Help St Croix | White Way Meet our Hanger Recycling Goal!

As we’ve talked about before, on this very blog, being environmentally friendly is more than just lip-service for us here at St Croix | White Way Cleaners.

We have been leaders in “Green” dry cleaning technology; from our state- of- the- art water circulation system to the use of earth friendly solvents, St Croix | White Way has been committed to do our part.

Now though, we need some help from our amazing customers as well!

We are excited to announce our participation in the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute’s “Cleaners Care: Hanger Recycling Program.”

DLI’s goal is a big one, as the group is looking for its member drycleaners to recycle 25 Million hangers in 2012.

To put that into context, 25 million hangers is roughly equivalent to 750 tons of steel -enough to create six Statues of Liberty!

So far, along with us, nearly 300 environmentally-conscious drycleaners from around the world have pledged to reduce, reuse, and recycle more than 19 million hangers and the resources it takes to make them. With your help, can we make it to 25 million?!!

So be sure to drop off your extra hangers with us on your next visit, and remind others to do so too! With your help, and continued support we’ll be able to meet our goal, and DLI’s!

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Go For a Dip! Swimwear Tips!

We don’t know if you noticed, but it’s been a bit WARM lately! From swimming to skiing, here at St Croix | White Way we know that nothing beats the heat like some quality water time.  That’s why we have a few tips for keeping your swimwear in tip top shape, in between us cleaning it for you, of course!

  • Wet down your bathing suit with tap water before taking a dip in the pool. Remember: Two things can’t occupy the same space at the same time, so a ‘pre-wet’ bathing suit won’t absorb as much chlorine from the pool water as a dry suit will.
  • Remove and rinse your suit in tap water BEFORE you lay down to sun bath.  The UV rays from the sun will accelerate the deleterious effects of the chlorine in your suit.  Or better yet, rinse your suit well and put on a fresh, dry suit for sun bathing.
  • Bathing suits that are 100 percent polyester will fare best in a hot tub.
  • Watch for suits that say “chlorine resistant” on the label. These suits tend to last a bit longer as the less Chlorine, the better!
  • Never wash a bathing suit in the washing machine. The agitation will break down the Lycra and the bra cups; hand washing or dry cleaning is your best option!
  • Never put a bathing suit in the dryer. The heat will cause the elastic to break down faster.  Always dry it away from the sun, FLAT on a drying rack.

We know these tips will help keep you and your swimwear cool this summer!

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10 Summer Fashion Tips

We can’t all be as fashion forward as him!

Let’s face it, fashion can be confusing. Most of us can follow basic trends, but when it comes to the latest and greatest, it can be hard to keep up! That’s why we here at St Croix | White Way have compiled ten fashion tips sure to make you stand out this Summer!

  • 1. Bright Neon Colors
    With neon, a little goes a long way! Skirts, dresses, cardigans and jeans wear this trend well. You can also add neon to your wardrobe in more subtle ways (think belts, shoes, purses and jewelry) to accent base neutrals (black, white, khaki and navy) and give them a fresh look this season.
  • 2. The Chic Sheath
    Classically cut and sleeveless, sheaths pair easily with jackets, cardigan sweaters and a variety of shawls and wraps when you want to dress them up. While still a great choice, think beyond the LBD (a.k.a. the little black dress) when it comes to this style. White, brights and those with subtle prints offer a fresh twist on this perennial favorite for work and social events.

