Going green at the office means more than simply buying a few pot plants or recycling paper. Potentially toxic pollutants are in seemingly innocuous products such as the dishwashing liquid or the air freshener found in most businesses. A scan of the ingredients on the label of most cleaning products reads like a chemistry formula – because it is. Our employees are protected from inhaling tobacco smoke and other harmful substances because of health and safety regulations but cleaning products are not regulated.
Why should this be a consideration for small business owners? Converting to green cleaning methods will save you money, help reduce absenteeism and hey, you get to do your bit for our planet! Here are a few statistics to persuade you that I’m not just a tree hugger:
“since 1950, at least 70,000 new chemical compounds have been invented and dispersed into our environment” and only a small portion of these chemicals have been tested for toxicity to humans 1*
1 out of every 3 chemical cleaning products contains ingredients known to cause human health or environmental problems. 2*
According to Statistics SA, the South African economy loses up to R16 billion every year due to absenteeism and the World Health Organisation announced that respiratory symptoms are among the major causes of consultation at primary health care centres. 3*
It is a moral responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for our employees, but it is a greater social responsibility to reduce our impact on the environment. Customers are becoming increasingly discerning when it comes to choosing service providers who actively commit to environmentally friendly practices. Likewise, employees are seeking to be associated with organizations of which they can be proud. Embracing green cleaning practices is a simple, but effective first step if we wish to tread a little lighter on this world.
Respiratory illnesses are on the increase worldwide. The ingredients of most commercially available cleaning products contain chemicals like phthalates, formaldehyde, and “chemical surfactants” which are associated with respiratory illnesses and allergies. Replacing these products with green options or simply making your own cheap and effective cleaning solutions make sense and cents. A change in mindsets and behaviour is needed, but the payoff is significant.
A few tips to green cleaning:
1. Where possible, purchase eco-friendly cleaning products. Sadly, they are not all made equal, but it is a good start.
2. Keep and thoroughly clean your old commercial cleaning bottles to use for DIY solutions, then stock up on the following ingredients:
White vinegar – natural cleaner and disinfectant; especially great for shiny surfaces and windows.
Bicarb of soda – bubbles wonderfully with lemon or vinegar for some extra oomph, natural scrubber. Sprinkle on floors or surfaces to deodorise and discourage insects.
Lemon juice – natural disinfectant, cuts through grease with ease and an air-freshener. Bottled is fine!
Borax – Borax is commonly used as a deodoriser as well as for cleaning toilets and drains. Natural Insecticide.
Hydrogen peroxide – natural bleach and diluted to 3% it is safe to use generally. Use it to clean countertops, cutting boards, and bathrooms; it is very effective in clearing up mould. Add it to a spray bottle and use it where needed.
Tea tree essential oil – natural anti-septic and cleaner, great for bathrooms and kitchens. Dilute with water, spray onto a damp cloth and use to clean screens, cell phones, and other high-touch areas.
Olive oil – picks up dirt and naturally polishes wood.
Salt – a natural antiseptic and a scrubbing agent.
For an all-purpose cleaner, mix 1 part vinegar to 1 part lemon juice and 1 part water into a spray bottle. Shake and use. The slight vinegar smell fades and you can always add more lemon to benefit from that lovely citrus freshness.
3. Invest in a few humidifiers or burners and use essential oils (tea tree, lavender, peppermint, lemon or orange) to naturally freshen and clean the air.
4. Buy a few plants! They are nature’s own air filters and do improve air quality as well as appealing to our need for beautification. Aloe Vera, Gerbera Daisy, The Peace Lily, Spider Plants, and Rubber plants are all known to be good air purifiers.
Key take out: Embrace the green clean movement and watch your employees’ health and your petty cash improve!
Author: Janet Askew
Janet is a trainer, coach, speaker and writer who is passionate about promoting women in business and SMME development. In addition to her consulting work, she is a director of Essentially Natural and serves on the board of the Wot-If? Trust.
1 [Source: Herbert L. Needleman, M.D., Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., Raising Children Toxic Free]2 http://govpro.com/green/gov_imp_27827/index.html3 http://www.who.int/gard/publications/chronic_respiratory_diseases.pdf