SWA(G)K: Sealed with A (Green) Kiss
By Barbara Lerman-Golomb
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, but what about the Green Seal (of approval)? As a consumer you have the right to know that the products you buy and the places where you eat, sleep and work are safe for your health and for the environment. Green Seal is an international not-for-profit that works with companies to develop sustainability standards for their products and services and offers third-party certification for those that meet the criteria. For the consumer, it’s a tool to help you find truly green products. Green Seal began in 1989 ̶ at the time there were no other environmental certification programs in the U.S.
According to the EPA, Green Seal-certified cleaning products reduce the use of hazardous chemicals and natural resources through their concentrated, non-toxic formulas. Green Seal is cited by nearly half the states in the U.S. through legislation and regulatory guidance, more than any other eco-labeling program. Some of the areas Green Seal covers include: cleaning and janitorial products; paper products; personal care products and cosmetics; paints, varnishes and stains; cleaning services and hotels and restaurants. Green Seal was the first program to limit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in colorants added to paint and the first program to prohibit asthma-causing agents in cleaning products.
When it comes to cleaning products, there’s long been a misconception that in order for a product to be an effective cleaner, it needs to be chemically-based with a chemical odor or fragrances masking odors. But given the new products, technologies, and processes that are available today, it’s possible to perform highly effective cleaning that removes harmful microorganisms, infectious agents, allergens, and other deleterious substances in an environmentally benign manner.
I’ve always felt that eliminating chemical cleaners from the environment is critical to our health and the health of the planet. We use non-toxic alternative cleaners in our home. When our synagogue was doing a renovation, I encouraged the building committee to purchase non-toxic carpeting, particularly for the preschool to avoid off-gassing (the emission of VOCs). When my children were younger, I brought information about “cleaning for health” to our school administrators and to our synagogue, citing that exposure to toxic cleaners are not only unhealthy for people using the building, but even more so for the cleaning staff who administer the products and have to breathe in the toxins day in and day out — a form of worker injustice.
There are now 22 states that have adopted a green cleaning procurement policy of one type or another. Over the past few years, some states have focused on the implementation of green cleaning in K-12 schools primarily because of the vulnerable population—children—that these institutions house on a daily basis. Ten states plus the District of Columbia require or encourage schools to adopt green cleaning programs. Each year on April 8th, National Healthy Schools Day, Green Seal joins the Healthy Schools Network, Clean Air Moms, and many others to promote greener K-12 schools. You can learn more on this topic by exploring the new Report: Towards Healthy Schools 2015 and the Healthy Purchasing for Healthy Schools Guide.
Visit www.greenseal.org to find retailers selling Green Seal certified products or if you don’t see the Green Seal on your favorite products, contact the companies and introduce them to Green Seal, or if you have a product-based business, learn how to green your product line.
Reducing toxins in your home and work environment are a significant way to promote a healthier lifestyle and to reduce your environmental footprint on Earth Day and Every Day!
Barbara Lerman-Golomb is a member of the Commission on Social Action, a Friend of URJ Eisner and Crane Lake Camps and is on the Advisory Board of Green Seal. Barbara is an author, activist, and experiential educator and oversees JCC Grows, a community garden/food justice program; she is a former director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) and originated the climate change campaign, “How Many Jews Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?” Barbara lives in Brooklyn with her family. Read more on her blog, A Life in Many Small Parts.