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While most people want to help the environment in theory, when it comes down to buying green cleaning products for their office or small business, many put concerns about effectiveness and cost above whether a product is “green.”
Close to 60 percent of office workers polled by Staples last year for Earth Day said that while they thought their company was green, they could always do more, with only 30 percent saying they buy sustainable paper and cleaning products for their breakroom. This spring cleaning season, Staples, which offers sustainable cleaning products and more on Staples.com, examines the cost and effectiveness of green cleaners to see if the facts match the public’s perception.
Examining the effectiveness of green cleaners
Many green cleaners available today feature labels from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program and/or Green Seal. The U.S. EPA Design for the Environment (DfE) program uses the DfE label on chemical-based household and commercial products that meet the program’s stringent human and environmental health criteria. Green Seal certification ensures that a product meets rigorous, science-based leadership standards. This gives manufacturers the assurance to back up their claims and purchasers confidence that certified products are better for human health and the environment.
What many people don’t know is that for any cleaning product to earn either the DfE or Green Seal eco-labels, the product must undergo performance testing to verify that it meets or exceeds the performance of conventional cleaning products in the same category. When designed the right way and used for the right application, green cleaners work as well or better than conventional cleaning products.
Previously, it had been difficult to find a disinfecting green cleaner. Consumers and businesses that needed a disinfectant for specific applications couldn’t find a greener option and had to resort to traditional cleaners. However, new cleaners are being introduced (like Seventh Generation’s Multisurface Disinfecting Spray) that combine both cleaning and disinfecting agents made from natural plant-based sources and free of the harsh chemicals found in traditional disinfectants. Shifting to a green cleaning regimen can help improve indoor air quality for building occupants and janitorial staff and reduce the need for protective gear and additional safety concerns. But do green cleaners cost more?
Green cleaners- can they be less expensive than the alternative?
While some environmentally responsible cleaning products can cost more, not all do. For instance, based on a price comparison of products on Staples.com, the average ready-to-use all purpose cleaner costs 15 cents per ounce, while the green equivalents from Clorox (Clorox Greenworks All Purpose Spray) and Staples Sustainable Earth Brand (Sustainable Earth All Purpose spray) average 14 cents per ounce. The cost of the average glass cleaner is 10 cents per ounce, the same cost per ounce for Sustainable Earth’s alternative.
Other factors to weigh when comparing price include the concentration of the cleaner. Sustainable Earth makes a Neutral Cleaner concentrate that will yield up to 257 gallons of cleaner when mixed with tap water for only $ 29.99, less than 12 cents a gallon. Compare that to the average price per gallon ($ 15.48) for a regular gallon of pre-mixed all-purpose cleaner on Staples.com and, as long as you’re willing to buy in bulk and mix the cleaner yourself, it’s really no comparison.
What about when it comes to paper products used to clean offices, like hardwound/roll paper towels? The average hardwound paper towel costs 1.2 cents per foot, while the costs of green alternatives from Envision Recycled, Scott, Kleenex and Sustainable Earth actually average 1.1 cents per foot. But it’s not just the price of green and non-green paper towels that can affect the overall cost and impact on the environment. Consider too, the way paper towels are distributed. According to CleanLink.com, the most cost-effective towels are hardwound/roll towels, as they “feature controlled portion dispensing, which reduces consumption because folded systems allow users to take more towels than are required.”
While there are many factors to consider when purchasing cleaning supplies, including price, labor costs, distribution method and employee safety, in most cases green cleaning supplies match the traditional offerings in value and performance.