Green blogger Lori Alper is proof that one person—with the support of more than 78,000—can change the consumer landscape. The Boston area-based founder of Groovy Green Livin introduced her first-ever petition last year to pressure cleaning manufacturer Tide to reformulate Clean & Gentle—the brand’s well-known laundry detergent that has greenwashed American households.

After Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) released Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products?, revealing startling levels of unlabeled carcinogenic chemicals, including 1,4-dioxane in common household cleaning products, Alper spoke out and garnered signatures from thousands—prompting Tide's recent announcement to reduce levels of the chemical in its Clean & Gentle detergent.

"It was easy for people to grasp onto because it was something they could identify with," Alper said. "Tide is in everybody’s cabinet, so that’s why it feels good to have so many people jump on board and help make this happen."

Spreading the word, digitally

In November of 2011, WVE’s study targeted products from Clorox, Lysol, Windex, Glade, and more. Among the worst offenders was Procter & Gamble-owned Tide Free & Gentle, a product that grabbed Alper’s attention because of its wide reach and messaging geared toward families seeking safer options for their children.

"Tide does a great job marketing because they’ve hit most of the homes in America, across socio-economic barriers," Alper said. "The marketing for Tide Free & Gentle is [targeted] toward infants and young children because there’s this assumption that when something is called Free & Gentle, it is free of any substance that could harm a child—or harm anybody."   

Another reason Alper focused on Tide: The company likely had easy access to the resources necessary to reformulate because Procter & Gamble had reduced levels of 1,4-dioxane in its Herbal Essences line in 2010.

Considering these factors, Alper introduced her petition on change.org three months after the WVE study. In less than a year, it received 78,534 signatures. "The change.org platform allows people to bring an issue forward by themselves, and if it gains momentum, it can really make a difference," she said. "It’s really cool how this has really taken a turn that has allowed for a different type of marketing and a different type of reach."

Between her Groovy Green Livin platform, a network of fellow bloggers (green or not), partnerships with nonprofits such as Healthy Child Healthy World, and PR and social media campaigns from change.org, Alper used digital tools to build momentum for her petition and get consumers on board through 2012.

"It went viral because it was easy for people to identify with and say, What? How could this be? It feels wrong," Alper said. Although she started the petition, she adds that those who stepped forward to show their support, anger and unwillingness to settle for this deserve the true thanks.

With the help of a lawsuit filed by Oakland-based nonprofit As You Sow stating that Tide detergents violated California’s Proposition 65 by having too-high levels of 1,4-dioxane without a warning label, Tide announced last month that it would reformulate by September 2013.