“Organic” Green Washing in Dry Cleaning How to fight misleading competitor claims
Consumer Alert Dry cleaning Services Misleadingly Branded as Natural and Organic
eware of dry cleaners making claims about dry cleaning your clothes using “organic” or “natural” methods. Marketing claims for dry cleaning are not regulated like food claims. The National Cleaners Association, a dry cleaning industry trade group, says some operators are using these terms in blatantly misleading ways.
What is organic dry cleaning? When a food product has an FDA-regulated “organic” label, consumers can trust that no harmful chemicals were used in its manufacture. But “organic” means something very different when it describes the chemicals used in dry cleaning.
by the EPA as VOCs (volatile organic compounds), they are likely contributors to smog formation. They are also listed by the EPA as neurotoxins and skin and eye irritants for workers.
Environmentally safe dry cleaning methods 9
CO2 Cleaning. Converts CO2 gas under extremely high pressure to a liquid. Avoid CO2 cleaners using Solvair systems, which use glycol-ether during the wash cycle. Glycol-ethers are a family of VOC chemicals used in antifreeze and household cleaning products.
GreenEarth. Uses liquid silicone, essentially liquefied sand. Clear, odor-less and non-toxic, silicone degrades to sand and trace amounts of water and CO2 when released to the environment. Excellent fabricare benefits.
Professional Wet Cleaning. Uses water like home washing machines. Be sure to inquire if 100% of dry cleaning uses this method and whether detergents and pre-spotting agents have toxic or VOC properties. Wet cleaning machines drain directly into the city water system.
In dry cleaning, “organic” only means that the chemicals used to clean clothes are structured on a chain of carbon, the element found in all organic compounds. Gasoline is organic, and so are most of the petrochemical solvents used by the dry cleaning industry for the last 150 years. Dry cleaners marketing “organic” cleaning methods are technically accurate but socially irresponsible. They are counting on you not to understand the difference between a chemical-free “organic” peach and a petroleum-based “organic” dry cleaning chemical.
The dangers of “organic” cleaning methods If your cleaner claims to be using “organic” methods to clean your clothes, they are using either perchloroethylene, also known as PCE or perc, or petroleum (hydrocarbon) solvent, often marketed under the brand names DF2000 or EcoSolv. Perc is considered by the EPA to be an air and water toxin and dangerous to human health. Exposure can lead to increased risk of cancer, reduced fertility and eye, nose and throat irritation. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that 85% of dry cleaners still use this 1940’s era solvent. Many dry cleaners also use hydrocarbon solvents. According to Judith S. Schreiber, chief scientist for the New York State attorney general’s Environmental Protection Bureau, hydrocarbons are “a cleaned up version of gasoline” and only slightly less toxic than perc. Hydrocarbon solvents are classified
Caution about Certified Environmental Dry Cleaners Any dry cleaner, even a perc cleaner, can hang up a “Certified Environmental Dry Cleaner’ sign if they pass a test certifying they have the knowledge and ability to maintain their facility in an environmentally responsible way. Do not rely on signs in the window. Ask your dry cleaner to tell you exactly what process is being used.
More information www.findco2.com www.greenearthcleaning.com www.professionalwetcleaning.com
Don’t be Green Washed! Lots of dry cleaners today market themselves as environmentally friendly. Beware! They may not be as “green” as they want you to think. Many dry cleaners market themselves as green or “organic” when in fact they are using petroleum-based solvents. Scientifically, petroleum based solvents are indeed organic, but so is gasoline. That’s because the term “organic” means something very different when it describes chemicals. Any chemical with a carbon backbone is technically an “organic” chemical. There are two main “organic” chemical dry cleaning solvents: perchloroethylene, or perc, and hydrocarbon. Eighty five percent of dry-cleaners use perc; it has been the industry’s standard solvent since the 1950’s. California recently instituted a ban of perchloroethylene dry cleaning because it poses serious health, air and groundwater safety concerns. The EPA classifies perc as a likely human carcinogen and has just announced its intention to impose stricter drinking water standards to protect consumers from the dangers of groundwater contaminated by perc. Some dry cleaners use hydrocarbon solvents, often marketed under the brand name DF2000. Hydrocarbon solvents are a step in the right direction away from perc and they are non-toxic, however the EPA classifies them as a VOC (volatile organic compound) and a likely contributor to smog formation. Like perc, hydrocarbon would require a costly environmental clean up if spilled. To call either perc or hydrocarbon “green” is purposefully misleading. GreenEarth Cleaning is the one of the only dry cleaning alternatives that is truly 100% environmentally friendly. Instead of petro-chemicals, the GreenEarth Cleaning process uses pure liquid silicone and has no harmful environmental effects. Silicone is also very safe for people. It’s so gentle you could rub it on your skin—in fact, you probably already do, since silicone is also the base ingredient used in the majority of shampoos, body lotions, and other personal care products. Silicone is essentially liquefied sand. When released to the environment, it returns to the three natural elements it is made from: sand and trace amounts of water and carbon dioxide. GreenEarth’ gentle cleaning method isn’t just good for the earth and for people; it’s also good for clothes. Colors stay bright without fading and whites won’t fade, even with repeated washings; fabrics feel wonderfully soft and smooth. Best of all, GreenEarth is good for the nose, because it is 100% odor free—no hazardous chemicals mean no more unpleasant “dry cleaning” odor. Don’t be Green Washed! When you see cleaners advertising “environmentally friendly”, ask them what process they are using. If it isn’t GreenEarth Cleaning, it probably isn’t truly green. Not sure what process your cleaner uses? Do the “Sniff test”—if the store or your clothes have any odor at all, they’re using petrochemicals!
