Introducing Clorox's Green Works Cleaners

First they acquired Burt's Bees; now, Clorox is throwing its hat into the green cleaning ring with the launch of Green Works, a line of "natural" green cleaners designed to compete with the likes of Seventh Generation and method. Unveiled today, Green Works is the first such effort from a major consumer products company, and there's a pretty interesting story behind it all.The bottle itself has a couple of things that make what's on the outside almost as compelling as the cleaner inside. First of all, the Sierra Club (whose Conservation Director, Greg Haegele, blogs here at TreeHugger) will endorse the product by placing their logo on the label. "We'll definitely have some folks who are surprised by this decision, but also people who are pretty excited about it," said Sierra Club spokeswoman Orli Cotel. "We are supporting Green Works in hopes that more people will have access to these kinds of products, some of which aren't even available in the middle of the country."

The Sierra Club approved the use of their logo as part of the Green Works brand after it asked several of its volunteer committees to review the cleaners; it's the first time the non-profit has given its blessing to a household cleaning product. "We hope we are transforming the marketplace by doing this," said Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope. "These products are clean, they're green, they're not going to hurt you, and they're not going to hurt the environment."

This brings us to one of the other eyebrow-raisers: Clorox cheerfully lists the ingredients for Green Works on the label -- something it doesn't do for its conventional cleaners -- and also prominently displays the Clorox logo. They're hoping that the equation of "trusted brand (and the proven efficacy that comes with it) + transparency = success," and Joel Makower thinks it'll be a pretty big deal: "This is a kind of watershed moment. We finally have major consumer companies taking the green marketplace seriously, and not as an afterthought." (He also did some consulting on the project).

As for the products themselves, (which include a general purpose cleaner, window cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, dilutable cleaner and bathroom cleaner): Clorox claims that each one of the five cleaners is at least 99% natural -- that's right, the ubiquitous, unregulated "n" word -- a fact which can be verified with a glance at the ingredients. Here's the list for the all-purpose cleaner: water, alkyl polyglucoside, ethanol SDA-3C, glycerine, lemon essential oil, preservative (Kathon) and colorant (Milliken Liquitint Blue HP dye and Bright Yellow dye X); the last two -- preservative and colorant -- make up the circa 1% of the non-"natural" petroleum-derived portion of the cleaners (though Clorox says Kathon will biodegrade within 28 days). With a few exceptions, like the addition of sodium lauryl sulfate and lauramine oxide, the ingredients for the rest of the cleaners are mostly similar.

Clorox is right: each of those ingredients, aside from the two specifically mentioned, can be "naturally-derived." They say their alkyl polyglucoside comes from coconut oil and their ethanol and glycerine from corn oil; while that's better than using petroleum-derived alternatives, there are still major issues with rainforest habitat destruction relating to harvesting coconut oil and all sorts of issues with corn-based ethanol. So, like many things we mention on TreeHugger, Green Works is better than a conventional alternative, but not perfect.

The launch of Green Works doesn't mean that Clorox has "gone green" -- or any other hackneyed quip that often gets tossed around at such a development -- though it does mean that they've embraced the green marketplace and realized that people care what's in their cleaners. Seventh Generation CEO Jeffrey Hollender summed it up pretty well: "New competitors will only help this category grow faster than it's been growing. The question is, do you want a big piece of a small pie or a small piece of a big pie? We absolutely want the pie to be as big as possible, even if we have a smaller slice. ... To address problems environmentally, we need to get other businesses involved."

In the near future, expect to see Green Works out and about; Clorox is beginning a national campaign today. Green Works will be available in 24,000 stores nationally, including Safeway and Wal-Mart. Stay tuned for more; we're sure this isn't the last we've heard about this. ::Clorox Green Works via tipster Tim and ::San Francisco Chronicle

Tags: Ethanol

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