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One Thing You Can Do: Clean Greener

Thanks to President Jennifer Fain who shared this article from the New York Times Climate Forward newsletter written by Rhonda Kaysen.

Spring is here, and, for many, that means it’s time for some serious housecleaning. But some of the products we use to make our surfaces shine may cause more harm than good.

For example, many common household cleaning products contain

volatile organic compounds, which easily become vapors or gases. They are known to trigger asthma in some people and can also cause headaches and allergic reactions.

In a review of more than 2,000 cleaning products, the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization, found that 53 percent contained ingredients known to irritate the lungs.

When those compounds are used at home, they can accumulate on surfaces. V.O.C. levels are two to five times higher indoors than out, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

When cleaning products are thrown away or washed down the drain, the chemicals they contain, including things like benzene and formaldehyde, which are commonly found in air fresheners, ultimately end up in lakes, rivers and landfills.

Unfortunately, it’s often hard to know what’s in cleaning products because the companies that make them are not required to disclose ingredients. That’s true even for products labeled “green” or “natural.” The Environmental Working Group found that only 7 percent of the 2,000 cleaning products reviewed adequately disclosed ingredients.

So, how can you find out which cleaning products are really green?

Looking for the Environmental Protection Agency Safer Choice label on cleaning supplies is a good first step. The Safer Choice program reviews more than just product ingredients. It also looks at product performance and the sustainability of packaging. Once a product is approved, the E.P.A. conducts regular audits to ensure that standards continue to be upheld.

The Environmental Working Group also rates top green cleaning products.

Another option is to make your own cleaners with everyday household products like white vinegar, baking soda and Castile soap.

Making cleaning supplies “takes two minutes, if that, and it’s incredibly cheap,” said Kathryn Kellogg, the author of “101 Ways to Go Zero Waste.” She said she cleans everything in her home, except the shower, with a spray bottle of vinegar and water. For the shower, she uses baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and liquid soap.

Finally, remember that disposable cleaning supplies like sponges, wipes and mop pads usually end up in landfills. Consider biodegradable sponges or washable, reusable supplies where possible.

Your lungs, your house and your planet may thank you for it.

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