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Save Money and the Planet With This Affordable, Refillable, Eco-Friendly Cleaning Line

·9-min read
Sustainable-cleaning-products
Sustainable-cleaning-products

Getty Images

The journey toward living a cleaner, more sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle can be complex. Identifying household products that support such goals-and that can be easily integrated into your daily routine-can end up being challenging, or costly, or both.

The good news is we're experiencing a moment in time when a growing number of ambitious start-ups are seeking to meaningfully address these hurdles for consumers-allowing us to make a switch to a more earth-conscious lifestyle without busting our budgets or having to whip up the products ourselves in our spare time.

One such notable company is Boston-based ThreeMain, which has set its sights on revolutionizing your daily cleaning routine in a way that's not only better for the planet, but also better for you.

Launched in 2018 by co-founders Joe Budzienski and Lauren Simonelli, two entrepreneurs, and former tech colleagues, ThreeMain and its founders are on a mission to protect three of nature's most important and vulnerable elements-our earth, air, and water. They hope to do so by tackling household plastic consumption and simultaneously shifting consumers toward adopting cleaning products made of eco-friendly, non-toxic ingredients.

Bravo, right? But that's really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ThreeMain. There are so many reasons to like (or flat-out love) this company, its mission, and its offerings. Here are a few of the high-level takeaways.

Reusable for life-yes, you read that right

ThreeMain packages all of its cleaning products in aluminum bottles that are intended to be used for life. That alone is worth pausing to fully absorb. Never again will you need to buy a plastic bottle of liquid dish soap if you shift to using products such as ThreeMain's liquid dish soap. Likewise for bathroom and multi-surface cleaners, which invariably come in environmentally harmful plastic bottles. ThreeMain has you covered here as well.

It's also worth noting (for the die-hard plastic bottle users, if there is such a demographic) that plastic can only be recycled a few times before the integrity of the material starts to break down and can no longer be utilized.

ThreeMain also sells recyclable pouches of cleaning product and even eco-friendly hand soap refills, allowing customers to simply order packets and pour them into ThreeMain's aluminum bottles (or any reusable bottle in your home, for that matter). The entire process results in 80 percent less plastic waste than relying on traditional household cleaners, says ThreeMain.

Price, often another barrier to widespread adoption of eco-friendly products, is also noteworthy in the case of ThreeMain. A starter kit, which includes three items: liquid dish soap, multi-surface cleaner, and bathroom cleaner, all in refillable aluminum bottles, retails for $26.99 and can be found on the ThreeMain website and Walmart. That price is about a $4.00 savings compared to purchasing all three of the products individually for $30.97.

With a refill subscription, customers save even more money on future purchases. You'll get refills at 15 percent off, paying a mere $14.42 for all three household cleaners included in the starter kit, a sticker price that's easily competitive with grocery store prices.

Those who want to get started more slowly with the transition to ThreeMain products can also opt for a multi-surface cleaner bundle from Walmart, which includes 16 ounces of cleaner and an aluminum bottle for just $9.99.

Here are a few more heartening points about ThreeMain beyond the budget-friendly benefits.

  • Three percent of the company's sales are donated to cleaning and protecting oceans from the devastatingly damaging plastic pollution that's taking place around the globe.

  • ThreeMain is carbon neutral; it offsets its carbon footprint through native tree plantings, energy upgrades for low-income families, methane abatement programs at local landfills, and more.

Overall, it's an ambitious mission, one that sprung from a dilemma many of us concerned about sustainable behavior have likely faced.

"A couple of years back, I found that I was making all of these choices to live a healthier lifestyle, and would still go home and clean my house with products that have bleach in them or chemicals that I'd never heard of. It just didn't make sense," says Simonelli. "And when I was in a store searching for green cleaning products, I found that many, even those that were supposed to be earth-friendly, still had undisclosed fragrances and came in plastic bottles."

ThreeMain Cleaning Products
ThreeMain Cleaning Products

ThreeMain ThreeMain Cleaning Products

Developing the product

When Simonelli and Budzienski initially joined forces, they embarked on a year of research and development. Along the way, they enlisted a chemist, George Hoag, PhD, an individual who has more than 30 years of experience inventing chemically-based technologies and who spent 25 years working as an environmental engineering professor at the University of Connecticut. Also, notably, Hoag has extensive experience in oil remediation and identifying greener ways to clean oil spills around the globe. As a side project, Hoag had developed an interest in creating soaps and household cleaners for friends.

