‘Green’ products lose allure as consumers cut spending

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When Clorox introduced Green Works, its environment-friendly cleaning line, in 2008, it secured an endorsement from the Sierra Club, a nationwide introduction at Wal-Mart, and it vowed that the products would “move natural cleaning into the mainstream.” But those endorsements, I must say, never cut any ice with me and, like with so many other companies, it was just a case of the bandwagon.

Sales that year topped $100 million, and several other major consumer products companies came out with their own “green” cleaning supplies, in order, no doubt, to not be left behind.

However, America’s green consciousness, it turns out, seems rather fickle. As the recession has gripped the country, and it is time the government woke up to the fact that the Great Recession is still alive and well, the consumer’s love affair with green products, from recycled toilet paper to organic foods to hybrid cars, has faded like a bad infatuation. While farmers’ markets and Prius sales are humming along now, household product makers like Clorox just can’t seem to persuade mainstream customers to buy green again. And why should people buy what they, in fact, can make themselves with a few simple ingredients (more on that in another piece).

Sales of Green Works have fallen to about $60 million a year, and those of other similar products from major brands like Arm & Hammer, Windex, Palmolive, Hefty and Scrubbing Bubbles are sputtering.

While every consumer says that they want to help the environment and that they are looking for eco-friendly products, when push comes to shove the truth is that if it’s one or two pennies higher in price, they’re not going to buy it. There is a discrepancy between what people say and what they do.

The very reason why, as regards to recycled, or better upcycled, products go Terracycle decided to have their goods at or below the price of the equivalent non-green product.

For instance, a 32-oz bottle of Clorox Green Works All-Purpose cleaner is $3.29 at Stop & Shop. A 32-ounce bottle of Fantastik cleaner, by contrast, costs $2.89. In a cash strapped economy the cheaper product wins. Considering that, as I have said earlier, you can make your own effective and efficient green cleaning supplies at home for often pennies from ingredients such as lemon juice, baking soda, salt, vinegar (and not just white distilled vinegar), etc., why should the green product from a mainstream company be so much more expensive than the non-green one? I, for one, cannot understand that.

The current state of the economy is seeing a reduction in green products sales all over the place, I think, and not just with cleaning supplies. The grow-your-own food sector, on the other hand, it would appear, is rather thriving.

When the economy is bad people are not going to buy green gadgets and other consumer products; they buy things that come at a good price, unfortunately. On the other hand it would be good if people would realize anyway that they do not need this or that gadget in order to be green; it is all but marketing that makes us think that. Many a thing you could make yourself, from trash often, and thus be greener still than those that go on greensumption sprees.

When it comes to green cleaning, make your own is the best advice and Full Circle provides some nice bottles and recipes for the purpose. One spray bottle should have an instruction that states “finally add the freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 a lemon” for it has a lemon reamer built into the top.

In general, however, there is no need to buy much as far as “green” cleaning is concerned bar the ingredients, some of which you are, more than likely, going to have or want to have in your pantry anyway.

© 2011