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Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to be biodegradable?
This is when a substance or chemical can be broken down (decomposed) rapidly into a harmless natural state by the action of bacteria or microorganisms, thereby not damaging the environment.
There are varying degrees of biodegradability. The term “Readily Biodegradable” is used for substances that meet the very stringent criteria of a test demonstrating ultimate biodegradation within a specified time period of a maximum of 28 days. Readily biodegradable is one of the key criteria for demonstrating a lack of persistence in Persistent, Bio-accumulative and Toxic (PBT) assessments, hazard classifications, or "green chemistry" certifications.
 
Chemical, synthetic and natural – what does it mean?
Everything on earth is made up of chemicals, whether it is natural or synthetic. Natural generally means that some natural ingredients (produced by nature without any human interference) have been used in the formula, but it is an unregulated term and is not validated by any local authorities. Synthetic ingredients are human-made substances. Synthesis is the formation of a compound from elements or similar compounds. A pure substance is indistinguishable from other pure samples of the same substance, no matter what procedures are used to purify them or what their origin is. Natural doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe to use or eco-friendly. Both naturally derived and synthetic products need to be tested to assure safety regardless of their origin and their uses.
 
What does non-toxic mean?
Non-toxic claims generally refer to the exclusion of ingredients that have been linked to toxic responses in humans: neuro-disruption, hormone disruption, cancer, even death. However, there are no specific standards or verifications for the non-toxic claim.
 
What are enzymes and how do they work?
Enzymes are biological catalysts, which means they accelerate chemical reactions. This allows for molecules to be rapidly broken down into different molecules.
Enzymes occur naturally – an example being a person’s digestive enzymes which occur in the gut.
 
Why buy locally manufactured products?
They are more effective as they are based on local enzymes and bacteria strains; result in a lower carbon footprint from less transportation required; are more cost effective, particularly when the raw ingredients themselves are locally manufactured. In addition, you will be supporting South Africa’s economy.
 
Good bacteria versus bad bacteria?
Probiotics or “good bacteria” are found naturally in our bodies, in the soil and in certain foods. Not only do we live in harmony with these beneficial bacteria, but they are essential to our survival. Beneficial bacteria protect us against pathogens (bad bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms that can cause disease) through a process scientifically known as Competitive Exclusion. In this process, the good bacteria rapidly search for food and space and quickly starve the pathogens of their food source. The pathogens die and can’t build up immunity to this process.
When we use disinfectants and sanitisers we also kill good bacteria, causing an imbalance in the environment where the bacteria live, whether it be your floors or your kitchen counters. If pathogens are now introduced to this environment (for example, if you cough over a disinfected counter) there will be no good bacteria to crowd out the bad, allowing the bad to thrive. Thus, by constantly disinfecting, we inadvertently create an unchallenged environment where bad bacteria can grow back even faster than before. Furthermore, the more disinfectants and sanitizers are used, the more the pathogens build up immunity to what is trying to kill them, and eventually develop into superbugs, which are now even harder to kill.
Where probiotics are used in a cleaning product, the product continues working for hours or days, whilst disinfectants stop working shortly after application. This aims to provide a simple breakdown of the principles behind good and bad bacteria, but clearly the whole picture is more complex. There are some environments where sanitisers are essential, but should not be used for everyday living.
 
Who performs Environmental Certification in South Africa?
The Heritage Environmental Management Company (HEMC) provides environmental certification in South Africa. The HEML performs audits and tests to ensure continued compliance with environmental standards, assigning the Eco-Choice label where applicable.
 
What is the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN)?
GEN is a non-profit association of third-party, environmental performance recognition, certification and labelling organisations founded in 1994 to improve, promote and develop the ecolabeling of products and services.
GEN is composed of some 27 national and regional ecolabel organisations throughout the world representing nearly 60 countries and territories, with 2 associate members and a growing number of affiliate members, one of which is Google.
The manufacturer complies with GEN standards, despite South Africa being without a national body that is associated with GEN.
 
What is EDTA and why to avoid it?
Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) is commonly used to stabilise bleach and foaming agents in detergents. It is under serious environmental scrutiny and has been banned by the Global Ecolabelling Network. EDTA binds with toxic metals and ends up back in the environment.
EDTA is a chemical originating in plants, and was synthetised for the first time in 1935. This is a relevant example of how something can be plant derived but harmful to the environment in concentrated doses, and a reminder that not all naturally occurring substances are non-toxic.
All products in the Green Bee range are guaranteed to be EDTA free.
 
What are phosphates and why to avoid them?
Phosphates are the naturally occurring form of the element phosphorus, found in many phosphate minerals. Phosphate-based detergents can pollute surface waters leading to algal bloom and an absence of oxygen for fish and other aquatic life. This represents another example of a naturally occurring compound that can be environmentally toxic in concentrated forms.
Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STPP) is the most common building block in laundry detergents and other cleaning products such as dishwashing liquid. STPP in laundry detergents has been banned in most states in the U.S. and Europe, as well as Australia due to its ecological damage.