Design for the Environment

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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Nothing like the Smell of Safer Chemistry

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.

40 NEW Holding Spray Bottle

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.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Are We Planet-Friendly?

By Lina Younes

During the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, everywhere we look we find messages and merchandise

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urging us to share our love with family, friends, significant others and even with our pets. But, on this special day and other days of the year, are we truly showing our appreciation to the Planet? Are we making sure that we don’t litter and that we conserve Mother Earth’s precious natural resources?

How about some simple things that we can do at home, at work, or in our community to protect our earthly home? Here are some suggestions:

  • Are you planning to buy a Valentine’s Day card today? Make sure it was made with recycled materials or even save more resources by sending an electronic card instead!
  • Reduce wastes and recycle the 365 days of the year.
  • We can’t live without water so don’t waste it! Close the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth. Take shorter showers instead of baths. Use WaterSense products to use water more efficiently.
  • Save energy in the home by using a programmable thermostat. Use EnergyStar appliances. These energy-efficient appliances save you energy and money and protect the Planet, too.
  • Combine your daily errands to save gas. Give your car a break and take public transportation.
  • In the spring, how about planting a tree? Planting trees will improve air quality and give you shade in the summer months.
  • Want to avoid problems with pests at home? Don’t give them anything to eat, drink, or shelter. These integrated pest management techniques will go a long way to create a healthier home environment for you and your family.
  • We’ve all heard the expression “cleanliness is next to godliness.” A clean home is essential for good health. So why don’t we use the greenest chemicals that are safer for us AND the Planet? Check out those with the Design for the Environment label. They perform well, they are cost-effective, and safer for the environment, too.
  • Do you want more additional Planet-Friendly tips to show your appreciation of Mother Earth? Visit our website .

Would you like to send us your green tips? We look forward to your comments on this blog or through our social media pages at Facebook and Twitter.  Looking forward to hearing from you.

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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Going Green As You’re Going Back to School

by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

Summertime is coming to an end, and kids are heading back to school. And even though they’ll be spending less time outdoors, we should still be thinking about how to protect the environment and safeguard our children’s health. Fortunately, small actions can turn into big results for protecting the environment, and can even save extra money for the school year.

For example, try to cut down on waste. More than 30 percent of what we throw away comes from cardboard and plastic packaging. Look for pens, pencils, and other supplies that are packaged with recyclable materials. That goes for spiral notebooks and notebook paper, too. For every 42 notebooks made from 100 percent recycled paper, an entire tree is saved.

Buying school supplies every year can get expensive. A good way to save money is to conserve energy use around the house. Energy Star products – from lightbulbs and laptops to televisions and air conditioners – are more energy efficient, which means you’ll pay less in utility bills every month. In 2011, the use of Energy Star products helped Americans save $23 billion on their utility bills, and prevented more than 210 million metric tons of green house gas emissions.

There are also ways to make sure our schools are environmentally friendly. In addition to choosing products made from recyclable materials and using energy efficient appliances, check to make sure the products used to clean your child’s classrooms carry the “Design for the Environment” label. This label means those products are safer for students and better for the environment.

Every child deserves a clean and healthy place to learn – and all parents should be able to trust that their children’s health is not at risk when they send them off to school. The EPA is working hard to reduce health threats in the air we breathe and the water we drink, and we want to make sure schools and parents have what they need to minimize pollution in and around classrooms and give all of our kids healthy places to learn.

Last but not least, these actions help teach children the importance of a clean, healthy environment. Making “green” a part of everyday learning – both inside and outside the classroom – is an easy way to engage our kids in the efforts to safeguard the planet they will inherit, and protect their future.

<em>About the author: Lisa Jackson is the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.</em>

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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Me, a NASCAR Fan?

By Melanie Vrabel

I never imagined myself becoming a NASCAR fan. But sure enough, I find myself watching races on the weekends. It all started because my fiancée is an avid NASCAR fan (his favorite driver is #39, Ryan Newman…. I didn’t even need to Google Ryan’s name to find out his number!). At first, I actually teased him quite a bit about it. But as the months went on, I found myself knowing drivers names, numbers, and sponsors as well as trying to predict a winner before each race. I know more about NASCAR now than I ever imagined I would.

