Why Common Household Cleaners are Bad for Us and the Environment

By: Van Burbach PhD, PG Environmental Consultant

Many people have the idea that since cleaning products are used to clean our homes of dirt, germs, and filth to give us a “clean” living environment, that they are safe for us and our planet; but this is not the case.  Many common cleaning products you can find on your grocery store shelves, and possibly under your own kitchen sink, are extremely toxic and very harmful both to human beings and to the environment.  

Links between use of common household cleaners and asthma and other respiratory illnesses have been well established.   In 2018, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine published the results of a 20-year study by scientists at the University of Bergen in Norway which found that using cleaning products can be as harmful to women’s respiratory health as smoking 20 cigarettes a day.  Also, household cleaning products are responsible for nearly 10% of all toxic exposures reported to U.S. Poison Control Centers, many of which involve children. 

But these cleaners are also very harmful to the environment outside of our homes.  The all-purpose cleaners, hand sanitizers, laundry detergents, dishwasher detergents, and other cleaning products we use get washed down our drains and into our sewer systems.  They are often treated at wastewater treatment plants: but most wastewater treatment plants are not very effective at removing the toxic chemicals from these products, so they end up released into our lakes, rivers, and drinking water supplies.  A 2002 study conducted by the United States Geological Survey tested streams across the United States and found traces of detergent in 69% of the streams, and disinfectants in 66% of the streams.  

Common household cleaning products often contain hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of chemicals, many of which are known to be toxic to humans as well as to fish, birds, plants, and other living organisms.  Some are also known carcinogens.  Many others of these chemicals have not been studied thoroughly enough to know what their possible toxicological impacts might be. 

One group of chemicals of concern are phosphates, often found in laundry and dishwasher detergent.  When released into a lake or stream, phosphates act as fertilizers, promoting growth of algae that decrease the water’s oxygen content, killing fish and reducing biodiversity.

Another group of chemicals of concern are alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs), which are surfactants that are added to many laundry detergents, stain removers, all-purpose cleaners, disinfectants, and degreasers.  Some APEs break down into nonylphenol and octylphenol, which are more toxic and do not readily biodegrade.  APEs have been shown to mimic the hormone estrogen, and their presence in water may be harming the reproduction and survival of salmon and other fish.

It is not just the chemicals in our cleaning products that are the problem.  The packaging those products come in can also have a very adverse impact on our environment.  The proliferation of single-use plastic containers has caused major problems for landfills and recycling programs cannot keep up.  In 2015, the EPA estimated that only 9.1% of plastic waste generated in the United States was recycled, and since China stopped accepting our recyclable waste, that number is probably lower now.  All the excess plastic waste has caused a global crisis as these plastics end up in our waterways and eventually in our oceans.

Shaklee has been a pioneer of non-toxic, earth-friendly cleaning products since the 1960s.  Shaklee Basic H was one of the first official Earth Day products, and has been used by Jacques Cousteau, the Biosphere II project, the Whitehouse, and many environmental organizations and programs.  Today, Shaklee is proud to offer a full line of household cleaning products that are free of toxic chemicals and are safe for you, your children, and the planet.  And many of our cleaning products are concentrated, reducing the amount of plastic waste created.  One bottle of Basic H2 can replace as many as 5000 bottles of other cleaners, keeping thousands of plastic bottles our of our waste stream.  And you don’t have to sacrifice performance, as Shaklee cleaning products are amazingly effective.  Check them Out.


Dr. Burbach has extensive experience in: hydrogeologic site investigation; environmental assessment of industrial sites, underground storage tank sites, and solid waste facilities; compliance monitoring; remediation of impacted soil and groundwater; and geophysical investigations. Including remediation of pesticides, metals, and hazardous waste. 

Dr. Burbach has designed and implemented Corrective Action Plans involving groundwater pump and treat systems, air sparging, soil vapor recovery, soil venting, soil excavation, phytoremediation, aggressive fluid-vapor recovery, multi-phase extraction, ex-situ bioremediation, enhanced in-situ bioremediation, and monitored natural attenuation. Currently, Dr. Burbach oversees compliance monitoring of soil, groundwater, surface water, leachate, landfill gas, and treatment systems for several soil waste sites in Virginia and North Carolina.

