If you are picturing little green robots whizzing about cleaning whatever you have told them to clean you may not be too far off. The green cleaners have gotten a wee bit out of hand in the description world. In fact, it is necessary to get a basic fix on just exactly what the term means, or perhaps how it has been legitimized via the federal government.

Picabot cleaning robotCredit: By Handitec (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In 1998, Executive Order 13101 defined "green" and "environmentally preferred purchasing" as “…products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products and services that serve the same purpose."  I find this statement somewhat disconcerting since it doesn't state that the lesser or reduced effect on human health could be in a positive or a negative way. I mean, they could have prefaced human health with good, great, robust, non-toxic, etc. Well, the Order was superseded in 2007 (Executive Order 13423) to add sustainability emphasis and consider product life cycles.

This gives way to many different interpretations of what green cleaners are. I recently read some ad that said, "bio green clean." Okay, "bio" is pertaining to life or a living organism or a human life or career, so that gives me pause to ponder just what the heck is bio green clean? I'm still not sure, but hopefully it's good stuff.

To be clear about the green and clean perhaps it would be best to focus on the easy definition like, an effective and safe cleaning program. Of course what safe means should include non harmful to humans or the environment. Safe enough? Good, now I can share some great green house cleaning methods.

A Few Easy Green Cleaning Tips

  1. DILUTE - Most cleaners are so concentrated that they can be diluted with water to stretch them out. I have been diluting my dishwashing liquid for over a year now, and have definitely saved money. A good way to start is to  to keep the empty container so when you purchase a new one you can easily add half soap and half water in the empty container, shake it a little, and use it.
  2. Clean out the lint filter in the dryer right when you are emptying it of dry clothes. That way you don't have to check before the next load.
  3. Recycle those socks. They make great mitts for dusting, or wiping up spills. They can also be washed and re-used.
  4. Get buried vertically. Yes, this may sound so very unorthodox, but it is considered green. Many folks are still not thrilled about cremation, and the old fashioned horizontal graves take up a lot of space. Land is pricey, so vertical graves make sense. The upright burial plot has the body in a biodegradable shroud buried feet first in a cylindrical hole. This makes for more room in a graveyard, and the cost is much lower.
  5. Limit your exposure to receipts. Most cash register receipts contain BPA (Bisphenol-A), a chemical that disrupts endocrines, used in plastics. Many thermal paper receipts still contain BPA. If you can go without a receipt, then do so, and save paper. If not, be sure to wash your hands with soap after handling them.
Credit: By Handitec (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsCredit: By Handitec (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

USGBC and LEED® (www.usgbc.org): USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) is a non-profit organization of representatives from across the building industry leading a national consensus for producing a new generation of buildings that deliver high performance inside and out.  USGBC’s mission is “to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work.”  USGBC has developed the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System, which is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED was created to define “green building” by establishing a common standard of measurement and to stimulate “green competition.”

Green Seal (www.greenseal.org): Green Seal is an independent, non-profit organization that strives to achieve a healthier and cleaner environment by identifying and promoting products and services that cause less toxic pollution and waste, conserve resources and habitats, and minimize global warming and ozone depletion. Green Seal’s mission: “To achieve a more sustainable world by promoting environmentally responsible production, purchasing and products.” Green Seal has standards for several categories including Industrial & Institutional Cleaners (GS-37), Industrial & Institutional Floor Care Products (GS-40), and Industrial & Institutional Hand Cleaners (GS-41), just to name a few.  Green Seal certifies products and services that meet certain performance and environmental impact qualifications. Green Seal certification is referenced as a requirement to meet for several categories of cleaning products in the Sustainable Cleaning Products and Materials section of the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance Green Building Rating System.

Green Robots
They aren't exactly as mentioned at the beginning of this article, but they are doing a fair share of green cleaning.

In Germany there are pig robots cleaning up human waste. The wheeled robots are powered by solar energy to cruise through the do-do to help dry an estimated 60 million tons of sewage yearly. They turn it as they power through it and that aerates the microbes, which keeps carbon emissions and costs low for sewage treatment plants. Oink.

Robots have been used as diagnostic tools for a long time. Think pacemakers. Some are reportedly replacing doctors in certain surgical procedures. Now with so many aging people who need caregiving, the need for robot care is growing. A robot that could monitor certain emergencies like heart attack, interact with emergency services - contact doctor or 911, perform some domestic help like laundry and cleaning, and help monitor a patient's medications, would allow the senior to live at home rather than in an assisted living place or a nursing home. Granted there are humans who perform senior services, but unless the younger generations are able to pick up the tasks, senior care is going to be for only the very wealthy.

So you see the number one trend in the marketplace today, green cleaners, encompasses a world of descriptions.

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