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16 November 2015

"Greenwashed": How to Make Informed Choices and Keep Your Home Healthy

Everyone wants to make the healthy choice- to choose non-toxic, environmentally products that benefit the earth, rather than harm it. Choosing between a natural home and a toxic one- that’s an easy decision.

But very few people do so. Why? Because it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Many cleaning product manufacturers promote and benefit from a knowledge gap between themselves and their customers. They make it hard to make informed, responsible choices- and hide their own destructive habits under misleading advertising.

With food, you know what you’re getting, thanks to government-mandated ingredient lists. But cleaning products don’t require the same transparency. Worse, since most such ingredients (in chemical cleaners) have long, complex names (who doesn’t love ethylene glycol monobutyl ether?) the customer is less likely to recognize and understand which are harmful- even if they can somehow find out what the ingredients are!

So the customers are left confused and discouraged- and the companies prosper.

The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit dedicated to a healthier environment- and a healthier you- recognized this knowledge gap and decided to do something about it. They set out to analyze over two thousand different cleaning products, and separate the good from the bad- to give the customer the edge in choosing eco-friendly products.

Of course, this was easier said than done.

The cleaning industry hid its ingredients behind claims of “trade secrets” and confidential formulas. Worse, the companies used their own testing data to “verify” the safety of the products- without allowing the EWG to see that data. (See AspenClean ingredients by product)

But the EWG fought on, and with dedication and scientific elbow grease, managed to complete their Guide to Healthy Cleaning- a complete list of hundreds of products, with a rigorous rating system to determine their impact on our environment and our health.

What did they find? Well, not much good. Most products fell into the C to F range. Worse, they found abundant evidence of a process called “greenwashing”- when a toxic, unhealthy product markets itself as “green” and “natural.” Since those terms have no official requirements, it’s easy to claim any product is “green.” (See the F-rated Greenworks “naturally-derived” Cleaner

Of the 237 bathroom cleaners, for example, that the EWG studied, only 9 received an A, a total of 4%- and more than 50% received an F. (See the ones that did get an A).

But there was some good- a handful of products did manage to get top marks. We’re happy to say that every single AspenClean product was deemed A-level. We’ve received a lot of environmental certifications and awards over the years, but this is the one we’re most proud of.

Of course, what the EWG didn’t study was the effectiveness of these products. While we can’t speak for the utility of other cleaning solutions, we can safely say ours are the only ones put to the test every single day by a professional cleaning service.

Choosing to have a healthy, safe home shouldn’t be difficult- and shouldn’t require being a trained chemist. The EWG has helped millions of consumers vote with their dollar, and to choose not to harm our planet and our health.

Check out their full Guide to Healthy Cleaning

View all AspenClean products with full ingredient lists, and use the promo code HEALTHYCHOICE to receive 15% off. Promo ends November 30th!

23 September 2015

The Organic Home

As we celebrate this year's Organic Week, there's been a lot of talk about how to keep pesticides, toxins, and other chemicals out of our food supply- and for good reason. 

But as the organic movement gathers steam and we focus on keeping the food on our plate healthy and natural, the next question is- what about our homes?

Hidden Toxins

As AspenClean President Alicia Sokolowski explains in this week's Globe and Mail Organic Week special feature, we often focus on the chemicals in our food and forget the chemicals in our home. "For cleaning products, unlike food and cosmetics, there are no government requirements to disclose ingredients." 

"Even though you're not consuming them, just being in contact with certain chemicals, such as in cosmetic or cleaning products, can affect your and your pet's health."

So if we want our homes to be a healthy environment for our families, how can we avoid those toxic chemicals? 

A Clean, Healthy Home

That's the challenge- choosing non-toxic paint, carpeting, and furniture can be as tough as finding organic alternatives to your favourite foods. 

But as Organic Lifestyle Magazine notes in their blog post "Staying Healthy in a Toxic World," it's about taking the right steps towards protecting your home:

"Since we can’t always take control of what’s already built in to our environment, the least we can do is avoid adding to our home’s toxic load. Use natural cleaners like vinegar, baking soda, and lemons or purchase toxic free cleaners. Do not use air fresheners. If necessary, use essential oils or boil citrus peels on the stove to freshen the air." 
That means ensuring that all the products you use in your home are safe- check that they use natural ingredients that you can identify, preferably organic. For product grades and information, check out the Environment Working Group's Guide to Healthy Cleaning. 

Organic living is about pursuing a healthy, natural way of life- and avoiding the toxicity of modern chemicals. It starts with the dinner plate, but with the right choices we can extend that natural feel (and its health benefits) to the entirety of our home.

29 July 2015

Make An Oasis In Your Home

It can be tricky to create a zen space in all the chaos of our busy lives, but your home is a sanctuary away from the world. Life can get hectic but you can create a little escape within your walls. Here are a few tricks to create a haven within your home. 

Calm Corners
Create a Calm Corner as a set place to go read, play an instrument, write down your thoughts or work on your knitting. You can just section off a space in any room or take over that unused bedroom. It's just a small retreat for you away from the rest of the house. This allow you to focus inward rather than on everything going on around you.

Thought Out Layout 
Create a wall out of tall bookshelves and use them for storage. Be sure to angle the shelves towards you in your little space to keep you yarn or books accessible. If you want to create walls, adorn the back and sides with fabric.

Theme Time 
You may want to follow your homes style but you can also try something different for your little spot. Perhaps a Japanese style room with a Bonsai tree. Or a Moroccan theme with jewel-adorned pillows and elaborately patterned drapes. It's all yours so its up to you!

Cozy Comforts 
It doesn't have to be a large space but comfort is key. A small desk, a basic table or simple side chair. Perhaps an area rug to mediate... or nap on. Draping fabric can make ceilings seem lower and darker fabrics can make its nice hideaway. Hanging drapes on your windows can also filter light, making it softer and more relaxing. A few candles can work wonders for a soothing glow. 

Sweet Silence 
You don't need to keep ear plugs handy! Just cushion your zen space with accessories that absorb sound like thick rugs, plush pillows or draping velvet fabric. 

Cut The Clutter
Keep it simple and display a few treasures carefully selected by you. Too much is distracting and you can always rotate items throughout the year for different seasons. Small boxes can store things way as well when you may not need them, like pens and notebooks for writing. 

Fresh Air 
Naturally freshen and brighten your space with plants and flowers. Air fresheners can contain toxins including phthalates and VOC's. These are known for their allergens and potentially cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde.

We can't always get away and life is always going to have its stresses. Create a space for yourself to get away and wind down. Leave the living room that looks like it got hit by a tornado and the laundry room that needs to be conquered and enjoy your new zen zone. 

17 July 2015

Moving Season: 8 Tips To Get That Damage Deposit Back

The boxes were packed by the door with care, 

but the house must be tidy enough or beware...

It's moving season! And along with your big move comes a big clean up. The high standards set by landlords for move-out cleans can be daunting and missing just a simple task can cost you your damage deposit. Here are 8 tips to keep you on the right track with your move-out clean and see our special moving contest at the bottom!

No Good Garbage Left Behind
Be sure to take out all your garbage to the dumpster or curbside. Also, you may feel like you're leaving something behind someone else may find useful (couches, tables etc) but it's likely just going to get tossed and you'll be charged a fee.

Look Up
Clean you ceiling fans, bathroom fan and especially get those dead bugs from your light fixtures. Places we may not normally see still count on the cleaning checklist.

Nail it!
Unless they were there when you came, take out all staples and nails your have put up. Try your best to fill in the holes and wipe the walls down.

Turn It Off
Make sure you contact all the utility companies to let them know the last day in your current home and either cancel the services or move it to your new address.

Keep Stress Down
Don't leave it to the last minute - make a list and execute it over time with smaller tasks on a daily basis. Lots can come up in the few days before you move and if you don't schedule your cleaning accordingly, there may be some sleepless nights trying to squeeze it all in.

Under where?
Most landlords expect you to clean behind the fridge and under the stove. Have a friend help you in moving these heavy appliances so you can get it done without the ache.

Check if your lease requires you to steam clean the carpets prior to moving out. Sometimes it needs to be done by a professional with a receipt provided. So don't do it yourself and end up having to pay for it anyways!

Say Cheese!
It's always a smart idea to take some pictures after you have completed your home cleaning. If you're charged fees, you have some substantial evidence that proves otherwise.

