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Usually it takes a while for the government to catch on to a good thing. The private sector is often ahead of government, especially where there is a profit to be had. I wonder why government is so far ahead of the private sector when it comes to green cleaning.

Green cleaning refers to cleaning techniques that are less caustic. They hurt the environment less than other traditional techniques and they hurt humans less as well.

Before modern products dominated grocer's shelves, a lot of simpler, less caustic products were available. Vinegar comes to mind. Many people from Europe still use vinegar to clean just about everything, and it works. Now, its regarded as one of those environmentally green products.

The federal government now has a green purchasing policy concerning its office buildings. There are various organizations that have certified products to be "green," and under the federal program these products are preferred.

The government observed that one of the benefits of its program is that it leads to a healthier indoor air quality for its work force. This is particularly important because Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors and according to some studies, indoor air quality can be much more contaminated than outdoor areas.

The feds are trying to convince other governments to follow their lead. As benefits they cite the following: promotes a healthier work environment, improves safety for janitors, reduces an agency's overall environmental liability, and it helps create a larger market place for cost effective green cleaning products.

Last August New York State took a very bold move in the right direction when the Governor signed an executive order requiring that whenever feasible all New York schools must use green cleaning products.

The program is well underway. And the State takes this very seriously. Today, school children and school employees have drastically reduced exposure to the harmful chemicals that had been used for day to day cleaning.

In certain instances, the older products are still being used because effective alternatives have not been identified and in some cases, because so much of the less toxic material is needed that there is not net gain.

But the New York schools are very green today. That's New York. Here is a really good question: why isn't this being done in every school district across the country? Should only New York students have a cleaner environment?

We need to reduce the exposure of children and staff to harsh cleaning agents. Every school district in the US, without exception, needs to follow New York's lead. Why not attend local meetings and start making this demand.

To do this, read a lot of the literature that exists about New York's experience. Also, read information distributed by the certifying agencies that label certain products as green. There has been a lot of shared experience to date, and you should have this information with you when you make your pitch.

Frankly, you can't lose. The chemicals often cost the same as those now in use. And there is no reasonable debate as to the attributes of this approach. We need activists to go out and start making this happen all over the US.

Ultimately, when will be able to go to the local supermarket and have a large selection of nontoxic, capable cleaning supplies for use at home? The feds and New York are right about this. Its time that every household enjoys the same potential.

Which is my hope for 2007.

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