Living the Green Life is Kinda Hard

By: Lisa Wright Burbach

We live a pretty Green life; we reduce, reuse, and recycle. We use non-toxic cleaners, cloth napkins, rags in place of paper towels, use greener light bulbs, etc. and yet there is so much more we could do. 

Many of you know that my husband, Van, is an environmental consultant, and this means it’s a big deal in our house. This is the man that needs extra time to take the trash out to sort through it all to make sure it was done “right,” in our house, it matters.

This past month we looked around and saw much more that we could do right here at home. We committed to reduce and reuse first and to see how little we could put in our trash and recycling bins. I have to be honest it is kinda hard.

The first thing we did was use the GSO Collects app, an app our city has that helps you know which items are accepted in our recycling program and which items are not, as well as what your trash days are and other city information. It is a great app! AAAnnnnnd it showed us that we have been recycling incorrectly. Many of the items we thought could be recycled, can’t be and they must go in the trash. Check with your city to see if they have an app, if not visit your City’s website for recycling regulations for your area.

The first time I had to place a plastic clamshell container, the kind used for greens, in the trash can, it felt wrong. We’ve been trained to think that when we recycle, we are doing a good thing. We are doing a better thing, but not necessarily good. Did you know that less than 10% of the world’s plastic has actually been recycled!! The prediction is that by 2050 there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills. Clearly, dropping it in the recycling bin isn’t the best option.

As a couple, we decided to make some changes to live a Greener Life.

  1. We have an online business but decided to cut down on the other items we buy online. It helps us support local businesses and cuts down on extra packaging and fillers.
  2. Tissues must go in the landfill and are part of our deforestation problem. I’m trying to switch to hankies, yep…old school handkerchiefs – pretty ones of course,Van uses plain old white ones. Yeah..ewww.. but I’m finding that if I keep them on hand and treat like a tissue, it works well. If I’m home, I drop the dirty ones in the laundry bin, If I’m out, I have a little pouch for dirties, and when I get home, I drop it in the laundry.
  3. The most challenging thing has been produce. I hadn’t paid attention to how few items are available in bulk, and in one “natural” store in town, even the bulk items were in plastic bags. The Farmer’s Market is a good option and we get to support local farmers and benefit from the additional nutrients found in local, seasonal produce.

Ding Dong..Please excuse this interruption: DANGIT! Dangit!!! As I’m writing this, we did Chinese take out, and it came in a styrofoam container as well as a big ole plastic one! SHOOT Man, Poop!!(my most frequent swear word)! See, it’s kinda hard! It just didn’t cross our minds; all we thought was “I’m tired, let’s order Chinese!”. Ugh!!

Somewhat humbled and chagrinned we now resume our original blog post already in process:

4. Leftovers or fresh food for lunch. In addition to my own business, I work part-time outside the home, and it is quick and easy to bring a frozen meal. By making my lunch or putting leftovers in glass containers, I not only cut down on little plastic containers and boxes but also provide a less processed and more nutritional lunch for myself.

5. We own a set of Melamine dishes, yes…plastic. But we plan to use them til we die. We use them for picnics and eating outside during nice weather rather than using disposable items. Had we bought them this year, we would probably have found another unbreakable option, however, we have them, so we use them. *Do not microwave plastic because of the risk of releasing harmful chemicals into your food.

6. Guys- You might want to skip this one. Ladies, I use the cup, and it is aaahhhmazing! I don’t know how I lived without it. Truly-for real!! Life-changing and I also use reusable pads – not so much for “theennn”, but well-shoot a couple of kids out of there, and let’s just say that jumping on a trampoline or sneezing will never be the same! #truth. I have tried several different brands and personally like the Glad Rag pads and Lily Collapsible cup. I also use reusable makeup remover rounds.