It can be frustrating at how extensive a move-out cleaning can be. Remember that the standards are up held to each person and it was done for you before moving into your place and the next person will do it as well. If it's just too much, consider hiring AspenClean to help you out!
We offer an extensive move-out checklist that is sure to have all the T's crossed and I's dotted before you leave the keys behind. Plus, enter below in our latest contest. We are giving away a Whole House Cleaning Kit valued at $70 to one winner and a Move-Out cleaning valued at $300 to another!

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14 July 2015

5 Tips To Keep Your Summer Home Clean & Green

Summer is here, the kids are out of school and you have some time off to embrace the sunshine.We want to keep coming back to our favorite beautiful vacation spots and have them be just that - beautiful. Using toxic cleaning products and disposing of them in sensitive septic systems or right into the lake can have lasting effects on both your family and the ecosystem. Here are a five tips to keep your cottage clean while staying green.

Home away from home. 
Nothing beats fresh air. 
Let The Outdoors In
When we are away from our cabins, the air can become musty without proper air flow and ventilation. But indoor air, even at those rural homes can be 10x  more polluted then the air of a busy city with the use of toxic products and poor air circulation!

  • Open your windows and let the natural air flow bring freshness back into your home. 
  • The sun is also a natural disinfectant, as the ultraviolet radiation can kill pathogens. 
  • Mix a few drops of essential oils such as Lavender with water and spritz around your cottage to refresh the smell
  • Some fresh plants and flowers can also offer freshness without the harsh chemicals air fresheners can contain, including phthalates and VOC's. These are known for their allergens and potentially cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde.

Be Good To Your Septic Tank 
Most cabins or vacation home are in areas not on regular sewage but instead on septic systems. Septic tanks are highly sensitive and need to be taken care of or things can get well- messy.

    Watch what's going down there! 
  • When you don’t use septic tank safe products for cleaning, things may not break down properly and this can cause chemical contamination where your septic is discharging.  
  • Be sure to not dump any cooking oils or grease down the drains as this can cause blockage. Keep out cigarette butts, feminine products or food waste, which can also overload the system.
  • Microbials need to develop for the system to properly function but these synthetic compounds poison the bacterial culture.
All-natural products like AspenClean contain no synthetic preservatives.Typically, petroleum derived compounds inhibit bacterial growth which is essential for a septic system to function properly.
Bring Your Green Habits With You
Many of us are on the green train at home with easy access to city recycling and composting. But you don't need to leave those habits behind when your outside the city. 

  • Buy only what you need so you will  have less perishable items to deal with. Skip the disposable dishes and make a rotating dish washing schedule. 
  • Have a bin to collect your recyclables and if the area doesn't offer recycling services, pack it home to recycle. 
  • If you have a garden at your cottage, a compost will make for great organic material to add to the soil. If not, you can freeze the compost to bring home and add to your current one. 

Ban The Bugs
Bat boxes will keep those pesky pests at bay.
Those creepy-crawlers come with the natural territory but no need to squirm ..

  • Placing bat boxes around your cottage will encourage these flying friends to move in and keep your moth and mosquito numbers down. 
  • Burn natural oils or candles like citronella and eucalyptus to deter insects.
  • Check for small holes around the outside and fill with rough materials like steel wool to prevent them from entering. 
  • Make sure to tidy up all crumbs after meals and snacks to not leave treats for unwanted guests. 

Keep The Ecosystem In The Lake Intact (Don't forget about your boat cleaning...) 
When it's out of sight it can be out of mind, but washing your boat in the water with harsh chemicals can damage the ecosystem. 
  • Using products that are all-natural and biodegradable won’t have negative effects on the environment and your boat will still be looking like new and ready to catch the waves.
  • Slightly alkaline products like AspenClean become neutral in water and wont harm the pH in the lake.
  • Keep a microfiber cloth on board to quickly wipe down wet surfaces to prevent mold and save you from larger clean ups down the line. 

