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What It Means To Be Green

Posted: August 16, 2013, 11:45 p.m. EDT

Consumers seek out eco-friendly, natural cleaners for their pets; companies enjoy the sales results.

By Somyr McLean Perry

In an August 2012 survey, market research publisher found that 38 percent of pet owners believed natural and organic brand pet products often are better than standard national brand products.

The same pet owner survey also found that 63 percent of pet owners reported they are very concerned about the safety of the pet products they buy.

"People are becoming more aware that the environment in which their pets live affects their overall health,” said Valerie Clows, owner of Holistic for Pets in Sarasota, Fla. Her client base is holistic minded, Clows said, so she only stocks pet cleaning products she considers natural.

"They are better for the environment,” Clows explained. "There are so many chemicals going into the ground and ocean. Many people and pets have sensitivities to chemicals, and pets are on the floor coming in contact with whatever products we are using.”

Andy Downs is a merchandiser at, an online pet retailer with a brick-and-mortar store in Boulder, Colo. He reported that consumers’ ideas about cleaning products for pets have changed.

"They shifted in favor of natural cleaners,” Downs said. "Five years ago people were more comfortable using dangerous cleaners. Today, many of our customers realize that natural cleaners are safe and effective. Living green has become mainstream, and that easily can be seen in natural cleaners.”

It’s Semantics, Naturally
Natural might mean different things to different people.
"To me, it means to be made with natural or organic ingredients derived from nature, making it safe to use around pets and babies,” Clows said, noting a trend where companies that make baby-safe products are repackaging those same products for use with pets.

Quincy Yu, co-founder of San Francisco-based SeaYu Enterprises, which manufacturers Clean+Green cleaning products for the pet market, said no common definition for the use of the word "natural” exists for cleaning product packaging.

"Consumers believe that ‘natural’ also means ‘safe,’” Yu said. "This is not always the case because there are natural ingredients that are not safe but toxic.”

Some products might state they are natural but include ingredients such as fragrances or isopropyl alcohol, neither of which are natural or safe, she added.

Dennis Sheirs, vice president of Fizzion in Lake Wales, Fla., agreed, adding that though several cleaning products for pets are listed as natural, only a small fraction of them truly are natural.

"The term ‘all-natural’ should mean derived from nature,” he said. "This is a very tricky definition, because technically almost all the surfactants [used in cleaning products] are derived from a natural source. To me, natural should mean not derived from crude. While crude is technically a natural resource, it is not a renewable resource.

"The term ‘natural’ is very vague when it comes to consumer products and needs to have clearer regulations to claim natural,” he continued.

According to Yu, this happens because no regulations require companies to list the product ingredients in their entirety. However, she noted that the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an environmental health watchdog headquartered in Washington, D.C., has evaluated cleaning products, including pet cleaning products, and many received a grade of C and below.

According to EWG website,, the group has evaluated 27 pet stain removers and deodorizers, and "provides information on cleaning product ingredients from the published scientific literature to supplement incomplete data available from companies and the government. The ratings indicate the relative level of concern posed by exposure to the ingredients in this product—not the product itself—compared to other product formulations. The ratings reflect potential health hazards but do not account for the level of exposure or individual susceptibility, factors which determine actual health risks, if any.”

Of the 27 cleaning products marketed for pets, just six are rated B or above.

To be featured in his store, Downs said products must meet certain standards to be considered natural.

His top sellers include his company’s Only Natural Pet Stain & Odor Solution; Get Serious Pheromone, Stain & Odor Extractor by Van Charles Laboratories Inc.; and Castor & Pollux Natural PetWorks’ Good Buddy Out Spot, he said.

Likewise, Clows’ store has several best-selling natural cleaning products, including Urine-Off by Bio-Pro Research LLC; PetPeePee U Do It by Meir Martin; and Fizzion Pet Stain and Odor Remover.

Get Some Green
In a market where U.S. consumers spent $640 million total retail sales in 2011 on eco-friendly household cleaning products, according to Packaged, the potential growth for manufacturers of natural pet cleaning products is significant.

Both retailers and manufacturers agreed that sales in this niche market are healthy. In fact, Fizzion’s Sheirs estimates that sales of natural cleaning products for pets have increased 30 percent in the past five years.

Also important to appealing to customers’ sensitivities about their pets and the environment is how a product is packaged, manufacturers reported.

"Fizzion’s premise is reduce, reuse, recycle,” Sheirs said. "Fizzion comes in a tablet form and has a very small carbon footprint. We want the end-user to reuse the spray bottle.”

Yu said her company also pays a great deal of attention to how it packages its products.

"Packaging is critical to all products, especially natural products because the consumer seeking natural products is looking for information to confirm that it is natural,” Yu said. "Our packaging is single-stream recyclable, and our can is made of recycled steel. We pay a great deal of attention to ensuring that our product contents and packaging are safe for people, pets and the planet.” <HOME>


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