Did you know that roughly 20 billion sanitary napkins, tampons and tampon applicators are dumped in landfills yearly in America?!!

7. We compost. We keep a tiny little trash can just for food scraps, and when it’s full, we toss it into our composter.

8. We use reusable grocery bags, carry reusable metal water bottles, and take bamboo cutlery with us when we go out and straws? I just drink from the side of the cup-whhaaat? weird right?! But if I need to, I have metal straws too.

9. Toilet paper! Yep…going there too – haaa going eh-hem…Toilet paper is a significant cause of deforestation, is sprayed with harsh chemicals, and companies are using less recyclable goods in the product, increasing the need for virgin wood. 

We use Who Gives a Crap, (use the link and get $10 off and we get $10 off) which is made from bamboo and is surprisingly soft and umm…capable. Personal review: the Premium 3 ply is soft and wonderful, the Recycled 3 ply doesn’t meet our soft test. 

There are options out there such as the bidet and cloth wipes-Family Cloth; think reusable baby wipes for everyone. I have a friend who uses the wipes and said that her tushy is so much happier now. I’m not quite ready to go there, but applaud her choice.

Here is an environmental ranking of some of your favorite toilet papers by Greenmatters.com.

10. We use beeswax wrap, reusable lunch baggies, mason jars and other reusable items for storage in the kitchen.

I’m just scratching the surface of things we could do to live a more green life; we could have a garden, plant more trees, walk more, carpool…the list is endless, but little by little, we are making changes and trying to make a difference and educate others to do the same.

Why? Some people feel like it isn’t vital, but it is. For example, fish already have little bits of microscopic plastic in their flesh, babies have PFAS in their cord blood and breast milk, allergies and other issues are on the rise and we only have so much room on the planet. Those are just a few things! It is vital!

I believe we are meant to be stewards of this planet, doing our best to care for it and make a safe home for us all, but I’m the first to admit that living the green life is kinda hard, but it’s worth it.


Hi, I’m Lisa and I’m an Independent Shaklee Distributor and Certified Health Coach. My absolute joy is partnering with people to realize their own self-value. I believe that as we love ourselves, we are loving to ourselves and from there we are more able to eat well, exercise, and take care of our physical selves. It is my goal to touch the lives of others and help people live healthier lives longer!! Through Shaklee I have an excellent partner that shares my passions of environment and health and I look forward to sharing that with you. – Living the Green Life!

Earth Day – Small Changes, Big Impact

April 22nd is the 48th anniversary of a movement to make change and create a healthier environment. Let’s make every day Earth Day! Every day we are faced with choices that impact our environment. Will we accept the plastic straw? Will we use plastic bags, leave the lights on…the choices go on. You don’t have to make a drastic, “all in” change, just make small changes over time, the impact is big! Here are some ideas.

  1. Carry a metal straw – Over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day in the United States. – Plastic Coalition
  2. Use rags or cloths instead of paper towels
  3. If you use paper towels look for environmentally wise choices. If we use paper towels; and let’s be honest, there are some jobs that we’d rather use them for, we use Who Gives a Crap paper towels made from bamboo.
  4. We also use Who Gives a Crap for toilet paper. However, I recommend the premium choice, it is soft and thicker.
  5. Use earth friendly disposable plates and cutlery. There are a number or products out there that are compostable or will break down in the landfills, look for these. We have switched to non-breakable plates for our picnics when at home and just wash them.
  6. Carry a bamboo fork/spork. Plastic cutlery is a huge problem for the oceans and planet. 6 Million tons of single use plastics get thrown away every year! – One Green Planet
  7. Use reusable lunch bags instead of plastic bags – we are in the process of phasing these out and have switched to Lunchskins, Bees Wrap, and glass containers.
  8. Use Reusable bags when shopping – Many municipalities are looking into banning or have banned plastic bags.
  9. When considering throwing an item out, ask yourself if it can be re-used? In Greensboro we have a place called Reconsidered Goods who will take many items and let’s recreate new and creative items from things that would otherwise have gone to the landfill.
  10. Turn of lights when leaving a room
  11. Use water sparingly, Try shorter showers, put a basin in the sink to catch water, then use this to water your plants.
  12. We sell and use Shaklee products because we get to make a difference in the lives of others and our own lives. We use the Get Clean cleaners, one starter kit keeps 108 pounds of packaging waste from landfills and eliminate 248 pounds of greenhouse gas. Basic H was the first official Earth Day product! We are very proud!
  13. Shop from companies who are environmentally aware. What is their carbon foot print? Do they use harmful chemicals? Do they give back? Do they use sustainable practices?
  14. Wear your clothes more than once before washing them.

