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Module 1: What the commercials don’t tell you PDF Print E-mail

Understanding the role of advertising and marketing in household chemical purchasing

Application – This module is designed to raise learners’ awareness about the issues associated with marketing of chemicals and how these affect our choice and use of chemical consumer products.

Learning Outcomes

After this session, learners will:

  1. Appreciate and reflect on workshop participants’ knowledge and awareness of hazardous household chemicals
  2. Understand the marketing messages used by chemical manufacturers to encourage the use of chemical consumer products
  3. Understand the barriers to reducing and eliminating hazardous chemicals in the home
  4. Develop and commit to at least one goal for reducing hazardous chemicals in their home. 

Learning outcome 1.1

Appreciate and reflect on workshop participants’ knowledge and awareness of hazardous household chemicals.


Everyone takes a different approach to the use of chemicals in the home. Many people within the community already have an extremely high knowledge and skill base about the chemicals they use or choose not to use in their homes. In sharing participants’ knowledge and awareness of hazardous chemicals, everyone in the group can develop an appreciation of the different motivations for what types of chemical consumer products people purchase, and how and why they use chemicals in the home.

Did you know?

  • TEC conducted a survey of 300 people across NSW and found that, on average, people reported using 11-30 different chemical consumer products in and around the home.
  • The top three considerations when purchasing chemical consumer products were reported to be: product ingredients followed by availability and cost.
  • There has been no specific research conducted on the types and amounts of chemicals found in the typical Australian household. However the following research conducted in Denmark (E.H. Eriksson (2002), “Potential and problems related to reuse of water in households”, PhD thesis), identified 92 different household chemical products with 290 different chemical constituents appearing in household wastewater. 


Activity 1.1 a): Ask the participants to think about all of the household chemical consumer products they have used over the last 24 hours. Prompt them by listing all of the rooms in the house: laundry, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, garage, shed, lounge room. Ask them to write these down on the butchers paper provided.

Activity 1.1 b): Using the A3 home floor plan, ask the participants to identify which types of chemicals they would use in each the room.


Resource 1.1 b): A3 home floor plan including bathroom, kitchen, laundry, bedroom, living room and home office.

Find out more

An excellent resource for reviewing all of the chemicals found in the home is and then follow the link to HealtheHouse. The site allows you to scroll through a house and click on particular products in each room. It then provides you with information about the chemical, its potential hazards and possible alternatives.

The A-Z of chemicals on the Safer Solutions website has information on the environmental and health impacts of common household chemicals and their safer alternatives.

Learning outcome 1.2

Understand the marketing messages used by chemical manufacturers to encourage the use of chemical consumer products.


We are constantly bombarded with marketing and advertising messages. The chemical industry is one of the largest industries in the world and spends a lot of time, money and effort encouraging us to use their products.

Marketing and advertising play a central role in the selection and use of chemicals in the home. Understanding the responses that the advertisements are trying to evoke will allow participants to develop a better appreciation of their chemical usage within their homes.

The key messages that are commonly used in marketing messages to promote home chemicals include:

  • Each chemical has a specific use and therefore numerous chemicals are required to clean the home
  • Potential for contamination by bacteria and viruses and
  • Home invasion by pests (particularly insects)

Did you know?

The Australian Chemical Industry had a turnover of $18.2 billion in 1998/99 (Reference: Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association 

  • In 1996-7, Australians spent:


Activity 1.2 a): Ask the group to recall some recent advertisements of household chemicals (for e.g. cleaners, pest control) and discuss their attitudes towards these chemical advertisements. Ask them to reflect on the following questions:

  1. How do they make you feel?
  2. Do you trust them?
  3. What are they trying to sell you – a product or a lifestyle?

Activity 1.2 b): Look at the advertisements provided in the resource and discuss what these messages are and how they are used to influence the public’s attitude towards maintaining and managing their home. Keep a record of the key themes that the participants regard as having the greatest impact on the selection and use of chemicals in the home. Record these on butcher’s paper.


Resource 1.2 b): 3 A4 laminated copies of Domestos, Louie the Fly and Mr. Clean print and website advertisements. See our download centre for samples you can print

Learning outcome 1.3

Understand the barriers to reducing and eliminating hazardous chemicals in the home.


Recognizing the constraints and barriers that prevent us from changing our behaviour is an important process in developing awareness about sustainability.

Did you know?

  • TEC surveyed 300 people in NSW and found that the top three motivations reported for using natural alternatives to chemical cleaners are: to save money followed by concern about chemical load and reducing contamination of environment.
  • The top three barriers to using natural alternatives to chemical cleaners were: not aware of how to use them; don’t work as efficiently; not available at the supermarket.


Activity 1.3 a): Discuss with the group what barriers they encounter in developing a more sustainable lifestyle around chemical usage in and around their homes. Common issues that you may discuss include: lack of time, cost of alternative products, lack of trust in what and how the product is labeled. Try and capture the main constraints discussed by writing them down on paper and then placing them up on the wall or somewhere where the group can reflect on them.

Learning outcome 1.4

Develop and commit to at least one goal for reducing hazardous chemicals in the home.


A vital ingredient in successful behaviour change is asking participants to make a commitment to change.


Activity 1.4: Facilitate the group discussion towards what would help them to commit to making changes to reduce hazardous chemical use in and around the home. Invite participants to sign the Safer Solutions Certificate of Commitment. (Note: this should be a voluntary commitment given freely by the participant).

Resource: 1.4: Certificate of commitment towards keeping your home healthy and green.

Find out more

Community-based social marketing (CBSM) is a practice used to identify the barriers that prevent the community from changing their behaviours. CBSM practitioners believe that changes in awareness and knowledge on environmental issues are only the beginning of the process and that behavioural change should be the final goal for all environmental education programs. Detailed information about CBSM.

An environmental education program conducted in Western Australia found that asking participants to sign declarations of their intent to move towards sustainability increased the participant’s likelihood to modify their behaviour –

Goal setting is a source of motivation that regulates behaviour and enhances performance. It has been demonstrated as a successful behaviour change technique across a multitude of disciplines however it has rarely been used in environmental education programs. One exception is the community environmental education program Living Smart.

Part 3 – Resources and handouts

1.4: Barrier/Motivation Inventory: Reducing pesticide use in lawn care 

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Workshop Resources

Workshop checklist
A3 Home Floor Plan
Domestos Ad
Louie the Fly & Friends
Mr Clean picture
Chlorpyrifos label
Domestos and Homebrand Caustic Oven Cleaner
A3 poster, Know where it Goes
IPM Risk Ladder
A4 picture of ladder

...more resources