The resulting formulations for ThreeMain products, which include liquid dish soap, bathroom cleaner, and multi-surface cleaner, are 100 percent non-toxic and free of synthetic fragrances, and ingredients like formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates, glycol solvents, and artificial colors. The cleaners are also free of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and contain 50 to 60 percent fewer ingredients than most green cleaning products available.

But perhaps most refreshingly, the ingredients list for ThreeMain cleaners is very transparent and easily understood. Products include things like coconut oil, lemon oil, and Vitamin E. The ThreeMain website even features a page where you can read about the ingredients in each product where there's a description explaining the purpose or function of each ingredient.

"We simplify our ingredients to things people recognize from their home and know to be safe," explains Simonelli. "Things like baking soda, citric acid, hydrogen peroxide, and hyaluronic acid. A lot of the ingredients are not only wonderful ingredients but are also things people are already familiar with."

While they were experimenting with formulations during research and development, ThreeMain was also working on packaging options that would be more eco-friendly.

"Going into it, I knew I wanted to package products as sustainably as possible. It was eye-opening to find a lot of options are not viable for cleaning products. And everything has a carbon footprint of some sort," explains Simonelli. "We looked at things like recycled ocean-bound plastic, we loved that option, but at end of the day it's still another plastic. We also looked at glass, but it's heavier and more likely to break. So, we ultimately decided on aluminum."

Here's the beauty of aluminum: It is infinitely recyclable. What's more, most communities have access to aluminum recycling in some form or fashion.

Between the packaging, and the clean, high-quality ingredients, ThreeMain takes the sustainable home goods product market a giant step forward. But the final hurdle was to make their cleaners easy to access, thus empowering consumers to make the switch to a more sustainable lifestyle as effortlessly as possible.

ThreeMain addresses this last potential obstacle by offering delivery of products directly to consumer's homes, while also automatically sending refills via its subscription service and even handling the recycling for consumers when needed.

The future of sustainable cleaning products

Ideally, all of the measures implemented by ThreeMain­­­, including the aluminum bottle packaging, healthy, eco-friendly ingredients, and effortless home delivery of products, will make it easier for consumers to change their habits and migrate toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

At least some recent data shows there is indeed hope. The 2021 study titled The Future of Sustainable Cleaning Products to 2026 reveals that this year alone, the total value for environmentally friendly laundry, surface care, dishwashing, bath and shower retail goods, will reach $72.9 billion globally. By 2026 the market is expected to grow to $109.7 billion.

Adoption of these types of products is taking place more readily in European countries at the moment, according to the same report. But it also predicts that President Biden's commitments to address environmental issues in this country are likely to prompt similar progress. All of which is hopeful news for ThreeMain and companies like it.

Still, it may continue to be somewhat of an uphill climb. A separate report, this one from Harvard Business Review, titled The Elusive Green Consumer, found that companies working to introduce sustainable offerings face a challenging paradox: While plenty of consumers report positive attitudes toward eco-friendly products and services, they often fail to follow through with their wallets.

"On the surface, there has seemingly never been a better time to launch a sustainable offering. Consumers-particularly millennials-increasingly say they want brands that embrace purpose and sustainability," states the report. Yet while 65 percent of people say they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, only 26 percent do so.

The final frontier is to close the "intention-action gap." Doing so will be key to the future of the planet, says the Harvard report, which goes on to identify actions companies might consider in order to accomplish that goal. In particular, the Harvard scholars suggest that changing people's daily habits, in much the same way ThreeMain is attempting to do, will be key to long-lasting mass adoption.

"Humans are creatures of habit. Many behaviors, such as how we commute to work, what we buy, what we eat, and how we dispose of products and packaging, are part of our regular routines. Often the key to spreading sustainable consumer behaviors is to first break bad habits and then encourage good ones," states the report.

All of which is to say: ThreeMain appears to be taking exactly the right approach. For the planet's sake, let's all hope it pays off.

"Sustainability is a work in progress; there is always more work to be done, but with brands bringing new innovations, there's a really exciting shift," says Simonelli. "Truly sustainable products are now more accessible than ever, and I only see that improving in the years to come."

The ThreeMain starter kit can be purchased at Walmart, and on the ThreeMain website. Individual ThreeMain cleaners can also be found on Amazon and Walmart.

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