Cleaning up our act

Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya on Unsplash

We need to act and we need to act now

If there has ever been a time to educate ourselves about climate change, drive climate action and push for systemic change, it is now. The science from the latest IPCC report couldn’t be more apparent. If we are to limit warming to 1.5C relative to pre-industrial levels, global emissions need to peak by 2025.

We are all biased in what we believe is the world’s biggest issue, and there are so many social and environmental issues to fight for. Climate change is the most important one in my eyes as it exacerbates many problems such as racism, forced migration and poverty.

Climate change can take its toll on your mental health. For young people, a global survey revealed that 59% were very or extremely worried about climate change, and more than 50% felt angry, powerless or helpless. Conversations with friends or learnings from expert psychologists can help us understand how to acknowledge and manage this anxiety as we focus our attention on taking climate action.

Action is exactly what people like John Kerry are looking to drive. Following the latest IPCC report, we understand that we need immediate action and deep emission reductions across all sectors of the economy.

“The report also tells us we have the tools we need to reach our goals, cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, reach net zero by 2050, and secure a healthier, cleaner planet.”

John Kerry, US special presidential envoy for climate

Cleaning products and the earth have poor chemistry

One of the most challenging sectors to decarbonise is heavy industry with the production of cement, steel and chemicals. Globally, the chemicals industry accounts for 6% of greenhouse gases.

Cleaning products have a consequential environmental impact as they are heavily reliant on chemicals. By nature, these products are very carbon-intensive. This reliance on fossil fuels is extended when considering the global transportation of cleaning products and their use of plastic packaging.

Beyond the emissions generated throughout the manufacturing process, traditional cleaning products are sources of pollution when disposed of. Once they are thrown away, chemicals in cleaning products can contaminate water sources by running off into rivers and streams. Additionally, hazardous waste requires separate energy-intensive transportation and disposal.

From a social point of view, they put individuals at a health risk. In the US, where there are more than 2 million janitors, around 6% face injury caused by exposure to chemicals. This can be caused by volatile organic compounds, chemicals released by cleaning products. These compounds can trigger asthma attacks, cause endocrine disruptions and increase cancer risks.

Approaching cleaning products with a clean slate

Well, that was a very positive first look at cleaning products! The objective of this article is not to trigger anxiety or guilt based on your consumption but rather to highlight more sustainable ways to purchase cleaning products. We are always going to need cleaning products, and here’s what you could look out for when buying or using them:

For your health

  • Never mix cleaning products as chemicals in different products can have dangerous reactions
  • Look for products that do not contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

For your wallet

  • Make your cleaning products with natural ingredients such as vinegar or baking soda
  • Consider refillable or reusable cleaning products

For the planet

  • Pick cleaning products that have recyclable packaging or that are made from recycled materials
  • Shy away from cleaning products containing toxic chemicals

Meliora means better

Now that we know what to look for, which companies should we consider buying from? I look out for B Corporations as it is an all-encompassing certification, highlighting that the companies are certified to meet the highest standards of environmental and social sustainability.

Meliora Cleaning Products is one of these companies! They are on a mission to provide cleaning products that work, cause no harm to people and have a lower environmental impact than traditional products.

As a company, they are leading the way by disclosing the ingredients of all of their products, something that most cleaning products manufacturers fail to do. Through their disclosure, Made Safe has verified that they do not use harmful or toxic chemicals in their products.

From a packaging point of view, Meliora is embracing the circular economy by providing refillable products to their customers. As they are always looking to be better (as indicated by their name!), the company have set waste reduction targets to hold themselves accountable.

More widely, the company donates 2% of their annual revenues to support environmental and charitable non-profits such as Women’s Voices for the Earth, an organisation amplifying women's voices as they look to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals.

You may know I love dropping statistics and numbers in my articles. The one that has surprised me the most as I was doing my research for this article is that Meliora Cleaning Products employs nine people, 9! This says a lot about the change we can look to create, no matter the size of our company or the extent of our influence. We have a lot to learn from companies such as Meliora.

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Pierre-Louis Godin

Pierre-Louis Godin

Always looking to learn more about environmental sustainability and climate change. I'll mostly be writing about these topics!