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Whole Foods’ eco-rated cleaning aisle goes green

The Whole Foods main store in Austin, Texas.
The Whole Foods main store in Austin, Texas.
AP Photo/Harry Cabluck

Think you know what lurks inside your basic household cleaning products? There’s a good chance you really don’t. According to a 2011 Harris Interactive poll taken exclusively for Whole Foods, 73 percent of consumers believe the U.S. government requires cleaning suppliers to list all ingredients on packaging. And they’re wrong.

The reason Whole Foods was compelled to take such a survey was to herald the success of the chain’s Eco-Scale rating system for cleaning products, which does require a full disclosure of all ingredients. A year after launching, the program has resulted in more than 90 percent of the cleaning products sold in their stores passing the company's "green cleaning test."

"We launched Eco-Scale to help shoppers make smarter, greener choices for their families and the planet and provide a way to know exactly what ingredients are in their household cleaning products," said Jim Speirs, global vice president of procurement for Whole Foods Market in a press release.

All of the products are rigorously evaluated by an independent third-party before receiving one of four ratings: green (plant and mineral derived, non-petroleum ingredients), yellow (100 percent natural fragrances and minimal safety concerns), orange (no phosphates, chlorine or fake colors) or red (unacceptable), with green being the highest possible rating. Products in the red aren’t allowed on Whole Foods shelves.

"No one else in the industry has attempted to launch a set of standards as strict as Eco-Scale, so we knew we were asking our suppliers to enter uncharted territory," Speirs added. "We're so inspired by the commitment our vendors have made in eagerly taking on the challenge of getting certified. Together, we're changing the meaning of green cleaning for the whole industry."