3Hunna: Gabby Gaeta, Anna Garcia, Tianchen Zhou, Ameya Gehi
Requested Amount: $35,000
Expected Amount of time to Complete Project: 4 months
Describe your Project
The mission of our app, CleanSource, is to provide knowledge on all materials in cleaning products and for consumers to become aware of safer, more sustainable options. Our app is designed to be compatible for all smart phones, including IOS and Android softwares. The issue the app addresses is that the majority of cleaning products do not explicitly provide the ingredients nor source of their products on the packaging. Nonetheless, products such as food and clothing, always have material information. Similarly, manufacturing companies should provide facts about the chemicals and source of cleaning products because people are constantly exposed to them and their residue. These can have harmful impacts on the environment and consumers, especially children and the elderly. According to the National Capital Poison Center, 11% of 2014 U.S. poison exposures were from cleaning substances. Organic Consumers Association says that specific chemicals, commonly found in all-purpose cleaners, can lead to cancer and disrupt reproductive hormones. Furthermore, most of the chemicals used in conventional cleaning products settle in water sources and bioaccumulate in aquatic life. The majority of these chemicals are petroleum-based, which deplete our natural resources, and are packaged in non-recyclable material. To prevent the persistent consumption of these products, our app offers safer, more eco-conscious cleaning products that maintain cleaning efficiency.
The app first scans the barcode of the cleaning product and configures information of each element used in the product. For each ingredient, the app offers information about the environmental impact of the disposal and exposure of the chemicals. Furthermore, it describes the mode of transportation the product travels and the total distance traveled before it reaches consumers’ households. By using an aggregate of these figures, the app calculates the ecological footprint of each product. Also, the app provides information of the toxicity and health effects of each chemical. This will serve as a safety guideline for consumers to refer to while shopping for the safest product.
In addition, the app provides alternatives for the specific cleaning product that is scanned. The consumer has the choice of how to rank the alternate products in terms of toxicity of chemicals and ecological footprint to prioritize their prime concern when deciding which alternative to purchase. Due to the fact that CleanSource features a check-out option, consumers have access to easy purchasing through the app. The companies that manufacture the alternate cleaning products value transparency in terms of relaying information about materials, reducing their environmental impacts, and creating products that are healthier for people. Finally, this app also features a community section that will allow users to exchange reviews and opinions of products.
Overall, this app is for individuals who want to implement eco-friendlier purchasing practices along with using less-harsh chemicals to protect their health while maintaining sanitary conditions. This app seeks to accomplish this mission by creating consciousness of the materials in cleaning products and providing safer, greener options. Hopefully, this trend will encourage other companies to have a transparency policy for their cleaning products as well.
What unmet need does your product meet?
While most consumers know that traditional cleaning products are full of chemicals, many aren’t aware of exactly which chemicals are present and just how toxic those chemicals are. Resources such as the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning, and the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Household Product Database offer consumers details about the ingredients in traditional cleaning products and their potential health effects. However, there is not a wealth of information available about how these products are manufactured nor their environmental impact. CleanSource builds upon EWG’s and NIH’s resources to not only present users with details about products’ ingredients and health effects, but also to inform users about the environmental impact of using and manufacturing these products.
In addition, consumers may struggle to find alternative cleaning products that are both effective and more health and environmentally conscious. EWG’s guide provides users with a list of healthier products, but doesn’t provide information about where to purchase these products. CleanSource strives to make it more convenient to find and purchase these alternatives by providing a check-out system. This allows users to purchase these alternative products directly through the app and ensure they buy the correct products.
We gathered feedback from a number of people in the Ann Arbor area. The overall consensus was that people are concerned about the variety of cleaning products, but aren’t sure what steps to take to alleviate their tensions. Danielle Livneh, a 22-year old School of Information student, worries about the toxicity of traditional cleaning products. “I’m not really sure what I’m getting when I buy cleaning products,” Livneh said. Yuanrui Huang, a 22-year old economics student said, “When I look at the package of these cleaning products, I just see some unknown chemicals and I don’t know which of them are safer,”, and resorts to searching via internet. Alicia Kraay, a 27-year old post-doctoral at the School of Public Health, is unaware of the environmental impact of these chemicals, but is interested in knowing this and would use a reference to discover the information. Finally, Jan Hack, a 55-year-old Ann Arbor mother of three and Communications Director at the YMCA, frequently chooses to use eco-friendly products. “I will typically start with the lower impact one,” Hack said, and only uses more traditional products if it’s necessary. Based on these comments, we were inspired to create CleanSource to address community concerns.
How big is the potential market for your idea?
Our potential market expands to American homeowners. Because our app covers all existing cleaning supplies in the United States, anyone that uses these products has the potential to use this app. We know that people that will actually use it are likely health-conscious shoppers and are genuinely concerned about the environment. According to Neilsen’s Global Home Care Report, roughly 26% of global households care if the ingredients to their cleaning supplies are eco-friendly. We hope to target this audience first, and then market to those who don’t consider ingredient information a priority. Finally, because this is an app, we are also targeting users with smartphones.
How is your idea innovative — new or different from something already existing?
CleanSource is innovative because it serves the function of educating as well as offering concrete solutions to mitigate the environmental and health impact of conventional cleaning products. Websites such as Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning and The National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Household Product Database provide information on the toxicity of chemicals, but they do not provide detailed information on their environmental impact. In addition, users must perform additional searches to find healthier products. Overall, CleanSource is more preferable because all the information ranging from toxicity to suggested alternative products is aggregated on one page after a single barcode scan.
CleanSource believes that consumers have a right to know what their products are composed of and wants to end the culture of obscurity in product labeling. We do this by providing a platform for companies who value transparency to sell their products on our app. Through CleanSource, these companies will have the chance to expand their business, which will ensure the continued production of healthier and transparently-manufactured products. Finally, the ads on CleanSource will be sold to companies selling consciously-produced products which will aid consumers in finding products that prioritize sustainability and safety.
How will your idea be financially sustainable?
CleanSource will provide a platform for eco-friendly cleaning product companies to sell their cleaning products to the app’s users. CleanSource will collect 3% of the revenue for all products companies choose to sell through this platform. Moreover, the app will have space for advertisements. CleanSource will sell advertisement space to companies whose products are environmentally friendly and health-conscious. Advertising space is not limited to cleaning products, but rather will include alternatives for food, clothing, household supplies, etc.. For each company that uses the advertisement space, the app will charge them $300 as the initial price for a monthly fee. Once the traffic of the app becomes substantially large and app revenue increases to meet the investment amount, the app will raise the advertisement fee. Also, the app will need promotion at the early stage. Accordingly, we plan to buy some ads to promote our app.
Why are you and your team the right people to develop this project?
Our passion has always been protecting the Earth and population in terms of reducing impact and the use of harsh chemicals. Therefore, we are the right people to be involved in this app because in today’s society, conventional cleaning products do not prioritize mitigating their ecological footprint nor the health of consumers. Furthermore, our team is made of up undergraduates that have educational backgrounds in computer science, environmental sciences, chemistry, and marketing experience. The combination of these skills will ensure the creation of a successful, credible app to increase awareness of cleaning materials and encourage the purchase of superior products.