cleaning products

Staying Sustainable at School

By Maddie Dwyer

As fall approaches, there’s one thing on every college kid’s mind: living on campus. Whether you’re excited or not, dorm life is coming, and it’s time to start getting ready. For me, this means using the things I learned at EPA this summer. Below are some tips for green living, which can help you whether you’re living in a dorm or an apartment, or at home.

  1. Saving Energy: It’s easy to save energy by making a few simple changes to your routine. Remember to always turn off the lights when you leave your room. If you’re lucky enough to have air conditioning, and the luxury of controlling it, make sure it’s not left on if no one’s around.
  2. Conserving Water: There are lots of ways to use water efficiently. Take shorter showers and turn off the water when you are using soap, shaving, or brushing your teeth. Also, fixing leaky faucets is an important way to reduce wasted water.
  3. Reducing Waste: College is a great time to get into sustainable habits. Make a commitment to recycle everything you can, even if it means carrying recyclables until you find a recycling bin. Most campuses offer green dining options, like reusable take out boxes, glasses, and silverware. Take advantage of all the green options your school has to offer!
  4. Getting Involved: Every school is different, and will have different environmental issues to address. For example, as part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, my school is working to construct bioswales to filter run-off before it reaches the bay. Check out EPA’s resources for students looking to be greener at school. Whether you are advocating for safer cleaning products or encouraging energy efficient appliances, your school will be better off with your involvement.
  5. Make a Green Agreement with Your Roommate: Helping one another is a great way to make both you and your roommate more sustainable. Ask if it’s okay to unplug each other’s unused electronics, do laundry together, and figure out a schedule to keep the lights and AC off. I’ve been lucky to have lovely roommates and other amazing friends who are committed to green living, and it has helped me to become more sustainable every day.
Maddie and her roommate Grace

Maddie and her roommate Grace

So when moving back to campus, be sure to keep these tips in mind and have a wonderful, sustainable school year!

About the author: Maddie Dwyer studies environmental science and policy at the University of Maryland. She works as an intern for EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Nothing like the Smell of Safer Chemistry

Reposted from the EPA Connect

By Jim Jones

When buying cleaning products, you probably first look for a product that will get a particular job done, then compare prices. You might even smell the product, or look for a fragrance-free product. While you may choose a scent based on personal preference, if you care about product safety, it‘s worth taking a closer look at the specific chemicals that add scent to cleaning products.

In September 2012, EPA created a Safer Chemical Ingredients List to assist companies interested in making safer products and to increase public access to important chemical information. And announced today,  EPA has added 119 chemicals that add fragrance to the list of over 600 approved chemical ingredients.

The list is also useful to companies seeking EPA’s Design for the Environment Safer Product Label by providing them with a list of chemical ingredients that already meet EPA’s rigorous, scientific standard for protecting human health and the environment. Chemicals on the Safer Chemical Ingredients List can be used in Design for the Environment-labeled products. Design for the Environment is a voluntary program that involves industry, environmental groups, and academia working in partnership to help protect people and the planet by identifying safer chemicals and allowing safer chemical-based products to carry the Design for the Environment label.

Right now, more than 2,500 products carry the Design for the Environment Safer Product Label, including a range of all-purpose cleaners, laundry and dishwasher detergents, window cleaners, car care, and many other products. When you see the Safer Product Label on a product, it means the Design for the Environment scientific review team has screened each ingredient for potential human health and environmental effects and determined that the product contains only the safest chemical ingredients available.

Using Design for the Environment-labeled products is an important thing you can do to help reduce your family’s exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Look for the label on products when you shop. You can be sure that these products are safer and work as well as they smell.

To view the Safer Chemical Ingredients List, visit

About the author: Jim Jones is the Acting Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. He is responsible for managing the office which implements the nation’s pesticide, toxic chemical, and pollution prevention laws. The office has an annual budget of approximately $260 million and more than 1,300 employees. Jim’s career with EPA spans more than 26 years. From April through November 2011, Jim served as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. He has an M.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a B.A. from the University of Maryland, both in Economics.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Proper Cleaning Prevents Poisonings

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Lina Younes

Among the fondest memories of my childhood was the time that I spent at my grandmother’s home in Old San Juan. I loved walking through the city with such a rich history and unique architecture. Every time I visit the Island, I take a stroll through the old city and memory lane.

I remember one day, I must have been around 9 or 10. I attempted to help my grandmother in cleaning around the house. I wanted to make her proud of my efforts. So I started mixing some of the cleaning products under the misguided notion that “more is better.”  To this date, I still have a very vivid image of my cleaning experiment. I remember one of the liquid cleaners was a dark amber color that when you diluted it in water it would become white. The other was some sort of clear liquid. However, when I made my cleaning concoction, it turned into a bright red! I quickly flushed the cleaning potion down the toilet. It was a good thing that it didn’t explode, but who knows what chemical reaction occurred! I guess I will never find out, but that leads me to the real subject of this blog entry: how to prevent accidental poisonings and exposures to chemicals. The issue is very timely given that we are celebrating National Poison Prevention Week.

