Making a green sweep cleans up

Makers of "green" laundry detergent, dish soap and other home-spiffing products are cleaning up.

Sales of cleaning products labeled natural — such as those made with vegetable- and fruit-based ingredients — have steadily risen as consumers have become more chemical-phobic.

Among recent high-profile promoters of limiting exposure to toxins is renowned heart surgeon and The Oprah Winfrey Show health guru Mehmet Oz. He and co-author Dr. Michael Roizen caution consumers to steer clear of chemical cleaners in the latest book, out Oct. 30, in their healthy living "You" series.

"Be smart and use non-toxic products to clean your home," they write in their now best-selling book, You: Staying Young. The book encourages readers to do all they can to improve their personal environment and lists several Earth-friendly brands to buy, including Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyers Clean Day.

This latest caution comes as sales of natural household cleaners hit $105 million for the year ended Oct. 6. That's up 23% over the previous 12 months, according to Spins, market researchers and consultants focusing on the natural-products industry. Spins tracks sales at natural and conventional food, drug and general merchandise retailers excluding Wal-Mart Stores, wmt which does not release sales data.

Early makers of such products were predominantly small, niche companies. But that kind of sales growth potential has prompted mass marketers of traditional products such as Clorox clx to create lines of natural cleaners. Clorox's line under the Green Works brand will launch in January.

The success of smaller players in the industry "is waking up the big guys," says Lynn Dornblaser, senior new products analyst at Mintel.

Dornblaser will address the rise of eco-friendly products in a speech to cleaning company executives in January at The Soap and Detergent Association annual conference. The theme of the meeting will be Going Beyond Green, and it is the first time in the convention's 82-year history that it will have a theme centered on the environment.

For years, people have talked about a "green revolution," Dornblaser says. "But I think we really are going to see it now. We've reached that tipping point."

A third of consumers say they feel much more concerned about environmental issues today than a year ago, according to a study released in summer from research firm Yankelovich.

A 2006 study from researcher Mintel found that 60% of consumers agreed with the statement: "I'm concerned about the impact cleaning products have on the environment."

Yet, it's not easy to be green for consumers who want to scrub their homes with natural products.

No labeling standards

There are no universally recognized label rules for "green" cleaners. Consumers must rely on makers' individual standards for their labeling and advertising.

"At its core, green cleaning is a marketing term, not a scientific term," says Brian Sansoni, spokesman for The Soap and Detergent Association. "Manufacturers need to ensure that their packaging, manufacturing and advertising is truthful and not misleading."

If they want to make sales, however, it is not enough to be green: Their cleaners also have to work as well as the chemical cleaners, Sansoni says. "The product must perform. If not, consumers are not going to buy it again, no matter how green it is."

Putting the green in clean:

•Small, eco-focused companies. Niche companies that led the charge in natural cleaners — such as Seventh Generation and Method — are reaping the rewards. Sales at Seventh Generation, which makes other green home products, such as toilet tissue from 100% recycled paper and chlorine-free diapers, have grown 25% to 40% annually over the past few years, spokeswoman Chrystie Heimert says. By the end of 2008, the company expects to top $100 million in sales.

Sales at competitor Method rose from less than $90,000 in 2001 to more than $15.3 million in 2005, according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI) data provided by trade consumer goods researcher Packaged Facts. Current annual sales are about $77 million, says Method spokeswoman Katie Molinari, also citing IRI data.

•Mainstream marketers. Clorox's Green Works line is the bleach maker's first new brand in 20 years. Products will include a plant-based glass cleaner and a toilet bowl cleaner and will sell for $2.99 to $3.39 — about 20% more than Clorox's traditional products.

CEO Donald Knauss has said that he hopes to get 20% of the natural-cleaner market with Green Works.

•Office and housekeeping services. Candace Mills, owner of Memphis' "non-toxic" cleaning service 2 Chicks and a Broom, says she now has more than 500 clients.

Arlington, Va.-based service The Green Mop, which uses natural cleansers such as lemons, vinegar and baking soda, launched in 2003 and has 25 employees and more than 260 clients. "We are very busy," owner Mia Gallina says. "We were overwhelmed (after Al Gore's 2006 film, An Inconvenient Truth), and from then on, it just grew."

For some companies, however, promoting green cleaning isn't only about making green. It's also about doing good. Royalties from Naturally Clean: The Seventh Generation Guide to Safe & Healthy, Non-Toxic Cleaning (written by four authors, including Seventh Generation CEO Jeffrey Hollender) go to Healthy Child Healthy World to help the group's educational efforts about environmental toxins.

Deirdre Imus, wife of radio host Don Imus, donates profits from her recent book, Green This! Volume 1: Greening Your Cleaning, and Greening the Cleaning household products to the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer.


Solicit a gift.

Need help getting the word out about your holiday gift wishes? Dell's lets gift seekers create a star-powered plea that can be e-mailed to potential gift givers.

At the site, visitors can select a desired Dell item (such as a notebook computer), then choose one of six celebrities (including Burt Reynolds or Ice T) to make a pitch on their behalf. They add in the e-mail addresses of friends and family and — voila! — a video gift request goes out.

Example: Ice T smoothly says in one version, "Hey Baby, I'm here to let you know that someone you know wants a Dell XPS Notebook."

In case no one is likely to pop for the whole thing, users can also include a link to a personal Pay Pal account so multiple gift-givers can chip in portions of the cost.

Sidewalk surfing.

CBS is giving already-hustling New Yorkers another multitasking tool. It's rolling out "CBS Mobile Zone," free wireless high-speed access on the street for folks with WiFi-enabled cellphones, laptops or other gadgets. Transmitters placed on CBS Outdoor billboards and other outdoor displays will provide free wireless access over more than 20 blocks of midtown Manhattan.

Users first are directed to an ad-supported home page that has local news, weather, a map of nearby restaurants and, of course, promos for CBS shows. Two sponsors already have signed, Citibank and, says Cyriac Roeding, head of CBS Mobile.


Here's one December list that marketers certainly don't want to be on: the "20 Worst Foods in America" ranking by Men's Health magazine.

No.1 on the list: Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries with ranch dressing. It weighs in with a whopping 2,900 calories and 182 grams of fat.

Named worst breakfast: Caramel Banana Pecan Cream Stacked and Stuffed Hotcakes from Bob Evans.

While that one may not surprise you (the name says it all), you may not expect to see on the "breakfasts you should skip" list the healthy-sounding Colombo Classic Strawberry Banana Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt. Its 230 calories and whopping 42 grams of sugar makes it an eight-ounce no-no, says Men's Health.

The full list of waistline inflators is in the December issue, out now, and at

Earn some dough.

Got a goofy idea for how to decorate an Einstein Bros. Bagel? Well, get the cream cheese and sprinkles rolling.

Einstein, known for it's holiday-themed bagels in a candy cane shape, is asking imaginative types to bedeck candy cane bagels and then submit photos of the holiday masterpieces.

The most "creatively decorated" candy cane bagels — one bagel by a child and one by an adult — will win $100 gift cards they can spend at the chain.

For contest details, check out

Super Bowl Watch.

Kraft Foods will run a 30-second ad for its Planters nut and salty snack brand during the Feb. 3 game.

Another football nut, Diamond Foods' Emerald Nuts, which ran Super Bowl ads for the past three games, has announced it will pass on being in the Big Game this year.

By Laura Petrecca, Theresa Howard, Bruce Horovitz