Green Cleaning or Green Washing?

Is your cleaning service advertising itself as green?  It is a popular trend today and a lot of consumers are making the move to services that market themselves as green.  Some companies claim to be green, but aren’t   If we are going to get a definitive answer to the question posed in the title, we should examine the definitions of green cleaning and green washing.

First, let’s look at the definition of green cleaning.  According to Wikipedia, green cleaning can best be defined as “a growing trend in favor of using cleaning methods with environmentally friendly ingredients and chemicals to preserve human health and environmental quality”.  Another definition comes from the 1992 Executive Order 13101 signed by then-President Bill Clinton which directed the facility managers of more than 100,000 federally owned or operated buildings worldwide to begin using green cleaning products.  This Order also defined, for the first time, green cleaning as “the use of products and services that reduce the health and environmental impacts compared to similar products and services used for the same purpose.”  Seems straightforward enough. 

So, what is the definition of green washing?  Well, according to The American Heritage Dictionary, fourth edition, it is “The dissemination of misleading information by an organization to conceal its abuse of the environment in order to present a positive public image.”  And, according to’s 21st Century Lexicon, it is “the practice of promoting environmentally friendly programs to deflect attention from an organization’s environmentally unfriendly or less savory activities”.  But does a cleaning company have to be abusing the environment or engaging in “less savory activities”?  Wikipedia notes in its definition that the practice, ” is often portrayed by changing the name or label of a product, to give the feeling of nature, for example putting an image of a forest on a bottle containing harmful chemicals.”.

Ok, so that’s a lot of information.  Would you like a simple way to find out if your cleaning service is really green?  Ask this question: “How many of your cleaning products are certified by Green Seal?”  Green Seal is an independent, non-profit organization that develops science based standards for products and services.  They are generally recognized as the authority on whether or not something is green.

There are many ways to be green, but if your primary concern is the cleaning chemicals being used in your home or office, ask that question.  Then you can be truly sure whether your cleaning company is green cleaning or green washing.


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