THE MARKET POSITIONING OF GREENEARTH TRUTH, FICTION, GREEN WASHING OR GREEN CLEANING! Over the past few years, a great deal has been written in the popular press about “green washing”, a term used for attributing positive environmental properties to products or services that are not actually better for the environment. And, of course, concern about the environment includes concern about the health and safety aspects involved as well. It is a fact in our fabric cleaning industry that all of our cleaning processes for both dry cleaning and laundry use a solvent of one type or another. These solvents include water, liquid CO2, hydrocarbon, glycol ether, perchloroethylene and liquid silicone. All are used in conjunction with various spotting chemicals and detergents and most of the dry cleaning processes are conducted in closed loop systems. Thus, from an operational point of view, the environmental friendliness of all of the solvents partially depends upon the “greenness” of the chemical additives being used, the “tightness” of the closed loop systems being utilized, and the procedures that are followed during cleaning. It can be argued that these factors can be normalized and therefore can be assumed to be equal among all of the solvents. As a result, it can be argued that the solvent itself is the determining factor as to how “green” the cleaning process is. And while some would examine the chemical characteristics of the solvent in its “stand alone” state, others would claim that the chemical needs to be considered in the context of the real world application as it is actually used. In either instance, we at GreenEarth would argue that all substances, both man‐made and naturally occurring, are toxic at some level of exposure. Too much aspirin, or sugar, or water can be toxic. For dosages determine toxicity. As it turns out, the much publicized bioassay testing of liquid silicone actually provides a measure of proof that this solvent is in reality the greenest of the chemicals being used as a dry cleaning solvent. For that bioassay testing was conducted over a period of two years using Fisher rats as the test animals. These animals were exposed to an atmosphere of saturated liquid silicone (160 ppm). Five of the sixty female animals developed precancerous indicators. None died. Contrast those results with what can be projected to occur if the animals had been subjected to a saturated atmosphere of perchloroethylene, hydrocarbon, CO2, or glycol ether. We are told it would not be possible to conduct a two year test in these other solvents as none of the animals would survive for that period of time in such a saturated environment.
The real point, though, is that from a human health standpoint, given that the actual exposure to our workers in a dry cleaning plant is less than 2 ppm. Given that there has never been a death to an industrial worker attributable to the chemical in over sixty years of manufacturing liquid silicone and/or using it as a base ingredient in the production of cosmetics, we believe its toxicity is extremely low when used as a dry cleaning solvent. And because of the bioassay testing performed on the rats, we would argue that toxicity of liquid silicone in the dry cleaning application is lower than is the toxicity of any other chemical solvent. Our position, then, has been and continues to be that GreenEarth is the greenest way to dry clean. We would welcome any and all testing of each chemical solvent with regard to their toxicity levels in the dry cleaning application. We urge open and honest testing of all chemicals in a way that is objective so that real facts, fiction, green washing and green cleaning can be made known to our industry. Let’s compare standardized objective facts rather than marketing fiction.
Green is the New Black. But do you know the true color of your dry cleaning?
Going green is not just for tree-huggers any more. Everybody is green these days. But unlike fashion trends that go in and out of style, it appears green is here to stay. To be sure, plenty of Madison Avenue types have overhyped and underwhelmed us with “green” claims about everything from food to fashion. But environmentalists, scientists, regulators, politicians, schools, health professionals and consumers all agree. We have no alternative but to find safe alternatives to the environmentally unsafe practices endangering our planet. So we all try to do our part by eating, shopping and living “green”. But how much do we really know about the green choices we are making? When it comes to food, it’s easy to be green. We look for FDA regulated “organic” labels to assure us that no harmful chemicals have been used in its manufacture. Lately, more and more dry cleaners have been putting signs up in their windows advertising “organic” dry cleaning. Must be good, right? Wrong. The term “organic” means something very different when it describes the chemicals used in dry cleaning. To a chemist, organic only means that a chemical contains a chain of carbon. Gasoline is organic, and so are most of the major dry cleaning solvents used by the industry for the last 150 years.