  • 3. Beige Shoes
    Beige shoes in a variety of styles and heel heights complement bold colors and soften dark neutrals. They work well with and without hosiery – just ask Kate Middleton!
  • 4. Bold Prints
    Worn on a single piece of clothing and well-coordinated with a solid top or bottom, strong, bold prints become the centerpiece of an outfit and can help you stand out in all the right ways. While not the easiest look to pull off, strong prints are also being worn from head-to-toe this season. Consider a wide belt at the waist to break up the pattern a bit. Two different prints on two different pieces of your outfit can also work well when each print contains a consistent color theme, fabric, weight and style.
  • 5. Soft, Pleated Skirts
    Soft pleats falling from the waistband of a skirt made of a light-weight summer is a chic and ladylike way to dress this season. Some styles are short, some are long and others graze the knee. For work, pair a knee-length pleated skirt with a structured short jacket for a current and appropriate look that shows off an hourglass figure. For non-working hours, a tight tank tucked into the waistband of a pleated skirt can show off a toned upper body while camouflaging fuller hips.
  • 6. Oversized Earrings
    Combine them with other bold accessories such as bold cocktail rings, weighted cuffs, thick, woven belts and platform wedges or wear them on their own. If you decide to coordinate a necklace with them, long layered options tend to work best. Large gold and silver hoops may be all you need to tackle this trend!
  • 7. Structured Bags
    Their signature “clutch” handle makes them more structured than hobo-inspired looks. Many feature longer straps so you can wear them messenger style across your body. Pick a hue you love and wear it with everything!
  • 8. Crochet & Lace
    We are not talking about your grandmother’s tablecloth and curtains here! Instead, think of these two textures working in a modern way to give spring and summer outfits some clout and feminine style. A crochet maxi skirt with a flat sandal, tee shirt and fun accessories that work with the weight of the crochet is easy to wear and hides less than perfect legs. If you have a black lace dress tucked away in your closet, pair it with a beige sandal or peep-toe pump to freshen it up for the season.
  • 9. Bronze Metallics
    While silver always works in warm weather and gold hardware still adorns most designer bags and the like this season, bronze has snuck in as the metal of choice for fashion A-listers. Naturally warm and vibrant, it looks particularly well with navy’s, plums and, of course, black, white and khaki. Bronze is also a significant make-up trend – brush it on your cheeks as well as eyelids and lips!
  • 10. Patent Leather
    This high-gloss, waterproof material has been used primarily to make black shoes for decades. Although you can wear it year round these days, it still shines best with lighter fabrics and styles. This season, expand your patent leather collection beyond a pair of black patent shoes. A red patent peep- toe can brighten up a navy suit and a straw bag with patent detailing can go to the office as well as the beach. Even flip-flops go from drab to fab when created with patent leather!

And of course, be sure to bring all your fashionable garments in for regular cleaning at St Croix | White Way!


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Production Spotlight: Clothes Barcoding

St Croix | White Way Cleaners does a lot of dry cleaning; 19 stores worth to be exact. With the amount of drycleaning and laundry we do, you may wonder how we keep track of it all.

Some cleaners use permanent marker to write a customer’s name on their clothes; others use less invasive systems like temporary plastic tags or wash resistant paper. While these options “work” they are not ideal, and can easily lead to lost garments, especially when dealing with high volumes.

At St Croix | White Way we’ve gotten keeping track of garments down to a science. Using a sophisticated barcoding system we’re able to keep track of your items no matter where they are in the process.

Barcodes like this one identify store information about your garment in our computer.

The first time you bring in a new garment, a barcode is added to that item. This barcode is then associated with your account and preferences, so that anytime you bring the item in we can instantly see who it belongs too. We can also see your cleaning preferences, such as starch levels or boxes vs. hangers for your dress shirts. It also identifies the garment by color, pattern, fabric and brand label so that we can easily identify which of your garments we have and where they are in our process at any time.

Garments move through many stages to restore them to their optimum condition.  Each step of the way we read the barcode and record data about who, how and when it was processed.  All of this information is available to us in our computer system.  Once your garment is cleaned, pressed and inspected, it is sent to our automatic assembly system.   There an employee scans your item’s barcode and places it on a hanging conveyor system attached to the bagging machine.

The computer system is smart enough to read the barcode and group it with your other garments, being careful to never put more than 4 garments inside an order. Once four of your items are on the assembly system, the computer system offloads the garments together with a printed ticket and advances them to the automatic bagger, all without human intervention!!! The bagger then pulls a custom, biodegradable plastic bag over the clothes, careful not to waste any extra plastic.

The barcoding system is extremely useful. It lets us know all the details of your garments very quickly; how many times we have cleaned a garment, who pressed it, who marked it in and where it is stored can all be figured out with one quick scan.   There have been many times where we’ve noticed a customer dropped a garment in our parking lot on the way to or home from one of our stores.   We give the garment a quick scan and know everything about the garment in an instant. Without our barcode we’d never know whose garment it was, much less who to contact!

Keep watching our blog for more Production Spotlights!