Even with our best efforts there are side effects and environmental concerns, for example microfibers are filling our oceans at an alarming rate. We use microfiber cloths to avoid using paper towels, but have learned that small fibers escape in the washing machine and are often too small to be filtered out before ending up in our streams and oceans. It is all synthetic clothes that are contributing this issue, microfiber cloths are a small fraction of this, but we have purchased the GuppyFriend Bag by Patagonia, which traps the fibers. You then scoop them out and put in the trash. Whatever steps you take remember to do your research and choose an option that has the least negative impact to our environment possible. Your efforts matter – Have a happy, healthy Earth Day!

Share your tips with us. How do you reduce and reuse?

#earthday #environment #reconsideredgoods #beeswrap #lunchskins #patagonia #shaklee #whogivesacrap #plasticcoalition #onegreenplanet

Meatless Monday -Carnivores Attempting Vegan, Purple Carrot Review

I’m actually a foodetarian, I don’t believe in vilifying foods or omitting food groups completely, I do believe in a diet with a wide variety of foods, and I believe in moderation. By foodetarian I mean real food, food that rots! Not processed, artificial ingredients, filler crap, but food, real food! I also recognize that eating more whole food, plant based foods can have a significant positive impact on our health, but I didn’t want to stick to salads and rice. Even Carnivores can add more plant based foods to their diet! In my search for healthy, filling, whole food plant based recipes I found a few really great sources:

and of course – Purple Carrot. Purple Carrot is a 100% plant based meal delivery service.

We decided to give Purple Carrot a try, It gave us the ingredients we needed, new recipes and cooking styles, and experience stepping out beyond the basics of fruits and vegetables. Here is how it is going: an overall review and review per recipe.

Overall Review:

Cost – $72 a week for 2 people/3 meals which comes out to $12 a meal. Not Bad.

Would I be able to buy these things for less? Probably, but one of our problems we have is produce we let go bad before we can eat, which then ups our cost through waste. Plus, they provide the exact amounts which is helpful with items I would not normally buy.

Taste – So far these dishes have been delicious, even my meat and cheese loving man has made delicious yummy noises and with great incredulity declared them to be “really good”. Because we were unfamiliar with eating some of the items, like tofu, each meal has been a bit of an adventure, but a fun and delicious one.

Environment – My husband is an Environmental Geologist and Consultant and we are Shaklee distributors, both of which mean the impact we make on the environment and landfills is important to us. We believe we are meant to be good stewards of our earth. That said, my biggest complaint is probably the amount of waste in each box.

Per Purple Carrot “We strive to find and implement the most eco-friendly insulation and liners possible for our meal kits!During the summer months, you may see a few variations of liners, one of which is made from recycled denim. To recycle, separate the plastic casing from the inner lining. The non-woven, enhanced cotton insulation material can be recycled at any facility that accepts cotton fiber, and the outer film can be recycled as a #4 plastic”.

Some of this depends on your municipality. For people in the greensboro area I recommend the app GSO Collects. To learn more email Tori Carle, Waste Reduction Supervisor at tori.carle@greensboro-nc.gov. Side note; we republish Tori’s awesome blog filled with environmentally friendly tips and ideas. It can be found in the Forum, under The Environment, check it out.

Each item comes in a small plastic/cellophane bag, and there are several small plastic containers, which appear to be recyclable. I have been cleaning them to reuse them. There is a large plastic bag, ice pack, the padding insulation, and a cardboard box. I realize that all meal services struggle with this issue, but it is likely to be a deal killer for us.