Dry cleaners marketing their “organic” difference are
counting on customers not understanding this difference.
Simply put, you’re being green
washed. How can you be sure your dry cleaner is using a truly green cleaning method?
process they use. There are five main types of cleaning processes in use today: •
Perchloroethylene, or perc, is the solvent used by more than 85 percent of dry cleaners in the United States today. As a petro-chemical, perc can accurately be labeled “organic”, but it is anything but healthy for people or the planet. Perc is classified by the EPA as a probable human cancer-causing chemical, and can cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, and irritations of the skin, eyes, nose and throat, as well as liver and kidney damage and cancer in humans. Perc is a “sinker”, which
means it travels through concrete and soil. It doesn’t take much to cause contamination. The EPA standard is 5 ppb—about the same as an eye dropper of perc in an Olympic sized swimming pool. It happens more than you might think. According to Greenpeace, 70 percent of perc winds up in the air or in ground water. Perc has recently been banned from future use in California, and similar legislation is being considered in a number of other states. •
Hydrocarbon dry cleaning, commonly referred to as DF-2000 (a popular brand of petroleum solvent labeled as hydrocarbon), is frequently advertised as “organic”. While hydrocarbon dry cleaning is less dangerous than perc, it is not environmentally friendly. Hydrocarbons are classified as VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, meaning they are emitted into the air after they perform their function, and contribute to air pollution and global warming. Spills of hydrocarbon in water require a clean-up under the Oil Pollution Act (1990).
CO2 cleaning is an environmentally safer alternative that utilizes a liquid form of CO2. Carbon dioxide is normally a gas at room temperature. But put under extremely high pressure (800 psi), it converts into a liquid and can act as a carrier of soaps much like water in a washing machine. When the dry cleaning cycle stops, the CO2 returns to a gas. CO2 cleaning utilizes reclaimed CO2; however, some CO2 is released back into the atmosphere during the cleaning process. Because the machinery is very expensive, CO2 cleaners are hard to find, and cleaning prices are usually quite a bit higher. There are approximately 35 dry cleaners in the United States using this methodology; to find one near you visit www.findco2.com. One caution. If a CO2 cleaner is using the recently introduced Solvair cleaning system, he is washing with glycol-ether. Glycol-ethers are a family of chemicals used in antifreeze and household cleaning products. Citing “proprietary” technology, Solvair will not disclose which glycol ether is being used, so there is no way to know the level of toxicity of this cleaning method. Glycol ethers are also VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
Professional wet cleaning is an environmentally safer method of cleaning that uses water just like your home washing machine. Very few dry cleaners use wet cleaning on “dry clean only” garments because it takes more labor, time and skill than traditional methods and there is a concern for garment damage. If you find a 100% professional wet cleaner, be sure to ask if their detergents and pre spotting agents are also green. Wet cleaning machines drain straight into the city water system.
If aggressive chemicals are used to remove stains, they may be toxic or have VOC properties, defeating the purpose of a green cleaning system. A directory of professional wet cleaners can be found at http://www.professionalwetcleaning.com. It is safe to assume that many of these locations do not clean 100% of garments using wet cleaning; it is a good idea to ask upfront. •
GreenEarth® is an environmentally friendly dry cleaning process that uses pure liquid silicone in place of hazardous chemicals. Silicone is clear, odorless, and non-toxic. When released to the environment, silicone returns to the three natural elements it is made from: sand and trace amounts of water and carbon dioxide. Used safely for decades as a base ingredient in shampoos, lotions and deodorants, silicone is a revolutionary technology in dry cleaning. The science behind GreenEarth not only makes it eco-friendly; but also more fabric friendly. Dye-bleed and color-fade common with other cleaning methods do not occur with silicone-based dry cleaning; it also imparts a softer, smoother “hand” to fabrics. Silicone is chemically inert, meaning it doesn’t interact with or damage fabric fibers during the cleaning process like other solvents. Another plus is that, unlike CO2 or wet cleaning, GreenEarth’s environmentally preferred process is not more expensive to operate with; costs are similar to traditional dry cleaning methods. There are approximately 700 GreenEarth Cleaning Affiliates in the United States; to find a GreenEarth certified location near you, visit www.greenearthcleaning.com
It can be confusing. Even the industry trade association makes it difficult to discern who is and isn’t green. Any dry cleaner, even a perc cleaner, can hang a sign certifying that they are a "Certified Environmental Dry Cleaner" as long as they pass a test certifying that they have the knowledge and ability to maintain their facility in an environmentally responsible way. Bottom line? There is no regulation of the term "organic" or “environmentally friendly” when applied to dry cleaning. Don’t rely on the signs in the window. Ask your dry cleaner to tell you exactly what process is being used.
