Guilty of Polluting Nature

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guilty art

guilty art

Imagine a manufacturing plant without smell, waste, masks or respirators, with all recycled packaging, bamboo flooring and an herb garden, surrounded by an array of solar panels. Add a minimum wage of $17/hr. All this admired by the Assistant Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency Jim Jones, standing on its roof for a better view of the solar panels: “This is exactly the kind of approach we want all of our partners to take. They’re reducing toxins and showing that it means good business.”

$230 Million to turn Green $1.8 Trillion

Jones, nominated by President Obama in January 2012 and confirmed by the Senate in August 2013, manages the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, which implements the nation’s pesticide, toxic chemical and pollution prevention laws. The office has an annual budget of $230 million and about 1,200 employees to confront $1.8 trillion polluting US industries.

Safer Detergents Award

Jones’s visit to Earth Friendly Products’ Garden Grove facility in California had not been accidental: the company won a Design for the Environment (DfE) Champion award for the Safer Detergents Stewardship Initiative (SDSI) in October 2008. The award, based on the achievement of producing dioxane-free laundry and dish formulas, garnered the company a listing on the EPA website as one of the champions of the cause.

No Chemical Scent

The DfE began in 1992 but didn’t take off until public awareness over the nation’s oil addiction heated up in 2005. Earth Friendly Products teamed up with the DfE during the oil crisis to develop effective, petroleum-free, environmentally safe cleaners. The requirements are becoming increasingly high; ingredients for cleaners “must meet the baseline requirements, namely, not be a known carcinogen, mutagen or reproductive or developmental toxicant, or a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemical,” says Jones. Using renewables instead of fossil fuels is part of the standard, he adds. This has led to developing purer ingredients, for example, alcohol ethoxylates used as surfactants made from sugar cane rather than petroleum and containing no dioxane, a carcinogen often found in detergents. Independent testing shows the company’s products are dioxane-free.

“Now 90% of our line is DfE-certified to carry the identifying label and the company has the program’s highest rating,” vice-president Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks of Earth Friendly Products said.

The difference that the certification makes was something Jones noticed—as we all did—in the manufacturing area of the plant: a place making cleaners without a chemical scent. “I don’t smell anything, no odor, nothing, not like at a manufacturing plant,” he said. No butyl cellosolve or other neurotoxic solvents are used.

Minimum Transport Waste

Factor in all the regional plants Earth Friendly Products owns throughout the US in geographically diverse areas, its zero waste program, solar arrays at virtually every site, minimizing transport miles—“these do not go into the DfE seal, just the basic formula,” he said—however, he added, “DfE is in talks with additional certifying groups to provide a larger sustainability view.”

Green Innovation Pays

“It’s one of the reasons we value Earth Friendly Products,” Jones added. “Unlike some of the larger corporations, they can move quite rapidly with technological innovations—and they’re bringing exemplary policies that show being green means profitability and goes much more deeply and systemically.”

7 out of 10 Shop for Green

Jones says 7 of 10 shoppers seek a green brand—that according to the government’s own data—and adds: “We want to reach the shopper and let them know that brands with the DfE seal are the best for personal health and environment—and reducing oil dependency.”

But looking out over the rooves of the other plants, none had solar arrays. “We’ve got a ways to go yet,” the administrator acknowledged.

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