Clean without hurting the environment

By Haley M. Walker |
Photo illustration by Hahau Yisrael

Student Mallory McCagg recently began cleaning locals’ houses in her spare time. She does it not only to earn money, but for the benefit of the world.

McCagg owns Squeaky Green Cleaning, a business specializing in the national trend of “green cleaning.” According to the Green Cleaning Network, the process can be defined as a way to clean by using natural alternatives to chemically based products and other sustainable supplies and equipment.

According to the EPA, chemicals commonly found in cleaning products, when exposed to the air, water, and land, can have adverse effects on the environment and its inhabitants.

“I’ve always had an urgent sense of responsibility toward ensuring I do everything I can to minimize my environmental footprint,” McCagg said.

Naorah Lockhart, owner of Planet Clean, said she has seen the “green revolution” continue to grow locally.

“I try to imagine the profile of our customer, but it is totally different every time,” Lockhart said.

“It could be a young professional or 80-year-old retirement folk.” Planet Clean currently has 30 regular clients.

According to Lockhart, green cleaning has recently become a part of many people’s lives today for a number of reasons. She described how she has many clients who want to be environmentally conscious but there are also those who participate for health and safety reasons. “We work with a lot of families with babies and pets, and we have a lot of people with allergies,” Lockhart said.

Volatile organic compounds are some of the most common products emitted as gases into the air from household products such as wood furnishings, pesticides, paints, and cleaning products.
EPA studies have found organic compounds to be two to five times higher indoors than outdoors.

The concentration of these chemicals is believed to be linked to headaches, skin reactions, liver damage, throat irritation, fatigue, allergic reactions, and in severe cases cancer, according to the agency.

Lockhart noted that many green cleaning companies use new vacuum cleaners with High Efficiency Particulate Air, HEPA filters, designed to remove these compounds from the air.

The EPA also recently released information on the effects cleaning chemicals can have after landing in landfills or bodies of water. According to the EPA’s public guide on environmental purchases, alkylphenol ethoxylates, a chemical found in many detergents has been noted as causing serious effects on the reproductive systems of wildlife that come in contact with it through polluted areas.

“I think one of the things we have learned in this modern age is how small the world is and how one thing really affects another,” Elaine Quinn, owner of The Green Cleaning Lady, said. “It is about the health of the planet because the healthier the planet, the healthier its creatures.”

Some natural ingredients used frequently for natural cleaning products include coconut oil, soy, vinegar, lemon juice, natural essential oils, and living enzymes used to break down elements such as mold.

Robin Wartz, a local artist, said she understands the theory behind green cleaning but doesn’t think that the natural products will be as effective. “Nothing is better than bleach,” Wartz said.

“There is no way that coconut kills more than Clorox.”

McCagg said she believes it is important to not only use natural cleansers, but to also encompass as many green processes as possible. She cleans with re-usable plastic spray bottles made from corn, as well as recycles everything she uses after the processes.

Local green cleaning businesses say they have continued to see an increase in their customers and many have been receptive to their services and the purpose behind them.

“We as consumers have a choice when we buy anything, and when people choose my services over that of a conventional cleaning agency, we are saying that not only do we support the ‘green’ sector, but we demand it,” McCagg said.

“I hope to contribute a little part of my whole self to this endeavor and to St. Augustine, the town that has graciously been my home in the process.”

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