ocean. Low levels of nutrient pollution in drinking water can harm consumers, especially infants. Furthermore, nutrient pollution in the ocean and estuaries can lead to overgrowth of algae known as harmful algal blooms, which can kill or contaminate fish and shellfish and cause illness in people. Wondering whether your own household products might be harmful for the environment? Check out this site for more information on the hazardous ingredients in common household cleaning products and the European Chemicals Agency’s Candidate List of substances of very high concern, and use these to assess your current products and guide your choices in the future!
Green your spring clean!
Luckily, there are lots of ways to use less toxic chemicals in your household cleaning and personal care routines.
- Step One: Dispose of your harmful products correctly! Switching to greener products makes no difference if you throw your old products in the trash or pour them down the drain. Some outlets and options for disposal are businesses that may collect hazardous waste materials, community hazardous waste centers, community collection days, and home pickup. If you live in the U.S., check the Waste Management website for more information.
- Step Two: Make or buy green cleaners! You can make your own green cleaning products with just a few common ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice. Try these chemical-free recipes for DIY spring cleaning or these homemade all-natural cleaning recipes. Alternatively, if you don’t have these ingredients handy and would rather purchase green products, the EPA provides information on how to choose greener products. See more EPA recommendations here.
- Step Three: Use rags instead of paper towels and disposable wipes while cleaning. They’re free and reusable!
- Step Four: Spread the word. Share this post. Get your roommates, friends, family, or neighbors involved ─ offering to pick up an extra bottle of phosphate-free detergent or get rid of their harmful cleaning products might be all the incentive they need! Or, share how you DIY-ed an air freshener with baking soda and essential oil or a disinfectant with water, soap, and tea tree oil!
For World Oceans Day:
- Organize a community hazardous waste collection event! While it’s not the most glamorous event idea, most people have no idea how to get rid of their hazardous chemicals, leading to improper disposal. Consider including a raffle with green household products as prizes or an informational table demonstrating how to DIY safer cleaning products!
- Organize a storm drain marking event in your community! This one doesn’t tackle household cleaning products specifically, but rather reminds people that litter and pollution from streets and yards can be washed straight into waterways through storm drains. Some cities will provide volunteers with kits of pre-printed storm drain markers to place throughout the community.
Seas the Day! Please use this information as you wish to spread the ocean conservation message. Each month, we feature a new conservation theme with ways to help so come back regularly for more ocean-helping ideas and tips!