ECOLOGIC : Time to make a switch

09-Oct-2019: Pavitra Sriprakash, Director and Chief Designer at Shilpa Architects Planners Designers writes a weekly column on Sustainability for The New Indian Express titled “ECOLOGIC”. This week she writes about understanding eco-home & body products.

Full article below: (Also available at The New Indian Express Website)

Time to make a switch

Minimum maintenance please’ — this is a common request from clients today looking for a new home or building. While designing spaces and buildings with ‘clean-ability’ in mind, an architect or designer can create spaces that are cleaner, healthier and require fewer cleaning products to maintain. A popular innovation point in a green building rating system is the one for green cleaning products. While this is not a mandatory requirement for a green building, we do find a lot of people willing to push the envelope when it comes to picking the right products to keep their spaces clean.

As the health and environmental impacts of conventional cleaning products are coming to light today, it is evident that we require more brands that offer a healthy, green and effective cleaning choice to the consumer. These products must be non-toxic, biodegradable, and made from renewable resources. Lately, even personal hygiene products such as face washes, body washes, and scrubs have come under the scanner for their negative impact on the environment due to the inclusion of microbeads in them. It is easy to go environment-friendly if we know what to look for or recognise what is causing harm to our health and environment.

On the home and building maintenance front, cleaning products are everywhere — on dishes, countertops, furniture, clothes, floors, windows, and floating through the air as fresheners and insect repellents. In our battle against dirt and germs, we need to ensure we are doing things right rather than causing further damage. Most of the conventional cleaning products we are so familiar with have several toxins in them that all have health and environmental implications. So here are some things for you to look out for and avoid if possible.

Phthalates are found in most fragranced products including air fresheners, soaps and sometimes even napkins and toilet paper! These harm the endocrine system and are best avoided as they are absorbed through the skin and go straight to our organs. Look out for fragrance-free or all-natural products. It is best to consider earth-friendly essential oils that can be used through a simple diffuser. Triclosan is found in anything that is ‘antibacterial’ — once these enter our water sources they continue killing bacteria and algae thereby disrupting the whole ecosystem. This is also easily absorbed by the skin and is a suspected carcinogen. So avoid any hand sanitisers with it by opting for one that is alcohol-based instead.

Ammonia is another ingredient found in the bathroom as well as glass cleaners. Ammonia evaporates and produces a ‘streak-free’ shine that all of us love. However, this doesn’t come without its side effects as it can be instantly inhaled — it exacerbates any type of lung conditions, particularly asthma and other breathing problems. Further, if we mix ammonia with bleach, it can create a very poisonous gas. Interestingly enough, vodka has been listed as a great substitute to ammonia — make your glass happy in more ways than one by cleaning with vodka. So look out for what goes in your cleaning products, make the switch and stay healthy!