Chemical Reduction Methods

By: | Posted in: Sustainable Purchasing | (One Comment)

What It Is

Chemical reduction methods are ways in which businesses can lower the chance that chemicals (usually from janitorial products) make their way into soils and waterways.

Below are some common claims found on “environmental” chemical products that you should not take at face value:

  • Non-toxic: Implication that product will cause no harm to consumer or environment. There is no standard for use of this term and no organization verifying the claims.
  • Natural: Vague term with no consistent definition. Does not mean less toxic or non-irritating.
  • Environmentally friendly: Again no standard definition and is not regulated.
  • Biodegradable: Somewhat useful term as it has been loosely defined by the federal government; meaning the product or packaging will break down in nature in a short period of time.[1]


Why It Matters

Chemical reduction methods are not only useful to decrease an organization’s environmental impact, but they are also beneficial to the safety of employees and customers alike. Companies should strive to create and utilize products that minimize the production and use of hazardous materials. 

The EPA lists three main reasons to use safer chemical reduction methods:

  1. Environmental and health concerns
  2. Magnitude of potential exposure
  3. Benefits of buying green


Cleaning products can evaporate or rinse down the drain exposing janitorial staff and others to high concentrations of hazardous toxins. In Washington state, for instance, about 6 percent of janitors experience a job related injury from chemical exposure to cleaning products.[2]  Reducing these harmful effects on staff can improve office efficiency, lessen the number of sick days taken and possibly reduce health care expenditures, not to mention worker’s compensation payouts.

Some products, such some cleaning products, paints and aerosols, contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which can impact indoor air quality and further reduce employee efficiency and increase the incidence of illnesses. Additionally, products with ingredients such as phosphorous or nitrogen can cause deleterious effects on bodies of water, often by reducing the amount of oxygen available to aquatic life, leading to massive die-offs. Purchasing and using safer chemical reduction methods can also reduce the cost of disposing of leftover harmful chemicals.[3] 


Getting Started

  1. Step One: Identify office products that can be replaced by products that are non-toxic.
  2. Step Two: Use unbleached paper, soy-based inks, and no/low VOC paints.
  3. Step Three: Develop criteria and transition plan for replacing hazardous products.
  4. Step Four: Make educated purchases.


Step One

Create a list of office supplies and janitorial products that organization should consider replacing with non-toxic products. Pay close attention to cleaners, bleaches, and products containing nitrogen and phosphorous.


Step Two

Begin to change office supplies that contain harmful byproducts that may impact indoor air quality and employee efficiency.


Step Three

It is important to identify which office supplies should be replaced more quickly, to produce the most savings in terms of both safety and cost. It could be helpful to create a transition map to guide what should be replaced when. Again, pay close attention to cleaners, bleaches, and products containing nitrogen and phosphorous.


Step Four

Follow plan created in step 3 to implement change to environmentally friendly office supplies. A majority of office supplies stores carry a wide range of environmentally friendly products so be sure to find the product that best suits your business’s needs.


Case Study

Breathing Easier: California School Districts Make Switch to Green Cleaning Products by Regional Asthma Management & Prevention (RAMP). This case study takes a deeper look at three California school districts efforts to revamp their cleaning products to improve air quality within the schools and classrooms.[4]


Resources for More Information



Changing to use products that utilize sustainable chemical reduction methods within the office is an easy and effective technique to begin to improve your businesses sustainability, cost savings, public perception, and safety. Reducing the number of hazardous chemicals within a business will lead to noticeable health benefits and improved air quality. Switching to eco-friendly products can help your business while simultaneously benefiting your customer.



Volatile Organic Compound (VOC): includes a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.[5]



[1] “Eco-Lables,” Greener Choices,, accessed 6 August 2013.

[2] “Greening Your Purchase of Cleaners: A Guide for Federal Purchasers,” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 12 May 2010,, accessed 6 August 2013.

[3] “Greening Your Purchase of Cleaners: A Guide for Federal Purchasers,” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 12 May 2010,, accessed 6 August 2013.

[4] “Breathing Easier: School Districts Make the Switch to Certified Green Cleaning Products,” Regional Asthma Management and Prevention, November 2009,, accessed 6 August 2013.

[5] “Volatile Organic Compounds,” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 9 July 2012,, accessed 6 August 2013.

We educate, motivate, and recognize smaller enterprises for their efforts towards becoming more sustainable. We’re here to offer tangible, practical tips and expertise in sustainability.
Read More About
This entry was posted in Sustainable Purchasing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Fatal error: Uncaught Exception: 12: REST API is deprecated for versions v2.1 and higher (12) thrown in /homepages/2/d283115547/htdocs/wp-content/plugins/seo-facebook-comments/facebook/base_facebook.php on line 1273