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Keep Your Clothes Looking Cool This Summer!

With the weather getting warmer and summer approaching, we thought we’d take some time this week to give you a few tips for keeping your clothes looking their best no matter what your summer has in store for you!

Perspiration shows up particularly in underarms, collar, back and waistbands of garments. It may not be noticeable at first, but oxidizes over time, becomes darker and it ultimately stains clothing. Garments should be washed or dry cleaned regularly so the perspiration residue is removed when fresh, thereby preventing permanent damage.

Sunscreen and sun tanning lotions contain ingredients that can cause stains. It is best to apply the lotion and let it dry before dressing. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your clothes. When cleaning your clothes, follow the care instructions carefully. When washing, pre-treat the stain with a prewash product, then launder in the hottest water that’s safe for the fabric or have it Dry Cleaned. Remember to point out and identify the stain to your drycleaner.

Spills seem inevitable in the summertime – outdoor parties, barbecues and light color clothing can spell disaster. If the stain is water-based, like soda, coffee, juices, wine and most fruits, and the item is washable, dab, do not rub, the stain carefully. As soon as possible, wash the item according to care instructions. Remember that sugar-based stains such as those from fruits should be washed within 24 hours to prevent yellowing.

For oily stains, such as salad dressing, cooking oil, meat juice, butter, and lipstick, the best approach is to blot, do not rub, the stain carefully with a dry, clean white cloth. Do not use water and do not rub the stain as this can set it and break the surface fibers. Oily stains are most safely removed by dry cleaning when the stains are fresh; so do not delay in having the garment cleaned. Be sure to identify the stain to the drycleaner. If you do not know the nature of the stain, it is safest to assume that the stain is oil-based.

As always, if you have any questions about fabric care or stain removal, let us know! Our world famous “Dry Cleaning Geeks” are more than happy to help!

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Merrick Employee Spotlight: Matt

Following him into the office building with the rack of clean garments, smiling, and excited to see his customers, it would be hard not to imagine that Matt has been doing this for over ten years. A seasoned veteran when it comes to delivering dry cleaning, Matt loves his job, and can think of nothing he’d rather do.

But Matt is no ordinary delivery man.

For the past 10 years, White Way/St Croix Cleaners has worked with Merrick Inc., a local charity based in Vadnais Heights, to offer mentally handicapped employees a chance to be a part of the community.

Merrick offers mentally handicapped individuals opportunities for community inclusion and participation, social relationships, skill building, and/or person futures. Each individual is assessed based on their unique passions, values, gifts, interests, skills and preferences so they are placed within a job that aligns with their needs. At White Way and St Croix Cleaners, about 8 individuals help with the delivery services.

“Each person has their own individual delivery stops and customers.” Amy Jacobsen, one of the managers and delivery drivers explains. Four days each week, the crew packs up the finished garments at White Way’s main plant on 7th Street in St Paul. They will then deliver the garments to apartments, condos, office buildings and residential areas, while picking up new bags to be checked in and cleaned for the following days.

Today he is dressed in nice black pants with a burgundy White Way jacket embroidered with his name. Matt was born with Downs Syndrome, but has never let that set him back. He tells me today (Tuesday) is his busy day. He knows all his clients, exactly where to place their clean clothes and where to pick up the dirty. He knows all their names, and their garage codes. He tries to make sure he can listen to Johnny Cash on the Radio at 12:15 each lunch hour.

His favorite part of the job is meeting new people. He tells me one of his stops is at a retirement home where he is able to talk with all the people there and they sometimes give him popcorn.

He looks and acts very professional, even showing me his homemade business card. This week he is a Ranger, while last week he was a Police Chief, and the week before, a Blacksmith. Before he loads the van with the recently cleaned garments, taking great care as though they were his own, he tells me about John, the White Way employee with whom he says is his good friend. They have “man-to-man talks” and he explains that John is even teaching him how to use the computer.

When Matt isn’t working, he is an avid musician. He likes to “Just mess around” playing guitar and using the turntables in his basement, both of which he claims he is pretty good at. “But not as good as Johnny Cash!” Matt claims, and tells me that he makes sure to listen to the 12:15 lunch hour on K102 each work day when the delivery van is driving around.

