Putting the Cart Before the Horse

According to the EPA: ‘‘sustainability’’ and ‘‘sustainable” mean to create and maintain conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony…fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

Part of sustainability is limiting or controlling the consumption of finite resources, notably petroleum. Thus, cleaning products and systems that do not rely on petroleum chemistry — or “ petro-chemistry” — may rightly claim to be more “sustainable.”

Controlling Consumption

One manufacturer, and advocate of Health Intentional Cleaning, frequently uses the term, “non-consumptive” — referring to its equipment not using or consuming chemicals.Clean for health and appearance will follow

This is an important aspect of sustainability, since there are more than 80,000 chemicals in legal use in the U.S., and many are derived from petroleum.

In addition, these chemicals often come packaged in plastic and cardboard, adding to the burgeoning U.S. waste stream headed for crowded landfills.

Why clean with resource-depleting chemicals, and tolerate and dispose of packaging waste, when you do not need to?

Financial Sustainability

There is also the issue of “financial sustainability” – i.e., eliminating unnecessary chemical use saves money.

A Pennsylvania school district saved $19,883.25 annually in supply expense by eliminating aerosols and harsh chemical products.

Why clean with chemicals when the costs are high and there are non-chemical interventions that work?

Cleaning Not Polluting – The Impact on Labor

When we attempt to “clean,” but are, in effect, adding superfluous chemicals to the environment, we are not cleaning, but polluting.

This form of “cleaning” is the most egregious form of putting the cart before the horse, as it often leaves residues on surfaces, promotes resoiling, provides harborage and food for microbes, adds noxious vapors to the air, and makes cleaning much more labor intensive.

For more information about Health Intentional Cleaning – visit

For the next installment, Part 2, we will discuss the health issues related to sustainability.

Posted On July 16, 2013

Allen Rathey

Principal of Winning Environments, LLC

Allen P. Rathey is an educator specializing in healthy facilities, and provides advisory and consulting support. He is past-president of The Housekeeping Channel (HC), The Healthy House Institute (HHI), and The Healthy Facilities Institute (HFI). He is the principal of Winning Environments, LLC, promoting best practices that enhance the living environment. Email [email protected] for more information.

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Putting the Cart Before the Horse
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