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ENJOY | The Green Life

By Avital Binshtock

Green Washing—the Good Kind | Trendsetter | Green Biz | Logoland

Green Washing—the Good Kind

Hate germs but love the planet? Fortunately, a growing array of greener cleaning products lines stores' shelves these days. We asked sanitation experts to name their favorite planet-preserving solutions, emphasizing that they couldn't have financial ties to their chosen brands.

NICOLE CRONIN co-owns Mas Sake, a popular San Francisco restaurant that serves Japanese-Mexican fusion cuisine. She replaced her business's bleach products with greener cleaners, purchased renewable energy via a partnership with Village Green Energy, and added a 25-cent surcharge to each table's bill to help pay for the green measures.

"My favorite products for the kitchen are the countertop sprays from Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day. They have essential oils, and their scents are refreshing. Also, none of Mrs. Meyer's products are antibacterial; they believe good soap and water are all that's necessary. This is how my mom raised me—she'd use just vinegar and water to clean before these brands were around. Mrs. Meyer's does the job just as well as brands that aren't environmentally friendly, and their products aren't tested on animals. They also don't contain bleach, petroleum distillates, phosphates, or anything else that could emit harsh fumes."

MARK NEWMAN-KUZEL is the founder and CEO of Maid in the U.S.A., a 20-year-old housekeeping company in Los Angeles that cleans movie studios, the homes of Hollywood celebrities, and retail stores including Gap and Patagonia.

"Our team prefers to use Clorox Green Works products, which are both green and effective. They have a light, fresh smell that reminds me of being outdoors. The plant- and mineral-based biodegradable ingredients are chosen for their natural abilities to dissolve and remove dirt, oil, and grease. None of the products are tested on animals, which is very important to me. Also, you can buy it as a concentrate to mix in your own bottles, thus extending the reach of your purchase." [Editor's note: The Sierra Club is a partner of the Green Works brand]

As vice president of rooms for Fairmont, ANDREA TORRANCE oversees all aspects of housekeeping for 61 upscale hotels and resorts worldwide. The Toronto-based chain has created a stewardship program to lessen its properties' environmental footprint.

"I like to use the stainless steel cleaner from Eco Mist Solutions. It's outstanding for removing fingerprints, smudges, and food stains and won't damage finishes. Eco Mist products are derived from 100 percent toxin-free renewable resources, keeping my home safe from allergens, carcinogens, skin irritants, and unwanted scents. And I feel better knowing that my family has less exposure to toxins."

JOHN WYCHE is the founder and CEO of TrashCo, a Miami-based waste-management company that sanitizes dumpsters and responds to hazardous-waste spills. A police sergeant, Wyche got the idea for TrashCo while searching for criminal evidence in trash cans.

"TrashCo is committed to sustainable environmental practices, so I tried a lot of products in my search for a nontoxic, biodegradable cleaner that would kill all the germs in garbage containers. I settled on SpectraSan 24 after a test that included a random sampling of garbage cans and dumpsters that were found to contain seven different bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella. Post-test results were 100 percent free of bacteria and fungi. SpectraSan 24 truly exceeded my expectations."

BETHANY BUCHANAN owns an eco-conscious nursing home, Grace Homes, in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Buchanan, a registered nurse, has been a health-care professional for 16 years, including 8 years in hospitals.

"I use Young Living Essential Oils' Thieves Household Cleaner in my care home. I love its warm cinnamon-and-clove scent—my home never has the bleachy disinfectant smell other facilities have. I also appreciate that it's highly concentrated, so it comes in a smaller bottle that's also recyclable. Some studies I've read about the product show that it kills more than 99 percent of bacteria and viruses, so I feel confident in it from an infection-control standpoint. It cuts the daily grease and grime effectively and leaves behind a pretty shine on wood surfaces. It contains 100 percent plant and mineral ingredients, so I don't worry about my staff's lungs being harmed from inhaling fumes."

ON THE WEB For more expert recommendations of green cleaning products, go to


"Policy is really slow, but grassroots organizations can make change happen much faster." —Natalie Spilger

Natalie Spilger, professional soccer player | Photo by Hakan Flank

Each time she laces up her soccer cleats, defender Natalie Spilger, 28, sees green—and is reminded of her pledge to never again buy a non-reusable plastic water bottle. The founder of GreenLaces, she is one of 38 athletes featured in Champions for Change: Athletes Making a World of Difference (Global Sports Alliance USA, 2010), a book sponsored by the United Nations.

Q: What is GreenLaces?

A: It's two things: a movement and an educational program. The movement is for athletes to buy green shoelaces [$5, $2 of which goes to planet-protecting nonprofits], make a promise to the planet, and wear the laces when they're competing to promote environmental stewardship to sports fans. The other component takes environmental education out of the classroom and into the fun zone of sports. We raise funds to bring kids to local games, and afterward we'll have the players talk to the kids about the environment.

Q: How did you get the idea for it?

A: I was working as an engineer for a while, certifying green buildings, and I remember thinking, "This sucks—no one really cares if these buildings are green." I wanted to green people, not buildings. I also thought that athletes needed to get activated to be a part of the conversation because they can reach such a huge mass of people.

Q: Why shoelaces?

A: I knew that whatever I chose needed to be a tangible necessity, not a trendy accessory. Shoelaces are something that nearly every athlete, and every person, uses daily.

Q: How do you rationalize all the air travel and the consumptive lifestyle of a typical professional athlete?

A: It's amazing how much the athletic world consumes because of convenience. But I try to do everything I can to make up for it. I've organized collections for donations of slightly used gear and auctioned items signed by professional athletes to raise money for GreenLaces and other environmental organizations. GreenLaces is also going to be offsetting the travel for the upcoming FIFA Women's World Cup.—interview by Allison McCann

Green Biz

Ever wonder what happened to that half-used bar of soap you left behind in your hotel room? If your hotel partnered with the nonprofit Clean the World, that sudsy leftover may help save a life.

Clean the World collects and sanitizes used hotel toiletries, then sends them to impoverished countries. In the developing world, diarrheal illnesses and respiratory infections—afflictions that can be prevented with proper hand washing—kill more than 3.5 million children each year.

"When I found out how many children were dying each day because of lack of soap," said Shawn Seipler, the organization's cofounder, "that's the moment I found my mission and purpose."

Clean the World works with hotels in 47 states. Its staffers and volunteers recycle cast-off amenities from more than 178,000 rooms daily. In just about two years, the organization has diverted 390 tons of waste by redistributing more than 6 million bars of soap and 100 tons of bottled toiletries. —Kimberly Button

Cleaning product photos: Lori Eanes

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