In fact, you may have already seen their products, which range from washing-up liquid to room fragrances, since they are widely available in Belgian stores and supermarkets. At some points of sale, you can even bring your old bottle or container and have it refilled. Some customers claim to have used their bottle over years and even decades. I have been using several of their products to great satisfaction. And if you’re worried about having to sacrifice performance when buying green, here’s what CEO Mike Bremans has to say: “We just wanted to make ecological products that happened to clean. Now we make cleaning products that happen to be green.” But let’s look at the origin of the “world’s most well-known brand of sustainable household-cleaning products.”
In 1979, Frans Bogaerts, an out-of-work soap salesman, started his enterprise in his barn in Malle in Northern Belgium (does Westmalle ring a bell?). Environmental concerns were getting traction in society and Bogaerts saw what traditional cleaning products did when dumped mindlessly into rivers. The main villain here is phosphate, which boosts algae growth and eutrophication. Ecover’s first products, a washing powder and a dishwashing agent, were the first in Europe to use plant-based and mineral ingredients instead of phosphate, but they could only be bought in specialty shops back then. Bogaerts persisted and eventually sold his enterprise in 1992. He died in August 2011 at the age of 76.
Today, Bogaerts’ barn is one of the greenest factories overall with a 6,000 m2 grass roof, no central heating and no air-conditioning. The company won several awards and even made it to Time Magazine’s 2008 list of environment heroes. However, Ecover also faces criticism, e.g. for its cleaning performance (that’s because they don’t use optical brighteners) and for ‘lack of evidence’ for some of its green claims (read more at The Guardian).
We do encourage you to give Ecover products a whirl and see for yourself if they work for you. They provide a lot of information on their website, even on production methods or staff transport. And why not sign up for their newsletter while you’re at it? Ecover will plant 50,000 m2 of forest for 50,000 subscriptions.