Dry Cleaning's Dirty Trick By Christopher Wanjek, LiveScience's Bad Medicine Columnist posted: 30 January 2007 08:03 am ET In most big cities you will see drycleaners attempting to go green. For many, though, green refers to money, not environmental consciousness. There's a curious sign in the storefronts of many drycleaners boasting of a new "organic" cleaning technique that is non-toxic and environmentally benign. Clearly they are trying to capitalize on the consumers' pursuit of all things wholesome. The new cleaning fluid they are using, called DF-2000, is indeed very organic, as organic as gasoline and every major dry-cleaning fluid since the creation of the industry 150 years ago. After all, to a chemist, a chemical is organic if it contains a chain of carbon. DF-2000 is made by Exxon-Mobil, those stewards of the environment who dumped 30 million gallons of crude oilâ€”the precursor to gasoline and, yes, DF-2000â€”onto the shoreline of Alaska in 1989 and are still in court today bickering over the fine. How anything with the industrialsounding name "DF-2000" could be construed as organic in the "all-natural" sense is beyond me. Semantics aside, the toxic DF-2000 is safe only in comparison to what it hopes to replace. Trying to come clean The fluid used by more than 85 percent of U.S. drycleaners is truly nasty stuff called perchloroethylene, or perc, classified as a probable human cancer-causing chemical by the Environmental Protection Agency. Perc is organic, too. Last week California announced a plan to phase out perc by 2023, with a ban on new perc equipment in effect by next year. The chemical poses little immediate health risk to most customers aside from rashes for those with sensitive skin. Workers have long been at risk, though, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has found evidence of elevated cancer and death rates. Perc isn't so good for the environment, either. According to Greenpeace, 70 percent of the fluid winds up in the air or in ground water. We all ingest the stuff one way or another, although the long-term health implications are not known.
California's new law doesn't specify what should replace perc. Several good alternatives exist, but DF-2000 is best positioned to be the solvent of choice for cash-strapped ma-and-pa drycleaners based on price and ease of use. Out with the old, in with the older Dry cleaning isn't dry; it merely uses a solvent instead of water to clean. In the mid-1800s, a Frenchman named Jean Baptiste Jolly noticed that kerosene accidentally spilled on a tablecloth made it cleaner. And an industry of dangerous, smelly cleaning fluids was born. Organic solvents don't bind to fibers the way water does and therefore don't wrinkle or scrunch delicate fabrics. Up until World War II, most cleaning fluids were petroleum-based, such as the widely used Stoddard solvent. The problem with them, aside from causing dizziness or neurological disorders, was that they sort of exploded if they got too hot. Perc was a godsend: nonflammable, not as smelly, and the best solvent known for removing dirt. DF-2000 is similar to Stoddard solvent, only with a higher flashpoint (meaning less of a tendency to explode if exposed to a spark). The EPA lists DF-2000 as a neurotoxin and skin and eye irritant for workers; and its use can contribute to smog and global warming, just like Stoddard solvent. For the environmentally conscious While DF-2000 is likely at least marginally better than perc in terms of health and environment, it is not green. Marketing DF-2000 as organic—a scheme apparently devised by dry-cleaning associations, not Exxon-Mobile—is shameless. Much farther up the green ladder are dry-cleaning techniques using carbon dioxide and, of all things, water. Alas, the processes involving them cost more money. Nearly all garments labeled "dry clean only" can be cleaned with water through a process called wet-cleaning. This takes time and skill on the part of the professional, hence the higher price. The carbon dioxide method involves liquid CO2 under high pressure. Here, the machines are expensive and often require licensing fees. Kermit the Frog once sang that it's not easy being green. Perhaps that's why some drycleaners merely post a sign pretending to be green.
