By Jayden Colby, Environmental Health Eco-Rep
Traditional cleaning products contain chemicals that are harmful to both human and ecological health. Some of the common chemicals that humans are exposed to through traditional cleaning products include ammonia, formaldehyde and hydrochloric acid. These chemicals can lead to a variety of health problems including worsening asthma, respiratory irritation, birth defects, and have also been linked to cancer. These chemicals often stay in the environment long after their initial use, entering bodies of water to harm other species. An easy solution to this is switch to cleaning products made from ingredients that are “green” or better for the environment and human health. Common alternatives to common chemicals chemicals found in most products include vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, etc. These ingredients clean just as well as the standard cleaning product but have the benefit of being less harmful to human health and the environment.
USM’s Environmental Health Eco-Reps are working to address this issue. On March 20, the Eco-Reps implemented a Green Cleaning pilot program in Philippi Hall on the Gorham campus. The second floor west wing has access to free green cleaning supplies to use in their dorm rooms. However, any student living in Philippi can use these products, we just ask that they are signed out and returned in a timely fashion. The available supplies include standard all-purpose cleaner, window cleaner, a heavy duty all-purpose cleaner and microfiber towels. If this pilot program shows success, our hope is to expand the project to the entire building and others on campus. This project serves to provide a safer alternative to traditional cleaning supplies and it can reduce allergenic triggers. Other benefits include decreased waste on campus as there will be no single-use material being thrown away, financial savings for students who are already buying their own cleaning supplies and it serves as an educational opportunity for students to learn about environmental health impacts. In addition, it presents the opportunity to build community through spreading this education to other members in society. The Eco-Reps are also looking at other homemade alternatives to products such as laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and air fresheners.
If you don’t live in Philippi Hall but are interested in making your own cleaning supplies, there are plenty of options for all of your cleaning needs. One easy alternative is to change out Windex, or any window cleaner, for two cups of water, one half cup of vinegar, one half cup of rubbing alcohol, and two drops of your favorite essential oil. If you’re interested in getting involved in sustainability initiatives on campus and making a real impact, visit USM’s Office of Sustainability’s website. You can also contact [email protected] for more information about the Green Cleaning Program or other Eco-Rep projects.