By guest blogger Cassidy Randall. Cassidy coordinates efforts to mobilize and engage women at Women’s Voices for the Earth. She developed the Green Cleaning Action Kit, Disinfectants Horror Show, and other engagement tools, and organizes WVE’s Green Cleaning Party campaign.
There’s a new wave of incredibly effective activism sweeping the nation. Maybe you’ve heard of them—they’re called green cleaning parties. Yep, you read that right: parties that promote activism by bringing women together to make nontoxic cleaners from safe ingredients like vinegar and baking soda. Green cleaning parties, created by Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), were born out of the idea that women have incredible social, economic, and political power to make elected officials and corporate giants pay attention to their concerns and take action based on them. Green cleaning parties have been amazingly successful at harnessing that power to change the face of a global industry.
Unfortunately, chemicals commonly used in commercial cleaning products have been linked to breast cancer, fertility problems, hormone disruption, asthma, and other serious health impacts. And here’s the scary part—no law requires cleaning product companies to disclose their ingredients, so you can’t look on the label to avoid certain chemicals if you wish to.
But wait—aren’t these chemicals tested for safety before they’re put in cleaning products? Nope. There are 85,000 chemicals on the marketplace, and less that 10 percent of them have ever been tested for their impact on human health. Those that have been tested have historically been evaluated for their short-term impacts to adult men—but it’s past time we evaluate the long-term impacts to vulnerable populations like women and children.
Studies show that although gender roles have changed over time, women are still doing more than 70 percent of the housework in the average home, meaning that we’re more exposed to hidden toxic chemicals in cleaning products—and we carry the impacts of chemical exposure differently than men. Children are also more vulnerable to cleaning chemicals in the home and at school because their organs and immune systems are not yet fully developed, and certain chemicals may interfere with the development of those systems, leading to obesity, learning disabilities, diabetes, and other serious illnesses.
So in 2008, WVE launched the Green Cleaning Party Kit, demanding that women and their families no longer be used as a testing ground for undisclosed, untested chemicals in cleaning products. Parties took off all over the nation, delivering this simple message to companies: “Until we know what’s in commercial cleaning products, we’ll make our own with nontoxic ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.”
In just two short years, these parties have made an incredible impact. Almost 2,000 green cleaning parties have been held in the U.S. and countries across the globe, which has generated a wave of media around the issue: Women hosting green cleaning parties have been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and media outlets all over the nation.
This fast-growing movement got the attention of the cleaning-product industry right away, including major companies like Clorox, SC Johnson, and Reckitt Benckiser. The cleaning-product industry announced an initiative to begin disclosing ingredients on company websites; and industry giant SC Johnson agreed to commit to disclosing all ingredients on product labels by 2012.
All of these milestones are in direct response to a rising tide of women who are taking action to protect themselves and their families from potentially harmful ingredients in cleaning products. Women make 85 percent of the consumer decisions in the average household—holding those purse strings equals a lot of power. When we begin demanding safer products and voting with our dollars, multinational corporations listen.
Now is the time to exercise our political power, as well, because our elected officials are listening, too. Congress introduced the Household Products Labeling Act to require that all cleaning products bear a label with the full list of ingredients. With this legislation, we have the opportunity to cement our right to know what chemicals are in the cleaning products we use in our homes, and to avoid certain chemicals if we wish to. WVE is also working to pass the Safe Chemicals Act to ensure that all products are free from untested, unregulated chemicals.
Become part of this rising tide! Host a green cleaning party and begin exercising your power.
Recipes from Women’s Voices for the Earth: Create your own safe household cleaners with these easy formulas.
Cleans hard surfaces like countertops and kitchen floors, windows, and mirrors.
2 cups white distilled vinegar
2 cups water
20–30 or more drops of essential oil (optional)
Tip: Warming this in the microwave (in a glass container only) until barely hot will boost its cleaning power for tougher jobs.
Creamy Soft Scrub
Use this creamy soft scrub on kitchen counters, stoves, bathroom sinks, and such.
2 cups baking soda
½ cup liquid castile soap
4 teaspoons vegetable glycerin (acts as a preservative)
5 drops antibacterial essential oil such as lavender, tea tree, rosemary, or any scent you prefer (optional)
Store in a sealed glass jar; shelf life of two years.
Tip: For exceptionally tough jobs spray with vinegar first—full-strength or diluted and scented—let sit and follow with scrub.
Find more recipes at womensvoices.org.