Here are some tips to prevent accidental poisonings:

  • At EPA we stress the fact that “the label is the law.” Read labels carefully and follow instructions when using household cleaning products and pesticides.
  • As I learned from my experience decades ago, mixing products will not make your house cleaner. In fact, mixing cleaning household cleaners and pesticides can be dangerous.
  • Always keep cleaning products away from children’s reach. If you are in the process of cleaning and you get a phone call or someone knocks on the door, don’t keep the cleaning products unattended. That can be an accidental poisoning waiting to happen.
  • Since most poisonings occur in the home, make sure that you household cleaners and pesticides are properly stored. We even have a checklist to help you in a room-by-room inspection to ensure safety.

So, if in spite of your best efforts, someone in your home becomes accidentally exposed to a toxic chemical, please call the National Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222. There are English and Spanish-speaking operators available round the clock anywhere in the United States, including Puerto Rico.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Tips for a More Environmentally-Friendly Spring Cleaning

By Ashley McAvoy

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español... ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

Spring has arrived! It’s time to say goodbye to the cold weather and hello to new life once again. The flowers are just breaking through the soil, the birds are singing, and the trees are growing new leaves. These are familiar images and usually mark the beginning of longer days, picnics in the park, riding bikes and more than anything else, enjoying the warmer weather. If you’re like me, one annual task looms in the way of that fun: the dreaded spring cleaning. This chore is tedious and incredibly time consuming, but it’s necessary after months of being cooped up indoors. There are so many things to do: tidy up the garden, wash the car, dust the curtains, sweep the floor, etc. Don’t forget to use cleaning methods and cleaning products that are the safest for your family, your home, and the environment. Here are some reminders before you get started.

Reuse whenever possible

  • One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Give your unwanted clothes a new life by donating them to your local thrift shop or charity. By reusing clothing and other goods, we can cut down on waste entering landfills.

Recycle all that you can

  • Always check with your local recycling center for any recycling restrictions in your area. Some places only accept certain types of plastic or metal. You should check the bottom of any glass or the back of any plastic container for the recycling number. This number will indicate the type of plastic that it is.
    Check out more at the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle website.

Use cleaning products that are safer for your family and the environment

  • Look for products that are labeled biodegradable, eco-friendly, or non-toxic

Find more information about environmentally safe cleaning products at the Protecting Your Health website

  • Avoid products with labels that read toxic, corrosive, irritant, flammable, or combustible

Conserve water

  • To water the lawn, consider using grey water or even rainwater. An average family typically uses 30% of its water for the garden or the lawn. By using alternative water such as rainwater from a rain barrel, you can cut down on wasted water and even lower your water bill.

For more information about safer cleaning methods for your home and the environment, please visit the Green Homes website.

Happy cleaning!

About the author: Ashley McAvoy is an Intern with the Office of Web Communications for spring 2013. She is a double major in Environmental Studies and Hispanic Studies at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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How We Make Decisions….

By Amanda Sweda

A while back I wrote about my decision to stop using water bottles (Some Habits are Easy to Change and Breaking Old Habits). Some people commented asking why do people even use water bottles. Obviously I can’t speak for other people but those comments got me thinking about the environmental decisions we make. How do we decide anything really?

When my daughter started crawling early this year, I made a list of what rooms in our home needed babyproofing. Right away the cabinet under the kitchen sink was one of my highest priorities.  So I started to organize under the my kitchen sink and I found over 10 different cleaning products that I was going to have to make sure my baby doesn’t get into – something to clean the floor, the oven, the windows, the counter, etc.  I thought to myself…do I really need all of this stuff? Aren’t there cleaning products that are multi-purpose?  Safer? “Greener”?  Can’t I get the number from 10 to something more manageable?

I really thought about what I spent my time cleaning in the kitchen and what was important to me. With a child in the house I want cleaning products that work and are safer health-wise but don’t have a huge list of things I have never heard of…so I decided to go green.  I went to the store and found green cleaning products and decided that I really only needed four for the kitchen on a regular basis – a multipurpose spray cleaner, floor cleaner, dishwashing soap for the sink, and dishwashing detergent.

After I made this decision to go green with my cleaning, I found out about a program at EPA – Design for the Environment (DfE). Turns out DfE is a partnership program geared exactly towards what I cared about – cleaning products that are effective and protective of health and the environment.  Turns out almost every single product I bought has the DfE label and has undergone rigorous criteria to be in the program!  Since tackling the kitchen, I have done the same thing for the cleaning products in the bathroom and other rooms in our home. When my daughter gets older she will have chores and household responsibilities…maybe she will help me decide on which green cleaner to purchase…with the DfE label of course!

About the author: Amanda Sweda works in EPA’s Office of Environmental Information on web related policies and serves on the Environmental Education Web Workgroup. Amanda is a former Social Studies and Deaf Education teacher and her husband is a 3rd grade teacher so education is an important topic in their home.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.