So when I found out that EPA was working with NASCAR (and signed an MOU with them on Monday), I jumped at the chance to be involved. I knew my fiancée would be proud, if not a bit jealous. NASCAR and EPA will be working together to continue to green the sport. Since NASCAR has such a huge national fan base, they can help communicate environmental information in ways that reach a large audience.

NASCAR and EPA will work together to highlight DfE products. Additionally, NASCAR can use DfE products at their facilities and at racing events, to show fans that using DfE products is an easy, cost-effective and important way that they can protect the health of their families and pets, clients and co-workers, and the planet.

My fiancée has been trying to convince me to go to a race, and I’ve resisted. Now with the newly formed partnership between EPA and NASCAR, attending a race this year is on my to-do list!

About the author: Melanie Vrabel is a chemist and project manager in the Design for the Environment Program. She works very closely with product manufacturers to help them formulate the safest products possible.

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.

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How Things Have Changed…Green Cleaning Part 3

By Lina Younes

I still have vivid images of cleaning days in my grandmother’s home in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico when I was a child. I remember watching my great aunt using a lot of water and detergents to wash the tile floors, bleach the sheets, and perform other household chores. The entire operation was very labor intensive and used a precious resource: water.

Now, we fast forward to the 21st century and household cleaning, overall, has become much easier and faster. However, the one problem that I see with these “practical” methods is that many of the new tools tend to be disposable. Disposable wipes for use everywhere—countertops, cabinets, and floors—even disposable toilet bowl cleaners. While we recommend as a green cleaning method to use reusable wipes and rags to minimize waste, it’s hard to believe that many consumers don’t succumb to temptation and use the more practical methods even if they generate waste.

So, I decided to look further into the issue of disposable wipes. While they definitely fulfill the practical requirement, are they green? On the plus side, they clean while minimizing the use of water. On the negative side, they just end up in the landfill after use. Well, in this case, technology has once again saved the day! Some companies have developed compostable wipes made largely of material such as bamboo fibers which are biodegradable and compostable, so we can allay the fears of our green conscience. For a full listing, visit our Design for the Environment website.

So what are your thoughts on the issue? Would love to hear from you!

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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Green Cleaning, Part 2…Two Sides of the Coin

After last week’s blogpost on “Green Cleaning,” I received comments from a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including those who insist on totally natural products to some of our partners in the Design for the Environment Partnership, cautioning that some of the green tips I had listed might not be as healthy for consumers and the environment as originally assumed. I have consulted with friends in the Design for the Environment (DfE) program in EPA to guide me through this process. I would like to share some of their thoughts with you regarding the DfE label.

Dfeb&g1I confess that we all would like to abide by the greenest practices possible. However, the definition of green is truly in the eye of the beholder. While I will not attempt to give a course on Chemistry 101, there are some basic chemical reasons why some homemade recipes may work, but may not perform as well as a commercial product. It seems likely, for example, that baking soda alone may not perform as well as a formulated product containing surfactants and other key ingredients. Baking soda works simply by raising the pH of the water, i.e., increasing alkalinity. Surfactants actually lower the surface tension of water molecules enabling water to easily carry dirt and grease away. This chemical interaction is one of the main reasons why we rarely have one-ingredient cleaning products.

Furthermore, some of these homemade cleaning agents like baking soda, borax, ammonia, and bleach may be ineffective or toxic if used incorrectly. In fact, since some are very reactive, they should be used with caution. For example, if bleach is mixed with ammonia, harmful chloramine gas can form. While borax is often suggested as a green detergent, there have been studies that link borax to reproductive, development and neurological toxicities. Lye (used to make soap at home) is extremely alkaline and dangerous in concentrated form. It is “corrosive” meaning that it can cause burns on the skin and permanent eye damage.

In making our homemade concoctions, we might actually neutralize the effectiveness of the natural ingredients such as vinegar, lemon juice, and lime juice while we’re cleaning. Since we are not naturally born chemists, our mishandling of these supposedly benign household substances may produce more harm than good.  One word of advice in using any type of cleaning product, disinfectant or pesticide—more is not always better. Follow instructions carefully.

