Part two of this four-part article focuses on Solutex’s involvement with the EPA’s Safer Choice program.

Once Moody was committed to certifying a number of the Solutex’s private-label products through the EPA’s Safer Choice program, he and his staff began working closely with Bridget Williams, a chemist and outreach lead for Safer Choice.

Williams quickly became impressed with Moody’s commitment to improving the human health and environmental safety of as many of Solutex’s chemicals as possible, so she and her staff at the EPA got started.

In general, earning Safer Choice status for a product takes about four months for a review that holds few complications: The product and all relevant materials are first reviewed by a third-party profiler, hired by the primary product manufacturer; then, the product materials go to the EPA for review.

“Now, if reformulation is necessary, if we find ingredients in the product that do not meet our standards, we will work with the company to find alternatives, and then the time frame gets a little bit longer,” says Williams.

As for cost, Moody says the whole process was quite affordable for his company. The EPA doesn’t charge for its review process, and the primary manufacturer is typically responsible for contracting with the third-party product reviewer, says Williams.

Of Solutex’s 200 or so chemicals, 20 now carry the Safer Choice label, including some of the company’s most popular items. By 2014, Solutex had sold over $1 million worth of one of its Safer Choice-labeled products, a big deal for a smaller company, says Moody. Solutex was even one of 21 organizations to earn a 2015 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Award and one of 24 organizations — and the only distributor — to win the award in 2016. The Safer Choice Partner of the Year Award is given each year to organizations that excel in five areas: participation in the Safer Choice program; use of the Safer Choice label; promotion and use of products using the Safer Choice label; outreach and education on the Safer Choice program to consumers and end users; and innovations in safer chemistry and other efforts to advance the Safer Choice program.

“We were really grateful to win that award,” says Moody.

Moody has also explored less-stringent steps to selling green products.

“The high bar is the Safer Choice label,” says Williams. “But short of that there are a lot of steps manufacturers and distributors can take to using safer chemicals in their products.”

In particular, Moody pushed for inclusion of every one of Solutex’s chemicals to meet another EPA standard, the Safer Detergents Stewardship Initiative (SDSI). Solutex is now a Champion Partner in the program.

SDSI program companies agree to eliminate the use of two inexpensive, yet less environmentally friendly surfactants — nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) and alkyphenol ethoxylates (APEs) — from their products.

“For a distributor like Charlie, who doesn’t necessarily have control of the formulas, he would have had to reach out to all of his vendors and to basically get commitments from them that they were not using APE’s in their products,” says Williams.
And that’s exactly what he and Deihr did. She says she spent months sending letters to the roughly 30 Solutex chemical vendors.

In the end, only 20 products were using APEs and NPEs, says Moody. He was able to convince the manufacturers of 13 of those 20 to reformulate their products. Solutex stopped selling the remaining seven products while still maintaining a relationship with all of its existing vendors. In one case, Moody pointed out to the manufacturer that reformulating the product would only raise the cost 9 cents per gallon on a product that Moody currently purchased for $10 and sold for $18. A couple of weeks later, the manufacturer rep called Moody and said his company was making this safer product its standard formula for all customers.

“From Charlie’s standpoint, that’s a real leadership activity,” says Williams. “Most wouldn’t reach out to their vendors and ask what’s in the products they’re selling.”

Though the SDSI standards are not as stringent as those in the Safer Choice program, SDSI is a smaller step that Solutex uses to demonstrate its commitment to green cleaning even when some of its products cannot achieve Safer Choice status.

“It gave all of our products a level of greenness,” says Moody.

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How Charles Moody Came To Believe In Green Cleaning Products
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Living Green Outside Of Jan/san