Green cleaning – we’ve all heard the term but what does it really mean? What is the process for a product to be certified as “green”? I’ve wondered about this so I took some time out to do a little research and, boy, was I surprised. What I found is that there are three main players involved in green product certification: Green Seal, the EPA’s Designed for the Environment (DfE) program and the Canadian governments offspring EcoLogo.  All three agencies certify green cleaning products but each goes about it a little differently.

Green Seal started back in 1989 and charges a product testing fee.  In addition to following guidelines set by the EPA and Federal Trade Commission on environmental labeling in approving your product, products must also meet standards and guidelines for the following agencies in order to be approved by Green Seal:

  1. International Standards Organization (ISO)
  2. American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
  3. Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN)
  4. – Consumers union (publisher of Consumer Reports)

The EPA developed its own labeling system for Green Cleaning products about fifteen years ago.  EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) claims to work “in partnership with industry, environmental groups, and academia to reduce risk to people and the environment by finding ways to prevent pollution”.  To have your product certified as DfE you must meet criteria established by the EPA.  Part of this process is Product Performance Testing to certify that your proposed product actually cleans.  This requires the approval of:

  1. Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA)
  2. American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)
  3. American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC)
  4. Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB)

A common misconception of DfE, in the Hospital Housekeeping world, is that they endorse products that are environmentally safe but not necessarily effective. It was surprising to discover that they require manufacturers to use 3rd party certification agencies to test the efficacy of their products. I’m not advocating for them per se, but this information certainly flies in the face of how they are commonly perceived.

EcoLogo was developed by the Canadian Government in 1988.  The process to have your product branded EcoLogo is similar to the others as you apply to have your product tested and certified that it satisfies all established criteria.  There is an initial testing fee per product and then an annual license fee of .5% of product sales.  Products must meet all EcoLogo certification criteria before being allowed to carry the EcoLogo symbol.  Though EcoLogo doesn’t use 3rd party certification agencies, they do test products against their own stringent criteria. For example, for floor care, this is broken down into the following categories:

  1. Definitions
  2. General Requirements
  3. Human Health and Environmental Impacts
  4. Physical Properties
  5. Prohibited and Restricted compounds
  6. Packaging
  7. Product Performance
  8. Product Labeling
  9. Household Hard Surfaces Requirements
  10. Verification
  11. Conditions for use of EcoLogo.

Green cleaning products are often stereotyped as being good for the environment but sadly ineffective. However, if you’re looking to make the switch to green cleaning, then selecting products that have any one of these three symbols will satisfy the need and leave you feeling secure that you’ve made the right choice.