Matt is proud of his regular customers, whom he has known since he started working the delivery truck. There is nothing else he’d rather be doing, saying “I like it here.”

“A lot of customers have cards, treats and even Christmas presents for Matt and the others,” Amy says. The relationship between White Way/St Croix Cleaners and Merrick has been extremely beneficial for everyone involved, and is expected to continue for years to come. “It gets [these individuals] out into the community. They’re not just people with disabilities.”

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Rug Badger Don’t Care About Dirt!

rugbadger

One of the things we pride ourselves on at St Croix | White Way Cleaners is the fact that we’re not you’re average Dry Cleaner. We do a lot more than just Dry Cleaning around here; we love to clean comforters, drapes, pillows and rugs as well!

With that in mind, we thought we’d share a little bit about our newly improved rug cleaning process, and introduce our newest tool, the RugBadger.

At St Croix | White Way, rug cleaning is a seven step process that entails the following:

1. Deep Clean Dirt Removal (RugBadger!)

2. Pre-spray and Spot Removal

3. Rotary Agitation with Cleaning Solvent Added ( Basically a rug scrubber)

4. High Pressure Extraction

5. Grooming (Like a hair brush, for your rug!)

6. Drying

7. Final Vacuum

As you can see it’s a pretty involved process, and it’s all started off by the RugBadger.

The RugBadger’s specialty is getting the deep down soil and dirt out of your favorite rug and it does this by employing a time tested rug cleaning technique; beating. This isn’t your grandma’s rug beater, though. Just look at the results!

The RugBadger works it’s magic by vibrating over 40,000 times a minute, getting all that fiber damaging sediment out of your rug. This sediment is normally pretty tough to remove; simple washing or even vacuuming just can’t reach it the way our RugBadger does.

So what’s the benefit of this deep cleaning? Well, besides a cleaner rug, you are also extending it’s life. You’re also improving your home’s air quality, reducing collected pollen, pet dander, dust and other air pollutants. And that’s before we even finish cleaning it!

When you drop a rug off with us you can be confident you’re getting some of the best rug cleaning in the Twin Cities.

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Merrick Employee Spotlight: Brian Jensen

You know that moment when you wake up in the morning and you never know what the day’s going to bring?  Brian Jensen, one of the eight delivery employees with White Way Cleaners, does. Brian, who was born with Down Syndrome (and what seems like an eternally positive attitude), loves his job at White Way Cleaners. He considers himself the professional in his line of work, and he’s right.

Today Brian is dressed in nice black pants, polished black shoes and a burgundy White Way jacket embroidered with his name.  He is proud to work for White Way, and believes he’s one of the luckiest men alive to be able to deliver his customers’ garments to them.

On the day I meet him, he seems more interested in interviewing me, than answering the questions I have for him.  He’s excited to meet another new person, “I love meeting new people! I know all the firemen and policemen.”  One of the first questions he asks me is, “Do you know any fireman?”  He mentions he’s proud of them, and proud to know them.  When I ask him what his favorite part about his job is, he mentions he’s proud of his co-workers, and his boss, Amy.  Amy is one of the delivery drivers for White Way Cleaners, but actually works in an affiliate program through Merrick, Inc.

Merrick offers mentally handicapped individuals opportunities for community inclusion and participation, social relationships, skill building, and personal futures.  Each individual is assessed based on their unique passions, values, gifts, interests, skills and preferences so they are placed within a job that aligns with their needs.  At White Way | St Croix Cleaners, about 8 individuals from Merrick help with the delivery services, including Brian.

Twelve years ago, White Way | St Croix Cleaners began talks to work with Merrick Inc. to offer mentally disabled employees a chance to be a part of the community through White Way’s delivery routes.  White Way employees check the clothes in, clean, press and package, and then it is up to the Merrick team to deliver the garments back to the customers.

During the delivery routes, Brian and his co-workers have their own customers to drop off and pick up garments from.

“Each person has their own individual delivery stops and customers.”  Amy Jacobsen, one of the managers and home delivery drivers for White Way and Merrick, explains.  In the morning, four days a week, the crew packs up finished garments at White Way’s main plant on West 7th Street in St Paul. They will then deliver the garments to apartments, condos, office buildings and residential areas, while picking up new bags to be checked in and cleaned for the next available delivery date.

