Eco-Scale – A New Rating System for Cleaning Products

We all want nice clean, healthy homes, right? What we don’t want are the toxic chemicals that often come with that. According to the EPA, indoor air can sometimes be more polluted that outdoor air. This is because of VOCs (hidden in things like carpets, paint and plastics) and things like toxic cleaning products. There reasons why you should choose earth and people friendly cleaners are too many to ignore, but they’re not always so easy to find.

Whole Foods Market recently introduced a new tool to help us conscious shoppers, the Eco-Scale rating system—a set of tiered, green household cleaning standards designed to help shoppers make smarter, greener choices for their homes and the planet.

Eco-Scale is color-coded rating system where household cleaning products will be rated red, orange, yellow or green based on a specific set of environmental and sourcing standards. The orange rating represents the minimum acceptable standards that the yellow and green standards build on, and the green rating represents the best choices. Whole Foods states that “the company is committed to working with vendors to evaluate and independently audit every product in its cleaning category. Each product will be required to meet—at the very minimum—the new baseline orange standard by Earth Day, 2012.” Red-rated products that don’t meet the Eco-Scale standards will not be sold at Whole Foods.

Goodlifer: Eco-Scale

Contrary to what most of us believe, the U.S. government does not mandate full disclosure of ingredients on cleaning products, even though the Environmental Protection Agency has found that chemicals contained in some cleaning products can cause health problems, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as headaches.Few brands opt to voluntarily disclose the full list of ingredients on product labels.Under the Eco-Scale Rating System, Whole Foods’ household cleaning vendors will be required to list every single ingredient on their product packaging. To ensure compliance, all products will be audited through an independent third-party for verification before they are color-rated and labeled on shelves.

“Shoppers have a right to know what’s actually in the products they use to clean their homes,” said Jim Speirs, global vice president of procurement for Whole Foods Market. “We’ve always carefully monitored ingredients. Now, with Eco-Scale, we’re able to help shoppers buy eco-friendly products with confidence and provide safer alternatives for their households and for the planet as a whole.”

Several national cleaning products have already been rated—from liquid laundry detergent and fabric softener to all purpose, glass and toilet bowl cleaners. The lineup includes 14 of Whole Foods Market’s store brand cleaning products, as well as a total of 34 products from natural cleaning brands Better for Life, Ecover, Greenshield and Method.

Learn to find the good cleaning stuff in your supermarket aisle. Look for the green Eco-Scale label.

Learn to find the good cleaning stuff in your supermarket aisle. Look for the green Eco-Scale label.

All orange-rated products must be third-party verified to meet the following criteria:
– No ingredients with significant environmental or safety concerns, such as phosphates, chlorine, or preservatives that have the potential to release formaldehyde.
– No artificial colors
– No animal testing

In addition to the criteria above, yellow-rated products must also meet the following requirements:
–  No ingredients with moderate environmental or safety concerns, such as DEA, TEA or MEA surfactants (surface acting agents that can act as foaming agents) that have the potential to contain nitrosamines and other impurities
– No synthetic thickeners made from non-renewable petroleum-derived sources
– 100 percent natural fragrances

Green-rated products represent the highest level of Whole Foods Market’s new standards and meet all the requirements of the orange and yellow products, but also contain only 100 percent natural ingredients and contain no petroleum-derived ingredients at all.

Now, let’s hope that Whole Foods extends this kind of thinking to the edibles on their store shelves and institutes a labeling system for GMOs.

Bonus tip: Make your own cleaners using what’s already in your pantry. Find out how, here and here.

For more information on Whole Foods Market’s Eco-Scale including prohibited ingredients for each tier, visit:

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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  1. FYI, Whole Foods is currently partnering with the Non-GMO Verified project to create a consistent labeling system for non-GMO foods. Also, all private label (365 and Whole Foods Market brand) products are sourced to avoid GMOs!

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