PS – Plug for Pampered Chef, the Food Chopper, Salad Chopper, and the Simple Slicer get used every recipe!

Ease – The recipes vary in difficulty level, but are pretty simple. I love to cook and cook some very complicated dishes, but discovered that some things I’ve avoided are pretty easy like pickling items.

Other – Pay attention to the notes, some items are packaged in one bag, but are for two or more recipes, which is great from a landfill perspective, but you have to make sure to split the amount between recipes.

We had one avocado that was nowhere near ripe, nor was it ripe a week later, so we made our dish without it. We also had one recipe left out the garlic, but I had some on hand. These are pretty minor issues, and likely to happen with any service.

Summary – We have truly enjoyed this experience, the recipes, the ease, the reduced trips to the grocery store and the flavors. Our only concern is the amount of waste. We will give this a few more weeks to see, but I’m afraid the waste will cause us to stop using Purple Carrot. They are aware and working on it too, which helps. We have learned to try new foods, new cooking methods, and have discovered we can be satiated and delighted without meat. If you are considering increasing the amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes I recommend giving Purple Carrot a try. It is a great choice for Vegans and Vegetarians, but also a great way for carnivours to get a few more whole food, plant based foods into their diet.

We will still eat meat, but we are now down to red meat and chicken only one day a week each, fish 2 days and the rest vegetarian and vegan, and crazy thing….we like it! 2 Carnivores can do vegan! – At least part of the time.

Dishes we have tried so far:

Vietnamese Tofu Bowl – This was very good and filling, I admit, this was the recipe I expect my husband to balk at and I made seared tuna as a back up. But, he loved it and we saved the tuna for another meal.

It was easy to use and the way the tofu was cooked took care of my isssue, which is the feel of tofu in my mouth. This almost felt meaty in my mouth. This will be a repeat!

Kimchi Quesadillas – I wasn’t too sure about this dish. Kimchi is something that can be a little overwhelming and I was afraid it would rule the dish. It didn’t, the black beans worked nicely with it giving this dish a nice overall flavor. It can be tempting to leave out parts you think you may not like, but encourage you to resist the temptation. The flavors blend well together and each dish should be made with all components.

To call this dish a quesadilla is a stretch, if not an outright misnomer. The ingredients include a tiny packet of soy cheese that is to be split between the “quesadillas”. I mean tiny! The recipe says 1/4 cup, but I think that is a generous description. Because I’m easing my husband into the vegan and vegetarian foods Used actual cheese and 1/4 cup for one quesadilla just for him. I was able to make 3 quesadillas with the ingredients and used some extra tortillas I had on hand to make this work. I have to give him his props, he tired the vegan one first and really liked it! So, quesadilly…meh…bean & kimchi burrito? Maybe. Good – YES!

Superfood Bowl – I really like this dish, but it is a different palate of flavors, more umami or a blend of salty and umami with touches of sweet. It is packed with protein and very filling. I encourage you to give this a try and be open minded.

Tortilla Soup – This was the first dish we tried and I was skeptical. I was tempted to use chicken broth, but I was steadfast to my goal and wanted to have the full Purple Carrot and WFPB experience, so I resisted. Verdict – OMG, this is soooooo goood!!! We will have this often! It was easy to use, but you will need a blender or stick blender. This was the recipe that had the hardest avocado I’ve ever seen and I was a little disappointed to eat the soup without it, but even so -YUUMMMM!

Socca Pizza – Remember I said to give things a chance? This is one of those times. This recipe is an interesting blend of ingredients and flavors and has a wonderful taste when combined. The sweet pear balance the savory crust and toppings very well. It was a very happy meal and yet again husband approved!

#environment #vegan #vegetarian #pamperedcheff #review #mealservice #delivery #mealdelivery #wholefoodplantbased #wfpb #hairybikers #meatlessmonday #purplecarrot #theminimalistbaker