Brian has been considered an important part of the St Paul community for years.  He is an honorary firefighter, and has attended several banquets for them.  He was even given the opportunity to speak at one of their special events.  To this day, it seems that every fireman and policeman in the city of St Paul knows who he is.

John Miller is the Store Lead at White Way’s location on West 7th St in St Paul and mentions how proud he is of Brian, “I’m always impressed with how hard he works.  I never have to ask for help with bringing clothes out to a customer, I just turn around and hear Brian shout, ‘I’ll get it John!’ Before you know it, you have too much help!”

When Brian isn’t working, he is an avid to movie watcher.  He enjoys hanging out on the weekends with his girlfriend and listen to 80’s music as well.  He tells me he’d love to be a comedian, and even tells me a few jokes.  “What do you call Batman and Robin when they get run over by a steam roller?”  “Flatman and Ribbon!”

Brian is proud of the work he does for his regular customers at White Way Cleaners, whom he has known since he started working on the delivery truck 12 years ago.  There is nothing else he’d rather be doing, and not even any tasks he wishes he didn’t have to do. “I like it here,” he says.

“A lot of customers have cards, treats and even Christmas presents for Brian and the others,” Amy says.  The relationship between White Way/St Croix Cleaners and Merrick has been extremely beneficial for everyone involved, and is expected to continue for years to come.  “It gets [these individuals] out into the community.  They’re not just people with disabilities anymore.”

Be sure to stay tuned for the second part of our Merrick Employee Spotlight, when we’ll feature Brian’s fellow employee Matt!

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What is "Green Dry Cleaning"?

“Earth Friendly.”  “Non-Toxic.”  “Environmentally Friendly.”  “100% Toxin Free.”

Not exactly the words that come to mind when you think about Dry Cleaning.  So what really is the meaning of ‘green’ dry cleaning, and what does it mean to you, the consumer, when a dry cleaner claims they are ‘green’?

First of all, we should probably explain what Dry Cleaning itself really is.  It isn’t actually the act of cleaning your clothes when they are dry.  They still are saturated and become ‘wet,’  just not from water.  For over 100 years, Dry Cleaners have primarily used a chemical called perchloroethylene, also known as “Perc”, as the solvent in the dry cleaning process.  This is a harsh chemical which cleans your clothes very well, but with each wash can fade the colors and roughen the fabrics  Perc is also responsible for the chemical smell most people associate with Dry Cleaners.

But besides just bad smells, Perc is also considered a hazardous chemical and some researchers have declared it to be a carcinogen. It is taxed by the government to use, and must be disposed of properly.  Every dry cleaner in the nation must pay into a drycleaners’ “superfund” for hazardous waste cleanups (even if the dry cleaner doesn’t use Perc!).  If there is a spill in a dry cleaning facility, it can be very expensive to clean up.

In the past few years, new technologies have emerged allowing Dry Cleaners to try different solvents for cleaning garments, most with the focus of being more environmentally friendly.

Since building our new plant in 2007, St Croix | White Way Cleaners uses a Hydrocarbon solvent, which, along with being odorless,  biodegrades within days of being exposed to air, water or earth. Oh, and it cleans pretty well too! (Just look at our five straight Seal of Approval wins from the DryCleaning and Laundry Institute!)

Other benefits include:

Softer Feeling Clothes

Extended Garment Life

Virtually Odorless

No Color Loss

Safe on Delicate Fabrics, beads, sequins and other embellishments

We have also invested in another new technology called “Wet Cleaning”.  These machines use water but, unlike “washing machines”, wet cleaning machines infuse detergents, softeners and other cleaning agents via different computer programs to efficiently & effectively clean many garments that previously could only be “dry cleaned”.

St Croix |White Way Cleaners is committed to being an environmentally friendly Dry Cleaner. We are no longer considered a hazardous waste producer by the MN EPA.  Not only do we use non-toxic solvents and recycle hangers, but we were the first in the Midwest to implement the use of bio-degradable plastic bags. These bags are kinder to the environment, and will help preserve our future.

We also use a state of the art water circulation system, effectively recycling and reusing the water supply in our dry cleaning plant.  Since installing this system, we have reduced the amount of water used in our plant by over 35%! It effectively makes our environmental footprint even smaller.