January 11, 2009
By MIREYA NAVARRO
It May Market Organic Alternatives, but Is Your Cleaner Really Greener? Dumping a pile of jackets, pants and shirts on the counter of a West Village dry cleaner, Wayne Kasserman had a pungent problem: A skunk had sprayed outside a Los Angeles guest house where he was staying, and the stink had penetrated the closets and his clothes. However strong the smell, though, he wanted the antidote to be gentle on the planet. Mr. Kasserman, 32, an actor and producer who lives in New York, chose Green Apple Cleaners, which advertises “nontoxic” methods that it says will not leave harmful residues in garments or the environment. He had no shortage of businesses to choose from. In New York and around the country, drycleaning stores have increasingly sprouted signs reading “organic” or “green,” as environmentally conscious consumers look for alternatives to traditional dry cleaning and its use of the solvent perchloroethylene. Prolonged contact with that solvent, known as PCE or perc, has been linked in some studies to cancer and neurological troubles like vision problems, and its use is strictly regulated. But marketing claims for the alternatives are not regulated at all. So customers like Mr. Wasserman, who said he was not sure just what methods Green Apple used, are left to hope for the best. And sometimes the cleaning methods advertised as environmentally sound are anything but. Government and environmental watchdogs say many cleaners are turning to methods that are only slightly less toxic than perc. The National Cleaners Association, a trade group, says some businesses are using the term “organic” in a blatantly misleading way — not in the sense of a chemical-free peach, but in the chemistry-class sense of containing carbon, the element found in all organic compounds, including perc. Under that standard, noted Alan Spielvogel, technical director of the cleaners’ association, “I could clean garments with nuclear waste and I could call myself organic.”
Although there are government standards for organic food and energy-saving appliances, there is no such certification of what makes a dry cleaner green. But environmental experts say technology is readily available to replace toxic chemicals in dry cleaning. And while about 85 percent of the nation’s estimated 36,000 dry-cleaning shops still use perc as their primary solvent, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, many cleaners have started to embrace the new methods. The environmentally preferable choice for dry cleaning, experts say, involves little more than water. In a process known as wet cleaning, garments are washed with water and biodegradable detergents in computerized machines that carefully control variables like agitation. Most stains are water soluble, and most items labeled “dry clean only” can be professionally wet cleaned without shrinkage or damage, studies have found. Cleaners who use wet cleaning say it does a better job of removing some stains than traditional dry cleaning — which, despite its name, is actually a wet method that immerses clothes in a liquid solvent. The quality of wet cleaning “is comparable, and it should not cost any more,” said Peter Sinsheimer, director of the Pollution Prevention Center at Occidental College in Los Angeles, a leading source of research on issues related to garment care. But wet cleaning has been a tough sell among cleaners because it requires training on new equipment and because of the potential liability cleaners face for defying the “dry clean only” label. Mr. Spielvogel said wet cleaning also has limitations; while it is fine for cottons and fabrics worn in warm climates, he said, it can damage heavy wools or structured clothes like suit jackets. Still, many dry cleaners have added wet cleaning as an option, said Christopher White, the technical director of America’s Best Cleaners, a trade association with its own quality certification program. Among its 26 affiliate cleaners, he said, some already use wet cleaning for half to 70 percent of all garments. Another green option for cleaners, experts say, replaces a solvent like perc with liquid carbon dioxide (CO2). But the method is rarely used because the equipment is too costly — up to $150,000 per machine — for the typical mom-and-pop dry cleaner. Most cleaners weaning themselves off perc have switched instead to a hydrocarbon solvent that acts in a way similar to perc. But Judith S. Schreiber, the chief scientist for the Environmental
Protection Bureau of the New York State attorney general’s office, said the solvent, which is petroleum-based, was “a cleaned-up version of gasoline” and only slightly less toxic than perc. Many cleaners juggle multiple methods. At Meurice Garment Care, a cleaner with four locations in New York City and on Long Island, garments are cleaned with perc, hydrocarbon solvents or water, depending on the fabric and stain. Wayne Edelman, the company’s president, said wet cleaning had replaced perc as his business’s most used method. Most customers, he added, do not care what method is used as long as their clothes come back clean and undamaged. “We have customers who are inquisitive and want to know, but most don’t,” Mr. Edelman said. But many of those who are starting to care have yet to catch up with all the changes and marketing claims. At a Chelsea outlet of Green Apple Cleaners, Richard Goldberg, a 45-year-old media consultant, said he was attracted to the store because “I don’t like the chemicals and toxins that people use to clean clothes on me.” Yet he was surprised to learn about wet cleaning, one of the methods Green Apple uses. “I have a cashmere sweater here,” he said, pointing to the pieces he had just picked up. “They couldn’t replace it. If they said, ‘Do you want to wet clean it?’ I’d say no.” Cashmere, in fact, can be safely wet cleaned, according to dry cleaners that use the method. Green Apple also advertises CO2 dry cleaning on its Web site and in store brochures. But the business actually uses another method, known as the Solvair cleaning system, for most of its CO2 cleaning. As in CO2 dry cleaning, this method uses carbon dioxide to rinse and dry. But to clean, it uses a solvent, propylene glycol ether, rather than liquid carbon dioxide. The National Cleaners Association and garment care experts like Mr. Sinsheimer said that the environmental impact of the solvent had not been studied, and that its use made Solvair something other than CO2 dry cleaning. “It’s very misleading,” Mr. Sinsheimer said. David Kistner, chief executive of Green Apple, said he added the Solvair system in 2008 as his business grew. He said that it was a better cleaner than CO2 for most garments and that he used CO2 only for cleaning “more delicate” items, like a vintage gown. But Mr. Kistner, who has built his four New York City stores and a thriving pickup business at apartment buildings on claims of environmental safety, acknowledged that he should be clearer
about Solvair. Although he has explained the method in his company’s news releases, he said he was revising the Web site and brochures to give customers more information on the process. “We’re not trying to hide anything,” he said. What Mr. Sinsheimer calls “an alphabet soup of solvents” is emerging as dry cleaners and manufacturers of their equipment look for alternatives to perc, whose days may be numbered. The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered that perc be phased out in dry cleaners operating in residential buildings by 2020. By 2023, California plans to ban its use in all dry cleaning stores. Environmental officials in some states are promoting wet cleaning and CO2 dry cleaning by financing training and demonstration projects. This month, the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, a state-financed program at the Rochester Institute of Technology, plans to start a training program and demonstration sites in New York, Buffalo and Rochester. Mr. Sinsheimer said his center was helping to develop similar programs in New Jersey and Massachusetts. In the meantime, Mr. Spielvogel of the National Cleaners Association said customers who cared about environmental practices should look beyond particular methods and question the cleaners: Do they dispose of hazardous waste safely? Do they recycle hangers? Do they use biodegradable plastic and packaging, or fuel-efficient vehicles? He said his group would develop a “green cleaner” rating system this year to help consumers find the right cleaner, with ratings of up to five leaves posted on its Web site. Federal and state environmental officials advise customers to question cleaners about the solvents they use for both dry and spot cleaning, and to consider specifically asking for wet cleaning. Any newly drycleaned clothes that smell of chemicals, they say, should be returned or taken to another store for recleaning. An even better alternative, some officials say, is to avoid buying clothes marked “dry clean only.” Mr. Kasserman, the man with the skunk problem, said he usually did his own laundry. But given the seriousness of the smell, he trusted the job to Green Apple and hoped it would be done “in an environmentally responsible way.” Mr. Kistner, the Green Apple chief executive, checked and found that Mr. Kasserman’s clothes were all done “in straight CO2,” except for a jacket that was wet cleaned.
Mr. Kasserman, after picking up his clothes, reported in an e-mail message: “They came out great! A fantastic fresh smell, no skunk at all.”
Feud over 'organic' dry-cleaning claim
3/12/10 1:52 PM
March 12, 2010 VALLEY & STATE online print edition
Feud over 'organic' dry-cleaning claim Chemical used is not 'green,' some argue Jennifer Price The Arizona Republic Sept. 8, 2007 12:00 AM A feud erupted in the dry-cleaning industry after an article ran in The Arizona Republic in July featuring a young entrepreneur and his "organic" cleaning technique. Brad Keeling, owner of Organic Cleaners in north Phoenix and downtown, uses a solvent called DF2000, a synthetic petroleum. Keeling advertises that his solvent is chemically inert, biodegradable and non-toxic. And the name of his business, Organic Cleaners, implies a "green" establishment.
Definition vs. perception This is where things get a little complicated, because of differing perceptions of what the word organic means. When you go to the grocery store and buy organic foods, you're buying foods that are pesticide-free and absent of any growth stimulants. But when you buy any other product that is labeled "organic," you're getting a product that contains a hydrocarbon, because by definition a chemical is organic if it contains the element carbon. DF2000 is indeed organic, but so is gasoline and most all other dry-cleaning solvents used since the industry was created, including perchloroethylene, or perc, the solvent used by more than 85 percent of U.S. dry cleaners. So the word "organic" doesn't translate to environmentally friendly, chemical-free and "green" when it comes to dry cleaning.
'Organic' and hazardous Alan Spielvogel, chief of the Center for Garment Analysis, said some of the most hazardous materials are, in fact, organic. "By saying something is organic does not mean it's environmentally friendly or healthy," Spielvogel said. "Anything that contains the element carbon is organic. The term organic as far as a dry-cleaning solvent does not mean that the solvent is less toxic than another type." Spielvogel said that although it's true Keeling is using an organic solvent, he said Keeling is using the term organic as a marketing strategy. "The dry cleaner makes an investment of $60,000-plus on a dry-cleaner machine, and if he's in a competitive market, he'll use anything he can think of to get an edge on the competition," Spielvogel said. "This may be a crude form of marketing, but it's still marketing."
