Green digest // Green cleaning service

New green cleaning service launches

A group of experienced commercial and residential cleaners launched a new green cleaning campaign focused on Southwest neighborhoods in December.

Green Cleaning Cooperative, a new group of about 40 owner-members, pledged to use safer, less toxic cleaning products like those produced by Seventh Generation. Cooperative members also aim to earn certification in environmentally friendly cleaning techniques through Green Clean Institute, Marcia Tapia, a founding member of the cooperative, said.

All are members of the Service Employees International Union Local 26 and organized the cooperative with help from the Latino Economic Development Center, a Minneapolis nonprofit that fosters development of Latino-run businesses.

John Flory, the Center’s special projects director, said the cooperative was a part of a nationwide trend toward greener practices in the janitorial industry.

“We saw some examples of similar cooperatives that were established by Latino groups in San Francisco, in Chicago and in Boston that have all established green cleaning services,” Flory said. “To some degree, this group is following their model.”

Also in December, several hundred members of SEIU Local 26 rallied Downtown in support of greener cleaning practices while preparing to negotiate a new contract. Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman joined the Dec. 5 rally.

Tapia said the switch to greener cleaning products from conventional cleaners was done out of concern for their clients, the environment and themselves.

“When I go to clean, I have to touch the chemicals,” Tapia said. “We have to take care of our workers and we have to take care of our clients.”

Tapia, a mother, said she was concerned chemicals contained in at least one of the cleaning products she used may have contributed to her baby’s low birth weight of just 5 pounds. She learned later low birth weight was associated with a chemical in a toilet cleaner she regularly used on the job.

“I didn’t know, and I was using that for four years,” she said.

Flory said cooperative members each contributed $500 to cover start-up costs for cleaning equipment and insurance. A requirement of membership is that each worker must complete a green cleaning class.

Flory said Green Cleaning Cooperative services were priced “equivalent” to other professional cleaners. The cooperative structure and the focus on environmental responsibility might give them the edge in some customers’ minds, he predicted.

“There is a particular client base that is interested in both of those issues and I think that gives this group something of an advantage over standard cleaning services,” he said.

To contact Green Cleaning Cooperative for a free estimate, call 454-5377.

Deals for local food lovers

Clancey’s Meat and Fish, Common Roots Café and Galactic Pizza are among the Southwest merchants offering discounts through the Local Food Lover program.

Sponsored by local website Simple, Good and Tasty, the program is a way for purveyors of local, sustainable and organic foods to reward their customers. To access the deals, consumers must first purchase a Local Food Lover card for $29 online at simplegoodandtasty.com or at one of several Twin Cities locations (listed on the website).

According to the website, 10 percent of sales through the Local Food Lover program will go to Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. The Whittier-based nonprofit advocates for fair trade, sustainability and policies that promote a safe and healthy food supply.

Launched in March 2009, Simple, Good and Tasty pursues a similar agenda on the local level, promoting local, sustainable, organic and fair trade foods. Website founder Lee Zukor helped to select participants in the Local Food Lover program.

Over 20 local merchants had joined the program by mid-December. Cardholders are encouraged to register on the Simple, Good and Tasty website for monthly emails with additional offers.

Minneapolis tap water ranks high for quality

Minneapolis was ranked near the top in a survey of tap water quality in the nation’s large cities released in December by Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington, D.C. nonprofit organization.

Minneapolis ranked 10th in water quality among cities with at least 250,000 residents in the EWG study, which relied on publicly reported tap water testing data. The organization reportedly analyzed more than 20 million water quality tests conducted by nearly 50,000 water utilities in the past five years.

The top rating went to Arlington Water Utilities of Arlington, Texas. Cities were ranked based on: the number of chemicals detected since 2004; the percentage of chemicals found of those tested for; and the highest average level of each pollutant compared to legal limits or national averages.

EWG found the most-contaminated tap water in Pensacola, Fla.

Minneapolis reports an average of 500 tests are conducted on the city water supply each day. Copies of the city’s annual water quality reports for the past decade can be reviewed online at ci.minneapolis.mn.us/water/.

To read more about the results and the methodology of the EWG study, visit ewg.org/tap-water/home/.