While other Dry Cleaners may say they are “green,” (isn’t everyone, these days?)  Most are still using unnatural solvents to clean your garments.  Though Perc is still being used in the majority of dry cleaners, it is commendable that many dry cleaners are working as hard as possible to use more earth friendly technologies and solvents.  If you want the best of both worlds right now, green cleaning is the clear choice and St Croix | White Way Cleaners is proud to be one of the leaders in the movement.

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Earth Day – More Businesses are Going Green

In honor of Earth Day this Sunday, we wanted to share this interesting article on how different industries, including Dry Cleaners, are “Going Green” and the benefits they see from doing it.

Stay tuned next week as well for a more in-depth look at how St Croix | White Way Cleaners has embraced earth friendly cleaning!

From the Ft. Lauderdale Business Examiner:

Green products are transforming businesses — in a big way since the first Earth Day in 1970.

The Miami Herald reported that more business both within and outside of Florida are going green.  Why is that?  Because it means big business. Just how much has the environmental movement changed South Florida businesses and consumer trends since the first Earth Day 42 years ago? Let’s take a look…

In 1970: The environmentalist picked up litter at the beach and by the highway. Petitioned Congress to ban DDT in pesticides and lead from gas. Joined the local food co-op to buy organic products.

Today: The environmentalist services the family Prius at a green auto center. Uses an eco-friendly dry cleaner or house-cleaning contractor. Shops the GreenWise aisle at Publix.

Eco-friendly trends have transformed government and corporate policies over the past four decades. And those changes are most evident in the rise of green businesses and a new wave of pocketbook environmentalists who believe that going green makes financial sense.

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“I see it every day; more and more people are turning to organics and green products,” says Edward Watson, owner of EJ Organic Lawn Service in Miami. “There’s been a big increase in my business over the past couple years.”

And for good reason, he says. “Using organic products in your yard is better for the environment,” he argues, “but it’s also better for the kids and even the cats and dogs.”

Earth Day on April 22 will highlight the green movement’s progress. Green businesses in the United States constitute a $175 billion industry that employs nearly two million workers, according to a report issued last year based on U.S. Census Bureau data. In Florida alone, environmental businesses contribute an estimated $9 billion a year to the economy and employ nearly 200,000 workers.

The trend has impacted the building industry with regard to LEED certifications. Miami’s commercial real estate tower — the $310 million, 40-story 600 Brickell at Brickell World Plaza — is the only building in Florida to earn the construction industry’s highest green rating of LEED pre-certified platinum (short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) from the U.S. Green Building Council. The West Kendall Baptist Hospital, which opened last year, received a LEED gold certification (the second highest designation).

Mainstream grocery stores have jumped on the organic-foods bandwagon in a big way. Whole Foods and Fresh Market stores have been in the forefront, but Publix Super Markets now features its GreenWise stores and brands. And regional chains like Winn-Dixie Stores and retail giants Target and Walmart are also grabbing a share of the organic-foods market.

Consumer demand for products with fewer agricultural chemicals and additives is skyrocketing, with $26.7 billion in sales last year in the United States, up from $1 billion in 1990, according to the Organic Trade Association. Nearly three-quarters of families buy organic products at least occasionally, according to a 2009 U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Belief Study.

Now, the green movement is also impacting greenery.

“This all began with food, and it’s trickled down into the lawn and garden sector,” says Paul Tukey, founder of safelawns.org and a former host of People, Places & Plants on HGTV. “These same people who are buying organic food for their kids are saying, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t want toxic pesticides on my lawns and around my children.’ ”

An estimated 12 million households use only natural and organic lawn and garden products, up from five million in 2004, according to the National Gardening Association.

The need to ensure businesses follow green standards has led to nonprofit organizations like Certified Green Partners of Hialeah and the Green Seal group, which certify eco-friendly businesses and products. Certified Green Partners has certified more than 100 businesses and government agencies, based on a range of criteria, including recycling programs, water-conservation efforts, energy-saving techniques and the use of nontoxic products.

The Green Seal has provided a “green” equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal for more than 230 eco-friendly products — including paint, paper, cleaning products — as well as hotels, restaurants and cleaning services.

