Clean team: the young entrepreneurs set to mop up the eco-market


That Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan should receive a Valentine's Day card is not surprising. Both in their thirties, they are brainy, clean-cut, all-American business types. That the card should be made of cut-up packaging is unusual. But that it should express love for their range of household cleaning products is plain off the wall. And yet this is not unusual: Method, Lowry and Ryan's eco-friendly brand of floor polishes, disinfectants, leather cloths and other friendly cleaners, which is now being rolled out across Britain seems to attract fanatical followers.

Indeed, in taking a stance in an industry that has done its best to ignore the need for green alternatives to the toxic chemicals with which we routinely douse our homes, Lowry and Ryan have made products associated with chores hip and desirable. Their safe liquids, sprays and gels come in the kind of sculptural, minimalist packaging that appeals to the iPod generation. And they are as new wave in their business practices – using solar energy, supporting workers' rights and fair wages – as their products. They are the Ben and Jerry of the toilet bowl – with a loo cleaner made from lactic acid, wipes made from sustainable bamboo and packaged in the world's first fully recyclable film pouch, and a mop made from recyclable, plastic they were told was impossible to manufacture.

"A lot of customers buy our products because they look cool. But the reason why most of them stay loyal is because they're green," reckons Ryan, a former advertising executive who speaks of Method being "an organisation of fun", whose employees gather for a "Monday huddle" to crack jokes and talk business.

Their beliefs are not, however, something the duo have been keen to bludgeon customers with. The greenness of the products is only passingly mentioned on their packaging, though it is explained on their website. Rather, touches of humour aim to provoke thought: "Does your home have a chemical dependency?" asks one tag-line; "You may not know what your bathroom tiles taste like, but your kid does," states another.

In many ways, their range's designer aesthetic is a cynical one, an admission that few people are likely to be converted to using green cleaning products on eco-credentials alone: stylish design is a Trojan horse to get into the homes of people more concerned that detergents and cleansers should smell nice or match the cupboards. But the strategy is working. In 2005, Method recorded sales of $15m (£7.7m). Last year they were nearly $100m. "When you're David against Goliath, the likes of giant companies such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble with endless dollars to spend, you're never going to win playing their game," says Lowry, a former chemical engineer and climate scientist who worked on the Kyoto Protocol and whose business title is now chief greenskeeper (Ryan's is ripplemaker). "You have to redefine the game."

That said, their beliefs have had to be strong even to get their brand this far. First, there were factories to persuade. "Normally, they solicit a brand for business, but we had to make the sales pitch to them: I'd walk in, tell them we had no money to buy shelf space in stores, show them a rendering of a funky bottle that's hard to make and tell them we wanted to fill it with a substance others were convinced could not be made. Oh, and that we didn't expect to sell much," says Lowry.

Resistance from manufacturers was followed by doubt from retailers. According to Lowry, with sales of household cleaning products in decline, the market offering nothing distinctive and the major manufacturers squeezing retail profit, interest in anything new, green or not, has been at an all-time low.

John Lewis was the first UK retailer to take on Method, and it's now sold in Waitrose, Boots, some Sainsbury's, Co-op and Tesco stores, as well as many independent shops. Finally, consumers have had to be lured into a new way of thinking. "There is still this misconception that "green isn't clean", that such products don't work," explains Ryan. "A lot of that comes from the big companies who are constantly drumming on about 'new and improved', that they deliver superior cleaning power," he says. "And we grew up with a lot of these old brands, so we don't look at that as evil, as they potentially are – there are chemicals in those products that really shouldn't be there. Ours is a simple mission: a happy, healthy home."

Thanks to their success in the US, they may not be alone on that mission for long. Lowry and Ryan suggest that it is, in part, convention that has stopped major players from tackling the green market. But there are also, they add, philosophical barriers. "There has been apathy, a lot of saying 'green cleaning products can't be made' or sitting on the sidelines asking, 'is this green thing going away, or is it going to stick around?'," says Lowry. "It shows these companies have no spine in having a clear point of view people can buy into. We don't want to wait to see if green thinking becomes the norm – we want to make it happen. Now those giant companies are realising there is a market for green products, they're going to try to out-Method Method."

That, potentially, is good for the planet. It proves a big problem for Method. But the duo draw a parallel between their company and Apple, which keeps being imitated but is always innovating to stay ahead. Method has new products in the pipeline, among them a concentrated laundry detergent it promises will be revolutionary, as well as moves into personal care, including new baby and kids' lines – all while pioneering new and, of course, chic bio-packaging. There's also a book, Squeaky Clean, a guide to detoxing your home.

"They're a way to bring delight into drudgery," says Lowry of their products. "And they're green. But all cleaning products should be."

Be a greener cleaner


*Chemical air fresheners, aerosols and phosphates, Triclosan (an anti-bacterial in some deodorants) and alkylphenols (hormone disruptors in some detergents).

*Mercury, found in some chlorine bleaches can cause nerve damage.

*Artificial musks or any heavily-scented cleaning products.

*Volatile organic compounds found in some cleaners.

Use instead...

*Lemon juice – it bleaches, deodorises and kills bacteria. Mix one part juice with three parts water to clean worktops.

Salt and lemon juice bring a shine to copper and brass

nVinegar – with water to clean surfaces and windows. Scrub stains with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Use vinegar neat for limescale.

*Use bicarbonate of soda on carpets stains and to clean ovens and sinks.

Suggested Topics
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn