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Green Cleaning, Ever Evolving

BLOG-GREEN CLEANERSOver the past few decades green cleaning has become much more than many people had expected. Once viewed as nothing more than passing fad or even a joke, green cleaning has evolved into a major movement that is continuously improving our way of life, health, and the environment. From households to large businesses, “going green” has become the norm. In this article from Services, they discuss the evolution of green cleaning, from where it began, to where it is now and where it is going.

The Evolution of Green Cleaning

When the concept of green cleaning began to gain momentum in the 1990s, many people considered it to be a joke. Its proponents were part of a larger cultural wave that sought to curb the hedonistic consumerism of the 1980s with a shift towards more environmentally-conscious consumption. You may recall that the ‘90s is when we saw an increased interest in things like recyclable packaging, natural foods, preserving the rainforests, and protecting endangered species. This is not to say that there wasn’t an interest in health and environmental issues prior to this time, but as the new millennium approached, there was a heightened awareness of the fragility of the environment and a widespread sense that society as a whole needed to take action before it was “too late.” Environmental statistics predicted dire consequences that would befall our planet if we didn’t heed their warnings and continued our destructive habits.




The “green” cleaning products developed in response to this environmental call-to-arms were full of more idealism than efficacy. They didn’t clean well, and their claims of being green were essentially meaningless, since EPA guidelines were notoriously lax. These products were disregarded within the cleaning industry because they simply weren’t effective. Green cleaning was a wellintentioned fad among consumers that companies used as a marketing ploy for their benefit. For many of us, our view of green products and practices is still tainted by this early disillusionment, and we have never fully taken the green cleaning movement seriously since then. Sure, we may support certain practices or products but I believe that, on the whole, we’ve held back from giving the green cleaning movement our full vote of confidence. More importantly, we have not seen evidence that our consumers are taking it seriously. It is marketable, but only to a limited few. Though this caution was certainly justified a decade ago, the green cleaning movement has evolved so far since then that we cannot afford to ignore or belittle it anymore. What has given the green cleaning and the green movement as a whole such staying power?


The Facts of Life


There was a time when people consumed products that were marketed to them without much thought. People assumed that the products they bought were safe. People drank soda, microwaved their food, and bought produce covered in pesticides without much knowledge or care of any negative side effects. This has all changed in recent years as health concerns, such as increasing rates of diabetes, cancer, food allergies, and the like have forced even the most un-“health conscious” among us to reexamine our American lifestyle. People now want to know about the origins of the products they use and consume, and there is a marked difference in their attitude. We have become active, not passive, consumers asking questions they never would’ve thought to ask 10 years ago: “What are all those unpronounceable ingredients listed on this food label?” Ignorance is no longer bliss.


Cleaning and Health


In terms of our industry, one of the most common health concerns are cleaning products and possible links to cancer. Organizations like the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of California estimate that one in six people will develop some form of cancer within their lifetime. These numbers are likely to continue to rise just as they have over the past 20 years. Though there are many factors that contribute to the growing number of cancer diagnoses—improved means of detection, longer life spans, more awareness, etc—the cancers being diagnosed are increasingly associated with environmental toxins (i.e. contaminants in our environment that are harmful to our health). Increasing cancer rates, especially among younger generations, have made consumers wary of the chemicals used around them on a daily basis. Cleaning products are an obvious target for scrutiny, since they comprise some of the most toxic chemicals in any household.


Clean Break


With this heightened awareness of the negative effects of chemicals, consumers are turning their eye to green cleaning as a means to safeguard their health. Within the cleaning industry, many of us are already aware that green cleaning is just as much about using alternative processes as it is about products. Practices, such as team cleaning and recycling, help reduce electricity, water use, and the amount of trash sent to landfills.


While consumers are certainly concerned with environmental health and sustainability, the real momentum behind the rise of green cleaning is rooted in a concern for personal health. People want to know that they aren’t going to be harmed by the chemicals used to clean the buildings they inhabit eight hours per day. If you haven’t had customers cross-question you about the chemicals you use, you will—it’s only a matter of time. There is large movement towards “detoxifying” life on every level. The food industry has thus far borne the brunt of this focus. (In the recent election, for example, California had a proposition on the ballot to require food manufacturers to list all genetically modified ingredients.) Similarly, the spotlight will also continue to intensify on the cleaning industry and its product manufacturers.


Cleaning chemical manufacturers already disclose their product ingredients on material safety data sheets, but this is no longer enough. No customer wants to comb through these tedious documents. What they want from you, and what they will increasingly pressure you to give, is a commitment to using health-conscious products and practices. They want you to assure them that the cleaning agents you use are as natural as possible. If you aren’t able to do this, some of your customers will undoubtedly switch to a company that can. The key to providing exceptional service is the ability to anticipate your customers’ needs before they themselves are fully aware of them. This societal shift is obvious enough that its inevitable impact on the janitorial industry should come as no surprise.


No Excuses

Even without consumer pressure, green cleaning is making more and more sense. Many green products work just as well as their toxic counterparts, not to mention the fact that an established green cleaning program is a prerequisite for LEED certification. Legitimate reasons for resisting green cleaning are steadily dwindling. Some trends within society come and go, while others have enough momentum to permanently alter the cultural landscape. Green cleaning is part of a larger focus on health that is reshaping our society, our lifestyles, and our business.


Safe Ice Melt: Fact or Fiction?

It’s that time of year and Martyn Church of Eco Snow Removal has graciously offered to be a guest blogger and provide insight into whether or not ice melt can be used safely around our children, pets and landscaping.

The snow season is upon us and we’re looking for a safe product to melt the ice on our North facing sidewalks and driveways.  We don’t want to harm our children and pets, nor kill our plants, and as we walk down the aisles of the store, we’re bombarded with tons of seemingly good choices.   The beautiful packaging on these ice melt products show children sledding and dogs prancing.  They’re labeled with phrases such as “Salt Free,”  “Pet Friendly,” and “Safe for the Environment.”  Can we trust them?

I cannot speak for every product out there, but what I can say is that at this moment in time, unlike the food industry, the ice melt industry has no FDA-like regulations regarding honesty in statements on packaging. Translation…We cannot trust the pictures and words on the labels!

A few examples that I have seen include one package that said:  “No Salt” on the front label, and yet just under the name of the product, it said “MAG CHLORIDE.”  Now I don’t know what their chemistry teacher told them, but according to the science books in our libraries, Mag Chloride is indeed, SALT.  A more accurate label might have been “No Table Salt.”  Some packages say “Pet Safe,” but then we look at the contents on the back (if we’re lucky enough to find them there) and read that they’re exactly the same as the regular brand.

There are products out there that are truly salt-free.  However, they tend to be much less efficient at melting snow and ice.  With these products, the very problem we were trying to avoid may still occur.  In an attempt to make them work better, we’ll end up using twice as much.  This over application can still be harmful to plant life, concrete and pets.

Some advice for everyone…First and foremost, if you don’t need to use ice melt, then don’t!  Let the wonderful sun do its magic!  If on the other hand, you do have some shady areas where only ice melt will do the trick, then buy the ice melt products that are at least labeled with details.  If the package does not clearly display the contents, then put it down and find one that does. Try to buy a blended product with a mixture of salts and corrosion inhibitors.  If it has something called CMA (calcium magnesium acetate), that is good.  See if it has at least 20% CMA.  You might pay a premium for these, but a little goes a long way and you’ll be better off in the long run.

One more thing…If you chose to use ice melt, apply it at the application rate found in the directions. This may not seem like a lot at the time of application, but will most likely be enough to do the job. A big mistake many people make is thinking that the more you put down, the faster it will work.   Don’t do it!!  Not only does this slow the melting process, it will most likely leave ice melt residue behind.  So just apply the recommended amount and let the product do its work.

Thank you for reading this post and I hope it has helped you in keeping your property and your loved ones safe for the winter season.

Let It Snow.

Eco Snow Removal Owner, Martyn Church, is one of only seven Certified Snow Professionals in Colorado. He is considered by SIMA, the National Snow and Ice Management Association, to be an expert in the industry. Martyn recognizes the importance of reliable, top-notch service, and is committed to maintaining the highest level of knowledge and training for himself and his team of “Snow Fighters.”

Eco Snow Removal is committed to providing snow and ice management services with minimal impact on the environment. Fueling their vehicles with recycled vegetable oil and bio-diesel, utilizing polyurethane plow blades and specialized ice melt products, are a few of the many ways in which the company works to maintain environmentally friendly practices.



Understanding Eco Friendly Labeling

An interesting article from Fast Company. Certainly a step in the right direction to avoid confusion / green washing.……….

Visualizing Regulations To Prevent You From Being Snookered By Greenwashing

BY Morgan ClendanielFri Sep 2, 2011

It’s hard to know what products mean when they say they are “environmentally friendly” or “fully compostable,” but there are rules about what companies can and can’t claim about their products.

With consumers becoming more and more focused on the planet-friendly bona fides of their products, companies today can’t help but give the people what they want: products that tout their sustainability, recyclability, and general cleanliness. But this is capitalism, so wherever the market can bear, you expect to see companies also trying to cut corners and get the credit for making progress that they haven’t actually made. What’s a person to do to avoid this greenwashing?

To avoid some of this confusion, the government is trying to help, with the FTC issuing rules about what claims companies can and can’t make about their products. This infographic, made by Column Five for Ethical Ocean, shows some of what goes into defining government regulations, and how those claims are affecting consumers.

In effect, companies can’t claim their product doesn’t do things it can’t. Seems simple, but in the world of sustainability, it becomes more difficult. The rules state that products can’t be said to be biodegradable unless they biodegrade in less than a year and can’t be compostable unless they will break down in your own home composting pile. You can imagine some products that will break down “eventually” labeled biodegradable, or items that compost in only industrial composting settings sitting sadly in people’s backyards.

The best way to make sure claims are substantiated is to look for the labels of organizations and government programs that accredit products. Here is a good sampling of things to look for:

Products with the imprimatur of these organizations are probably living up to the claims that they make on their packaging. If you don’t see a label, it’s harder to be sure.

How are these regulations affecting our lifestyle? Every year, the National Geographic Society and Globescan conduct a survey that ranks countries by the “environmental impact of their consumption patterns.” The United States comes in dead last:

There are some caveats: It’s easier to have less impact in your consumption if you’re not consuming at all, and developing countries like India and Brazil have millions of people living far below the poverty line, whose consumption patterns aren’t comparable to ours (though, in the end, that may be the better option). Either way, while we’re labeling and regulating our products’ environmental claims, we’re not actually buying them.

Here is the full infographic:

Article Source: Fast Company