A Method to the Madness?

Via Merete Mueller
on Aug 20, 2008
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When reviewing Method for our Summer 08 cleaning-themed issue, we had a hard time giving the products our 100% eco stamp of approval. [this just in, we’re not the only reviewers who are big fans of eco+great design gone mainstream, but who can’t find many specifics.] While the company has started to list ingredients on their minimalist bottles, they sometimes still use vague terms such as “fragrance” or “color” instead of actual compounds. And though the significance of “non-toxic” and “derived from natural substances” is debatable, we do know that Method doesn’t include any cancer-causing parabens or phthalates, and most bottles are made from 100% recycled content.

We are, however, more than willing to give Method credit for creating a line of sleek products that make consumers stop and consider that being “eco” might actually be cool, cutting edge and worth flaunting by the kitchen sink, retail shop or at the laundromat.

This week on joshspear.com, elefriend Carmel Hagen explores the brains behind those sexy bottles. Check out her interview with Method’s industrial designer Danny Alexander, who started out designing sustainable furniture but decided to reach the masses by branching into flushable bathroom cleaner wipes (one example of Method’s over 132 products). 


About Merete Mueller

Merete is a writer and filmmaker, and was once-upon-a-time the Managing Editor of elephant journal's print incarnation, from 2006-2008. Today, you can find her on Twitter @meretemueller and on her blog To The Bones. Her first documentary, "TINY: A Story About Living Small", about people who have downsized their lives into homes the size of a parking space, premiered at SXSW in March 2013.


4 Responses to “A Method to the Madness?”

  1. Hey there, Waylon, just ran across your recent write-up in the Summer 2008 edition of Elephant and wanted to send you a quick note to hopefully better explain our formulation process and the strict health + environmental standards we live by here at method.

    One thing you can be sure about, without a doubt, is that when you or your readers buy a method product, you are purchasing something that is not only healthy for you, your children and pets (if you have them), but it’s also environmentally preferable. Let me tell you a little bit about our formulation strategy and the bigger things we’re doing to ensure that we’re making a truly global impact, and that you are too by simply choosing method over the various other products out there.

    Method uses a comprehensive approach to ensure that the ingredients we use in our cleaning products are completely safe for human use and can be safely distributed in the environment. This process is based on having a full understanding of the complete range of health and environment characteristics of all of our ingredients.

    This strategy uses a number of key tools to constantly re-evaluate and, as necessary, improve the formulations.

    When considering an ingredient, we look at its past (source), present (its characteristics in use), and future (its behavior once released into the environment).

    Our minimum bar for formulation quality is known as the Dirty List. This is a list of ingredients such as phosphates, bleach and currently about 40 other chemicals commonly found in conventional cleaning products that we choose not to include in our products for a variety of health and environmental concerns.

    To further define our preferred ingredients, we work with an independent environmental research institute which assesses all of the ingredients that we include in our products. This institute is known as the EPEA and is led by Dr. Michael Braungart, co-creator of the Cradle to Cradle ecological design ethos – recognized as the gold standard for environmental design. The assessments performed by EPEA allow us to find the healthiest and most environmentally beneficial way to formulate cleaning and personal care products with great performance.

    All of the ingredients that method uses are assessed across a wide range of health and environmental criteria. For health, we are concerned with toxicity, irritation (to eyes, skin, and respiratory tract), allergenicity, and chronic health effects (such as carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, and developmental effects). The principal environmental characteristics we observe are biodegradation, toxicity in water, and potential for accumulation in animals and eco-systems.

    We employ a precautionary approach to our assessments – if there is an insufficiency of information for a given ingredient, we will not use it. Further, if an ingredient has a known or suspected negative effect on people or the environment we will also not use it.

    The focus of our ingredient assessment is on identifying materials that are inherently non-hazardous. This means that even in concentrations exceeding their intended use levels, the ingredients we use are not likely to cause any negative health effects. This avoids a host of problems associated with using hazardous ingredients even in small concentrations.

    One further step in this process is working with the US EPA Design for the Environment (DfE) program. This program effectively assesses the formulations of a given product and deems them either compatible or not with the program objectives, of finding environmentally superior formulation solutions. method has worked with the DfE program on a number of our cleaning products – 55 of them have been recognized – and we will continue to do so in the future.

    We’re also doing a ton of things behind the scenes, such as carbon offsetting. Here is a quick link for more information: http://www.csrwire.com/News/12800.html

    Hope that helps explain things a bit. One thing we are working on is the perception that a product cannot be both stylish and have substance – people still seem to think that in order for a product to be “green,” it has to smell like patchouli and be packaged in a stock bottle that you couldn’t possibly imagine leaving out on your countertop. Quite the contrary. At method, we believe you can have a package made from post-consumer recycled content that looks beautiful and is filled with the “greenest” juice out there; all the while being scented with unique fragrance oil combinations, making the whole experience of cleaning actually fun! A happy, healthy cleaning experience, if you will.

    And from a labeling perspective, we’re all about transparency. At this time last year, we made the decision to start disclosing our ingredients on both packaging and the website. It’s been sort of a measured rollout from an operations standpoint, in that we’ve had to go back and re-design labels; but at this point, everything being shipped to stores has the ingredients’ statements listed right smack dab on the label.

    Many apologies for the length of this email, but I just want to make sure you know where we are coming from and understand the philosophy and intentions behind every product we make. It was quite fun to see us mentioned as “Goliath” in your piece because we often refer to ourselves as “David” in the story. We’re still a pretty small fish in a sea of big guys, and we’re honestly just a bunch of individuals working together to truly make a difference in the world.

    Thanks for taking the time to read through all of this, and congratulations on the mag; it’s brilliant. Please, please, please feel free to shoot me any questions – happy to answer them, anytime.

    Warmest regards,

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