Defending term's use Keeling said since DF2000 is an organic-based solvent, he's not lying by using the name Organic Cleaners. "It's (DF2000) way better than perc dry cleaners," Keeling said. "When you come to my store, if you thought you were getting something better than your traditional dry cleaners, you are. It's a step in the right direction." Spielvogel said the National Cleaners Association doesn't agree with this kind of marketing, but added that it is not illegal. Stu Bloom, owner of Rave Fabricare Master Cleaners in Scottsdale, thinks "organic cleaning" is a hoax. "Merely saying that you are green, eco-friendly and/or organic and posting signs on your dry-cleaning machine, storefront and delivery vans does not make it true. It's piggybacking on the public's perception of the word organic. "The dry-cleaning industry unfortunately has no standard as to what organic means. So every single cleaner thinks they can hang up signs that say organic dry cleaning."
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can hang up signs that say organic dry cleaning."
Use of perc stigmatized In January, California became the first state to phase out perc, banning the purchase of new perc machines as of 2008 and banning any use of perc by 2023. Arizona has no such ban. Perc is a clear, colorless liquid that has a sharp, sweet odor and evaporates quickly. It has been linked in studies to bladder, esophageal and other cancers. Dave Sillimam, director of the Western States Drycleaners and Launderers Association and owner of Uptowne Dry Cleaning in Phoenix, said most perc users today are responsible operators and don't pollute anything into the groundwater. He said the stigma surrounding perc is linked to the historical contamination 40 years ago when dry cleaners would throw out their leftover solvents.
Eco-friendly processes Tim Maxwell, president of GreenEarth, said only three dry-cleaning processes are truly environmentally friendly: wet cleaning, carbon-dioxide systems and siloxane fluids. Wet cleaning processes garments completely in water but is difficult because certain delicate garments can be ruined with water, Maxwell said. Carbon-dioxide systems use a liquid form of carbon to clean garments, but these systems are very expensive and only a handful are in the U.S. Siloxane fluids, such as GreenEarth, are made of silicone and oxygen.
GreenEarth used in Valley Since GreenEarth doesn't contain carbon, it's by definition inorganic but yet still environmentally friendly, Maxwell said. He said that as GreenEarth degrades into the environment, it breaks down into sand, water and carbon dioxide, leaving no toxic chemicals behind. Lyn Mizera just opened Martinizing Dry Cleaning in Scottsdale and chose to use GreenEarth as her solvent. "We wanted to do GreenEarth because we wanted to offer the safest cleanest available product out there," Mizera said. "I think it's the future of dry cleaners."
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Paul7188 Report abuse 0 0 rate comment:
View Profile View Blog Posted Sep-08 8:24 AM
michaelkeeling I love the way the term "organic" is misused. After all, Report abuse carbon tetrachloride, benzene, gasoline, and sugar (among 0 thousands of others)are all organic compounds. 0 rate comment: Posted Sep-08 11:32 AM
michaelkeeling It is understandable that reasonable people can arrive at Report abuse varying conclusions as to what constitutes “green” dry 0 cleaning, given the lack of either government or industry-
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Feud over 'organic' dry-cleaning claim
3/12/10 1:52 PM
cleaning, given the lack of either government or industrybased standards regarding use of environmentally friendly 0 terminology. More importantly, since we live in an era when humankind’s actions likely can harm the Earth, each rate comment: of us taking positive steps towards a greening of our Posted Sep-08 environment is important. 11:58 AM forkndave Taking those positive steps, that is, walking-the-talk of Report abuse actually changing the traditional dry cleaning and related 0 laundry processes in ways that substantially improve their environmental footprints has been the driving factor for 0 Organic Cleaners decisions regarding choice of dry cleaning fluid (DF2000 versus perc (percholorethylene)), rate comment: lowering energy consumption, water consumption, drycleaninfo phosphates used in detergents, reusable garment bags, Report abuse reduction of solid waste, recycling of hangers, and as well 0 as low impact fabric processing to increase to useful life of the cleaned and pressed garments. 0 Regarding the choice of dry cleaning fluids, an University rate comment: of Michigan study (http://www.umich.edu/~nppcp... )is an effective backgrounder on the current dry cleaning industry standard, perc. This is a yardstick from which the dry cleaning industry can measure progress towards more environmentally friendly practices. A matrix of possible Your Comment: choices is available at http://www.df2000.com/techn... , an environmental profile of DF2000 is available at http://www.df2000.com/Prod%... . California Air Resources Board (ARB) in its January 25, 2007 meeting 5 comments voted to prohibit new perc dry cleaning machines effective next January (2008). The accompanying fact sheet from the CARB (http://www.arb.ca.gov/toxic... )identifies acceptable alternatives. DF2000 is one of those alternatives. Organic Cleaners chose the DF2000 fluid based on what arguably are substantially improved environmental attributes and reduced toxicity levels, relative to perc the industry standard cleaning fluid.
