Local community is the special ingredient that turns your city and neighborhood into a home base. In celebration of the opening of Common Addams, our biggest home in Chicago to date, we interviewed a few businesses making a big impact in the Chicago area. Meet Kate, the Founder of Meliora Cleaning Products. From a Master’s in Environmental Engineering to cleaning product guru, Kate is on a mission to make her customer’s daily lives and spaces truly better, more sustainable, and toxin-free. Keep reading to find out her best tips for creating a more toxin-free home environment.
Hi Kate! To start off, can you tell us a bit more about the origin story of Meliora?
It all started while I was studying for a Master’s in Environmental Engineering! I originally was researching the sources of toxins in cities’ water supplies and how those pollutants can be eliminated. My research soon uncovered that one of the biggest sources of pollution was from our own homes! I discovered that most consumers were flushing and rinsing chemicals down the drain every day through their cleaning products without realizing the damage they were doing. However, what shocked me the most was how little I understood and knew about the contents of the products in my own home, even with my education on the topic. All I wanted was to make sure the ingredients were safe for those in my home and the environment, but most of the time the ingredients weren’t even listed on the products or they were difficult to understand.This frustration led me to start Meliora, which means better in Latin. The modern consumer is familiar with the idea of being conscious about food ingredients, but the idea of checking the label of their cleaning products rarely occurs to them. In fact, there is no federal requirement for companies to list the contents inside of their cleaning products. My goal was to create a better product and company that offered transparency and safer options for consumers.
How did you channel a passion for chemical-free products into a successful business?
Since our very first day as a business, we have operated with a focus on what we call a triple bottom line: creating a profitable, people-friendly, and planet-friendly business. We have committed to disclosing every ingredient in every product we make right on the label. Not only are we committed to sourcing quality ingredients, but Meliora also has ownership over the entire supply chain. We believe in using our business to help other local businesses as well. About 70% of our current sourcing is from the Great Lakes region. Outside of sourcing, we love engaging other businesses and our customers as a tool to solve the problem through educational workshops and classes.
How can someone inspired to create a non-toxic home environment get started without feeling overwhelmed?
It can definitely be overwhelming to try and completely overhaul your cleaning regime overnight. Instead, I recommend swapping out your products one at a time. The positive part about these products being consumable is exactly that: you’ll eventually run out! Each time you empty a product, make a conscious effort to replace it with something less toxic. To learn more about what is in the products you currently own, I recommend looking up product guidelines through the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Made Safe.
What are some red flags to look out for in labels on cleaning products?
Many companies are using phrasing to make them sound safe and toxin-free when they truly haven’t changed anything on the product level. If a company uses vague words such as “natural” or has “fragrance” in their ingredient list without further description, these are major red flags. It’s best to focus on products with further certifications, such as being a B-corp or having approval from the EWG or Made Safe. A label with no outside certifications has no credibility to back up its claims.
If you were to recommend consumers to switch out one cleaning product tomorrow, what would it be?
We all have been conditioned to crave the “fresh” laundry scent, but the truth is that clean laundry doesn’t smell like anything! Scented laundry detergent uses a mixture of chemicals disguised as “fragrance” to create that after-wash smell. Laundry softeners and dryer sheets are some of the biggest culprits of toxic chemicals. These products typically have volatile organic compounds that will stick to your clothing and stay in the air. I recommend looking for fragrance-free alternatives, even though this may seem counter-intuitive.
Why is it important to maintain a clean, chemical-free home?
One of the first things I learned in this entire process is how connected our home environments are to our daily lives. Safer and toxin-free products result in cleaner water supply and air quality, which improves everyone’s quality of life. Prioritizing a safe space to live in will not only help your own personal health, but it also creates a space for your friends and family to be able to enjoy worry-free.Thanks Kate! To stay up to date with her work and Meliora Cleaning Products, head to her website or Instagram.
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