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TOMORROW’S CLEANING EDITOR, CHARLOTTE TAYLOR, UNCOVERS THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION ON EVERYONE’S LIPS...


If I asked you: “What is green cleaning?” What would you say? Considering we talk about it enough, you would think it would be


simple to define and that we would know what we are talking about? Well, that isn’t always the case.


Green, sustainable, environmentally-friendly, whatever you want to call it – there isn’t a clear-cut definition. Yet there are so many companies who add these definitions to their products quite freely. The issue is this: labelling something is not full, certified proof. All too often we are presented with reams of products; all lined up all wearing that green badge, awaiting selection, when we have no idea what it is that actually makes them green?


A popular answer that springs to mind is: “they are chemical free” - an obvious, yet not unwarranted place to start. Yet even this isn’t a simple point of discussion. While some products, such as surface cleaners for example, may be chemical free, some may be reduced chemicals, some are concentrated and others may have less packaging or be distributed in a more economical way – and this is before all manner of combinations start! The fact of the matter is there is no single definition of green.


When it comes to selecting these environmentally-friendly products, we do so singularly on trust. When you select a product, which clearly calls itself Washroom Cleaner in bold print across its packaging, how are you to know that it is what is says in the tin? How are you to know that it is any different from its Hard Surface Cleaner counterpart, let alone whether it is chemical-free?


There are many manufacturers and distributors who, when asked, will happily present you with a detailed product sheet, describing the exact contents and, in some cases, they will even divulge rigorous test results to prove that said product is what it says it is. But there are many who will not. It all comes to down to consumer faith.


And what of actions? Being green doesn’t just mean you pick the right products and have the delivered by horse and wagon as it’s much more eco-friendly, it’s so much more than that. It’s a business ethic that many of us are still struggling with. Do you recycle? How do you travel to work? Do you waste paper? Do you fill the kettle to the brim and only use half of it on the daily coffee round? It all adds up.


When it comes to down to it, everyone has their own description, idea or concept. For some, it may be a baby step towards a bigger picture, far in the distance, for others it’s all or nothing and, for the rest, it’s just one big question mark.


And that question mark appears at the end of this question: what do you think?


SUSAINABLE CLEANING 26 | TOMORROW’S CLEANING | The future of our cleaning industry


“We need to define what we mean by ‘green’. In the area of cleaning, we would generally refer to processes and products which have minimum or zero impact on the environment, employing no chemicals or organic materials which remove oxygen from the air.


“At the moment, no matter how ‘green’ the substances used for cleaning, the materials removed remain a potential pollutant.


“In the food sector, fats, proteins, firming agents, sugars and metals all need different reactants to be broken down and removed. Whatever the cleaning medium, everything removed will enter the environment, whether washed down a sink or placed into a bin. These are organic pollutants, with significant chemical and biological oxygen demands, with the capacity to cause undesirable eutrophication of water.


“Eco-chemicals can also have a larger carbon footprint than conventional detergents. A 'green' detergent produced from sustainably managed biomass sounds good - but not if the raw material is flown in from overseas, and requires significant energy in local processing.


“As long as organic matter is being processed and so needs to be removed, it is hard


to envisage a time when chemical use can be eliminated altogether.”


Neil Brown, Hygiene Group www.hygiene.co.uk


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