Many people use the words organic and green interchangeably. But few people really understand the difference. While both relate to the welfare of the environment and all living things, they do not mean exactly the same thing. When it comes to choosing cleaning products, this differentiation becomes even less clear. Let’s take a closer look…
An “organic” product must contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients. This designation is controlled by accredited organizations. To use the term “organic,” the product must be derived from natural agricultural production methods that do not use any synthetic chemicals. Organic products are also manufactured with recycled natural organic matter and are based on the principle of crop rotation. In the case of cleaning products, you can find organic descalers, disinfectants, detergents and more.
In contrast, a “green” cleaning product is not harmful to people or the environment. It is environmentally friendly, made from renewable raw materials and ideally has recyclable packaging. Some are also biodegradable and require minimal energy for their manufacturing, making them an even better choice! A green product also has less impact on the environment throughout its life cycle. This includes its manufacture, transportation, use and end of life. Unlike the “organic” claim, however, the “green” designation is not regulated. The best way to know if a product is actually “green” is to rely on recognized certifications such as the EcoLogo program, which meets the requirements of the Environmental Choice Program and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Certifications like EcoLogo guarantee that 60% or more of the product is biodegradable in less than 28 days. (Link here). Products bearing such certifications on their label are not harmful to the environment. However, if a product doesn’t have these logos, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad for the environment. Obtaining the right to use these logos can be a costly endeavour – something not all companies are willing or able to do.
Another difference is that there is no such thing as a 100% green product, since every product will have some degree of impact on the environment (such as through the use of raw materials and energy for its manufacture, transportation, packaging, etc.). On the other hand, a product may well be 100% organic. In other words, an organic product is green, but a green product is not necessarily organic!
So how can you choose a good product (that is, will work and last), while also having minimal impact on the environment and our health?
First, be wary of products claiming to be “100% natural.” These types of marketing claims offer very little information about how the product is manufactured. Instead, put your trust in dedicated manufacturers. Most businesses that manufacture green or organic products are quite proud of this fact and certainly won’t hide it! A good rule of thumb is to opt for products made from natural and renewable resources requiring the least amount of transportation, and whose end of life respects both people and the environment.