So, if you prefer a commercial option that’s safer for people and the planet, look for the DfE logo on the label. The rigorous testing and certification process can give you peace of mind.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force.  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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Green Cleaning

As I was grocery shopping this past weekend, I noticed that many companies that produce cleaning products are joining the green bandwagon. Many of these companies are extolling the green virtues of their products as a means to increase revenues. The question is how truly green these products are? It is safe to say that there are products in the market place which have been screened to include the safest possible ingredients to help protect the environment and families. Which products you may ask? Well, the products that carry the Design for the Environment label. The DfE is an EPA Partnership Program in which product manufacturers earn the right to display the DfE logo after investing heavily in the research, development and reformulation to ensure that their ingredients and the finish product are really environmentally friendly.

Dfeb&g1While there is a list of Design for the Environment Partners covering a wide variety of consumer and industrial cleaning products, there are still individuals that prefer greener practices for their household chores. Here are some suggested alternative methods or products that allow you to clean without hazardous ingredients:

Glass Cleaner: Mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in 1 quart of water.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Use a toilet brush and baking soda or vinegar. Note: these clean but do not disinfect.
Furniture Polish: Mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in 1 pint of vegetable oil.
Rug Deodorizer: Sprinkle liberally with baking soda and vacuum after 15 minutes.
Plant Spray: Wipe leaves with mild soap and water and rinse.
Mothballs: Use cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, mint, or white peppercorns.
Household Cleaning Solution: 1 cup of warm water, 3 drops of vegetable-based liquid soap, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar

So, use and dispose of these products safely at home for the benefit of your family and the environment. Do you have any green cleaning habits you would like to share? We would love to hear from you.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force.  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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Métodos de limpieza más favorables al medio ambiente

Cuando estaba de compras la semana pasada, me di cuenta cómo un creciente número de fabricantes de productos de limpieza están uniéndose al movimiento ambientalista. Muchas de estas compañías cantan las loas “verdes” de sus productos a fin de obtener mayores ganancias. La pregunta estriba en cuán favorables al medioambiente son estos productos en la realidad. Podemos decir con certeza de que hay productos en el mercado que han sido sometidos a rigurosas pruebas para incluir los ingredientes más seguros posibles para ayudar a proteger al medio ambiente y sus familias ¿Cuáles son estos productos? Bueno, los productos llevan el logotipo de Diseño por el Medio Ambiente (Design for the Environment) en la etiqueta. El DfE (por sus siglas en inglés) es un programa de consorcios de EPA en el cual los fabricantes adquieren el derecho de desplegar el logotipo de DfE después de haber invertido considerablemente en la investigación, desarrollo, reformulación del producto para asegurar que sus ingredientes y el producto final sea realmente favorable al medio ambiente.

Dfeb&g1Mientras hay una lista de socios del programa de Design for the Environment que abarca una amplia variedad de productos de limpieza para consumidores y para uso industrial, hay algunos individuos que prefieren prácticas mas verdes al hacer sus quehaceres de limpieza en el hogar. He aquí algunos métodos y productos alternos que podría considerar que le permite hacer limpieza sin usar ingredientes peligrosos para la salud o el medio ambiente.

Por ejemplo, para la limpieza de cristales: Use una cucharada de vinagre o jugo de limón por 32 onzas de agua.
Para la limpieza de los inodoros: Use un cepillo de inodoro con bicarbonato de sosa o vinagre. (Favor de notar que este método limpia, pero no desinfecta.)
Para pulir los muebles: Combine una cucharadita de jugo de limón por 16 onzas de aceite vegetal.
Para quitar los olores de las alfombras: Esparza ampliamente bicarbonato de sosa sobre la alfombra y pase la aspiradora dentro de 15 minutos.
Para aplicar a las plantas: Enjuague las plantas con un jabón suave diluido en agua y luego enjuague.
Para usar en lugar de las bolas de naftalina: Pedazos pequeños de madera de cedro, flores de lavanda, romero, menta o pimienta blanca.
Para hacer su propio líquido de limpieza: Use una tasa de agua tibia, tres gotitas de jabón líquido de base vegetal, una cucharadita de bicarbonato de sosa y una cucharada de vinagre blanco.

Asegúrese de usar y disponer de los productos de limpieza de manera segura en el hogar para beneficiar a su familia y el medio ambiente. ¿Tiene algunos consejos o prácticas de limpieza verde que quisiera compartir con nosotros? Nos encantaría leer sus comentarios al respecto.

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

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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