What aspect of Green (renewable or natural) products makes them better for the environment?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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To both reduce the amount of pollution created daily, and to keep resources renewable, many common products have gone "Green," or become devoted to the idea of renewable, reusable, or biologically-neutral biodegradable products instead of plastics or other potentially harmful chemicals. For example, green cleaning products are often made of vinegar or baking soda, rather than using bleach, ammonia, or peroxides. All compounds are broken down in the environment by bacteria, which metabolize parts of the chemical structure, but some compounds take much longer than others.

Some plastic products have been engineered to break down in compost or over time more easily or more naturally than typical petroleum-based plastics. New plastics can be made of starch or cellulose, making them more susceptible to breakdown by bacteria, and some include metals in their chemical structure that react with oxygen to make them break down faster. Additionally, more natural chemicals, like vinegar, are more easily absorbed and degraded in soil than bleach; the impact on farmlands and the water table is important here. One widespread change is the "No Poo" movement, which seeks to eliminate synthetic shampoos which contain sodium lauryl sulfate, a chemical that is harsher on the skin and not easily broken down in the water table; organic or natural shampoos, and home-made solutions, are more chemically simple and so more gentle.

However, some studies show that biodegradable plastics are more prone to releasing methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, and are therefore not necessarily better for the environment. Also, because the bulk market is geared towards petroleum-based products, Green products tend to be more expensive, and therefore not as economically desirable for average people.

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