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Organizations, such as the National Waste Prevention Coalition’s Model Cleaners Project, have recognized the efforts of dry cleaners to reduce their environmental footprint. A local Model Cleaner is Prestige Cleaners Store #8, a Scottsdale dry cleaner that uses the same DF2000 fluid instead of perc at its store. They estimate they can clean about 1,000 pounds of clothing with only 1 gallon of DF2000 fluid consumption. More information is available at http://www.metrokc.gov/dnrp... . Organic Cleaners experiences are similar. In summary, noting that reasonable people can disagree, I think the efforts of concerned organizations like Organic Cleaners are important, though not perfect, as we all think globally and act locally to minimize our environmental footprint. View It is understandable that reasonable people can arrive at Profile varying conclusions as to what constitutes “green” dry Posted Sep-08 2:49 PM cleaning, given the lack of both government and industrybased standards regarding use of environmentally friendly terminology. More importantly, since we live in an era when humankind’s actions likely can harm the Earth, each of us taking positive steps towards a greening of our environment is important. Taking those positive steps, that is, walking-the-talk of actually changing the traditional dry cleaning and related laundry processes in ways that substantially improve their environmental footprints has been the driving factor for Organic Cleaners decisions regarding choice of dry cleaning fluid (DF2000 versus perc (percholorethylene)), lowering energy consumption, water consumption, phosphates used in detergents, reusable garment bags, reduction of solid waste, recycling of hangers, and as well as low impact fabric processing to increase to useful life of the cleaned and pressed garments. Regarding the choice of dry cleaning fluids, an University of Michigan study (http://www.umich.edu/~nppcp... )is an effective backgrounder on the current dry cleaning industry standard, perc. Perc is the yardstick from which the dry cleaning industry can measure progress towards more environmentally friendly practices. A matrix of possible choices is available at http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/0908organic0908.html
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Feud over 'organic' dry-cleaning claim
3/12/10 1:52 PM
http://www.df2000.com/techn... , an environmental profile of DF2000 is available at http://www.df2000.com/Prod%... . California Air Resources Board (CARB) in its January 25, 2007 meeting voted to prohibit new perc dry cleaning machines effective next January (2008). The accompanying fact sheet from the CARB (http://www.arb.ca.gov/toxic... ) identifies acceptable alternatives. DF2000 is one of those alternatives. Organic Cleaners chose the DF2000 fluid based on what arguably are substantially improved environmental attributes and reduced toxicity levels, relative to perc the industry standard cleaning fluid. Some folks may term these improved attributes a mere marketing strategy. We think these attributes are so significant that they should be communicated to our customers. Organizations, such as the National Waste Prevention Coalitionâ€™s Model Cleaners Project, have recognized the efforts of dry cleaners to reduce their environmental footprint. A local Model Cleaner awardee is Prestige Cleaners Store #8, a Scottsdale dry cleaner that uses the same DF2000 fluid instead of perc at its store. They estimate they can clean about 1,000 pounds of clothing with only 1 gallon of DF2000 fluid consumption. More information is available at http://www.metrokc.gov/dnrp... . Organic Cleaners experiences are similar. In summary, noting that reasonable people can disagree, I think the efforts of concerned organizations like Organic Cleaners are important, though not perfect, as we all think globally and act locally to minimize our environmental footprint.
I've been thinking about an organic bottled water. I'm sure people would buy it because it would be organic. It would be advertised as not using any fertilizer to produce it. Well, not much anyway. I would have to use a little to have carbon to make it organic. I'm just kidding of course, but I'll bet that if you had bottles of water labeled "organic", they would probably sell pretty well.
Posted Sep-14 7:26 PM
There is nothing "new" or "revolutionary" about DF2000. DF2000 is a synthetic petroleum solvent produced by Exxon-Mobil as a by-product of the production of gasoline. DF2000 was introduced in 1994/95 and is used by many cleaners in the Valley, including the Prestige and Delia's chains. From an environmental point of view, it may be considered "better than perc." The real question is HOW MUCH BETTER? Both perc and synthetic petrolem are subject to the SAME federal, state and local regulations in terms of how they are used and how they are disposed of. "New and revolutionary"? "Substantially improved environmental attributes"? No, Sir.
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