“I use AspenClean products and find them amazing! They are the best natural cleaning products I have ever used that really work! I like using environmentally friendly products not just for my health but also because I have a sensitive septic system that can not have harsh chemicals introduced. I also use them to clean my boat and it is good to know that no harmful chemicals are left behind that can go into the lake. I'm impressed!” 
– Carolyn, AspenClean Customer, Nelson BC

While You're Away...
While you’re out enjoying your vacation, let AspenClean keep your place tidy. Leave a key in our locked office safe and while you're away, our green cleaning services will maintain your place so you come home to a fresh house. We can also offer maid services for vacation rentals or Bed & Breakfasts to help flip rentals between stays. If you're planning a move after your relaxing summer, save the stress and let us help you with your move out cleaning too!

Ahhh... Mother Nature. 
Like the old scouts rule of Leave Not A Trace, the beauty of nature is maintained when we leave it how we found it. If we follow this, your beautiful oasis will stay beautiful and the great outdoors will stay great.

16 June 2015

AspenClean: Winner of the BBB Green Torch Award

June 16 2015
For Immediate Release

AspenClean recognized for its green practices and ethical standards -wins BBB Torch Award in the Green Category.

Vancouver, BC -AspenClean is pleased to have won the Green Torch Award from the Better Business Bureau serving Mainland BC for 2015. The Torch Awards are an annual international awards program created by Council of Better Business Bureaus to gain public recognition for North American businesses that maintain a solid commitment to ethical business practices.
This year there were five categories including: Marketplace Excellence, Community Excellence, Green Award, Innovative Business Practices and People's Pick.

The award was presented by Lisa Von Sturmer, founder of Growing City and last years’ Green Torch Award recipient.  "It was great to see last year's winners presenting awards to the new winners, a passing of torch if you will!" said Danielle Primrose, President of BBB serving Mainland BC. Von Sturmer was happy to present the award to AspenClean, a fan of the company herself. "I'm thrilled to have presented this award to a company who's product we use everyday,” said the Growing City founder on her Instagram page.

AspenClean alongside the other award recipients were honored at the 2015 Torch Awards annual gala held Thursday June 11th, at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Vancouver. Desiree Armstrong, Marketing & Media Manager for AspenClean was there to accept the award. "We come to work each day doing what we love, trying to make our customers day better, all while striving to keep our effects on the world minimal. To receive recognition for that from such a great organization like the BBB -we feel grateful. "

Alicia Sokolowski, President and Co-CEO of AspenClean was thrilled to receive this recognition. Alongside her husband and business partner Chris Solodko, they founded AspenClean in 2004 with the desire to provide healthy home cleaning with strong environmental values. "Our own ethical and environmental standards have always been in line with those of BBB, we are honored to be recognized for it, with BBB’s highest achievement award."

AspenClean have been members of the Better Business Bureau since their inception in 2004 and have proudly maintained their A+ rating.

This is the second award for AspenClean this year, having just received 2015 Product of the Year Canada in the Natural Cleaning Products category in March.


Media Contact:
Desiree Armstrong

1 June 2015

Happy Father's Day!

On Sunday June 21st, Dad's get their own special day. It isn’t just a day for him to get new ties, but a day to honour all the men who have been a father figure.

Now every dad is different – mine wasn’t allowed within 10 feet of the washing machine (RIP Moms Cashmere Sweater) but I never went a moment with a broken bike chain and most importantly he tried his best to help out where he could and worked extremely hard to support myself and our family each day.

"By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong." 

— Charles Wadsworth

Ever wonder where this day comes from?  Sonora Louise Smart Dodd was the first to bring up the concept of Father's Day, back in 1909. Her father William Smart raised her and her 5 siblings himself after her mother died in childbirth. She wanted her dad to have his own special day for being so strong and unselfish in raising them all as a single father. It wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon made Father's Day a national holiday- a whole 6 decades after Mother’s Day.

"It is admirable for a man to take his son fishing, but there is a special place in heaven for the father who takes his daughter shopping." 
— John Sinor

If I could have anything now with my Father, it would be more memories. In order to create those you need time.

AspenClean is happy to announce our contest as a way to show all the special men out there – fathers, uncles, brothers, grandfathers how much they are appreciated. Win a home cleaning for your Dad and create spare time for your family to be able to make memories. 

Enter below and visit our Facebook page for more details! 

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"Lately, all my friends are worried that they're turning into their fathers. I'm worried I'm not." 
— Dan Zevin

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