“If you look at the interest in organic foods and the interest in ingredients in certain kinds of beauty care products and cosmetics…people are getting more interested in what a product is made of and how it affects them and their families,” says Linda Chipperfield, vice president of marketing and outreach for Green Seal

Here’s a closer look at three South Florida businesses that have embraced earth-friendly trends and services.

Car repairs

From the street, Sully Dawson’s Oakland Park auto shop is virtually indistinguishable from the dozens of others in the neighborhood. But look past the tires, fluids and engine parts and you’ll see a distinct difference.

Barrels of recyclable materials — metals, oil, tires and antifreeze — share space in the bays with auto lifts. Organic glass cleaners, wheel degreasers, car-wash detergents and biodegradable synthetic “G-oil” are stacked neatly on shelves. And many fuel products are held in 55-gallon drums — not small, individualized bottles — which cuts down on waste and plastic packaging.

“People can’t believe an auto service center can be green, but that’s what we are,” says Dawson, who opened the Eco-Friendly Auto Repair Center two years ago.

Dawson’s philosophy: Recycle and reuse as much as possible. Tires are converted into playground flooring products. The shop uses a service called Safety-Kleen, which cleans and recycles its used oils. It’s also one of the few to offer customers the choice of re-refined (used) Eco Power oil or a biodegradable alternative made from animal fat — “G-Oil,” certified by the American Petroleum Institute — instead of regular motor oil.

Going green doesn’t have to mean compromising on cost or engine performance, Dawson says.

“I get $24.99 for an oil change, so I’m average for the area, even though everything I do is green,” he says. “And like I tell my customers, the military’s been using re-refined oil for about 15 years. And if it’s good enough for a Hummer that’s in the middle of Afghanistan at 130 degrees, it’s good enough for my customers.”

Dawson says he believes his business is as much about changing attitudes as changing oil.

“I get some people who come in sometimes who say, ‘Are you like Whole Foods?’ And then I explain what we do here.”

But Dawson adds that businesses “can basically make small changes — little tweaks, really — that make huge ripples downstream, in terms of the impact on the environment.”

Dry cleaners

Dean Neiger and his brother Steven, who own and operate Dryeco Cleaners in Sunny Isles, are so committed to being green that they offer an environmental pledge on their web site.

The Neigers, who have been in business three years, say they do not use the toxic chemical solvent perchloroethylene (perc).

Dryeco uses a nontoxic biodegradable acetal-based cleaner called K4, developed by the German company Kreussler. The firm also uses a “wet-cleaning” process that uses gentle detergents on even dry clean-only clothes.

“All the other products we use are biodegradable, too,” Dean says. “Even the plastic bags we use on the clothes … they’re made from recycled materials and completely degradable and biodegradable.”

As for being environmentally friendly, Neiger says, “I just believe it’s the right thing to do. And I think our customers appreciate that.”

Maid service

For Petter and Teresa Nahed, the decision to open an eco-friendly maid service was personal as well as professional.

For years, Petter’s mother, Claudia, suffered from chronic breathing problems and illnesses — conditions the family suspects were related to her work for 10 years as a housekeeper using toxic cleaning chemicals. So when the Naheds opened their own family cleaning business in 2006, they decided to go green.

Today, the couple’s business, Maid Green, employs about a dozen house- and commercial-building cleaners who handle an average of 10 jobs on an average day. All use nontoxic biodegradable mineral- or citrus-based cleaners that the EPA has approved to kill germs and bacteria without harsh chemicals that can contribute to environmental contamination and indoor air-pollution levels that can be up to five times higher than outdoors. The Naheds also use reusable microfiber cloths and low-energy, HEPA filtration vacuums.

“Not using all the chemicals is good for the maids and the customers, too,” Teresa Nahed says.

Maid Green uses mineral-based and citrus-based cleaning products that don’t contain toxic chemicals or bleach. It also uses natural cleaners, such as vinegar and lemon juice, which can be effective disinfectants.

Teresa Nahed says the company’s success embodies a key philosophy behind many green businesses: “You can get the same results from using all-natural products and it’s better for us and our customers in the long run … and it’s better for the environment.”

These are just three of many more kinds of businesses going green.  It can add both good publicity and more dollars to your business bottom line and just makes common sense.

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