Ever think what a little tweak here and there to a huge industry such as dry cleaning? There are about 6 dry cleaners just in my one block radius, and they each get enough business to sustain themselves, so it makes me wonder; what kind of impact could a single little change do to preserving the environment? Many of you may have heard about new ‘Green’ Eco-friendly dry cleaners, so what makes them green you say?
Most dry cleaners use the chemical perchloroethylene (also called tetrachloroethylene, perc, Cl2C=CCl2 and C2Cl4) to launder your clothes. Exposure to perchloroethylene has been found to be dangerous to your health, and has been linked to increased risks of several cancers including: bladder cancer, cervical cancer, esophageal cancer. It also is an irritant causing skin, eye, nose and throat irritation, reduced fertility, and many other adverse health effects. Environmental impacts have been less clear, although lets assume that if it causes issues like that, it probably isn’t too good for anything else either. Those most affected by these afflictions are the actual dry cleaners themselves since they are exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis.
Environmentally friendly ‘Green’ dry cleaners commonly use one of two substitutes for perchloroethylene, mainly liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) or silicone-solvent based cleaning. Both of these are widely believed to be more environmentally friendly, however, the health risks to workers using silicone-solvents have not been fully studied. Consumer Reports recently compared the cleaning ability of these methods, and found that the liquid carbon dioxide ‘dry cleaning’ method to be far more effective than traditional perchloroethylene with silicone-solvents coming in a close second. It appears the green dry cleaning methods not only are more eco-friendly, but also more effective!
That’s really just the tip of the iceberg. What about the billions of disposable items that we take home from the dry-cleaners after picking up out clothes? Two companies have each addressed seperate items in order to green up the industry.
It may not surprise you that over 3.5 billion wire hangers are used every year, and while they may be useful for pulling wire behind a wall or fishing a wedding ring out of a sink drain, most of us don’t re-use all of the dry cleaning hangars we collect over the years. A marketing company called Hanger Network has come up with a great earth friendly design and a new way to market to the consumer, the EcoHanger. It remains re-useable, and is composed of almost entirely recycled content from the 100% recycled paper cover to the recycled bottle-cap hook. Made in the USA from renewable resources, it also remains 100% recyclable.
And finally, the plastic bag covering that your dry cleaning always comes back wrapped in. Reuseniks came up with a reusable cotton cover to be used when transporting your dry cleaning to and from the dry cleaners called the Clothesnik. Not only does it make your dry cleaned clothes easier to find when picking them up, you reduce the plastic waste generated from the one time use disposable plastic covers. Now if only we could get them in organic cotton, or better yet, hemp!
For environmentally friendly dry cleaner locations near you, check out Hangars Cleaners or Blue Sky Cleaners, which uses to liquid carbon dioxide method, or Green Earth Cleaning for the silicone-solvent method.
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