As the market for environmentally conscious supplies and products is exploding, it is becoming much easier to find "green" products. In areas where your organization can't reduce or reuse your products, sustainable purchasing is the best option. Plastic, glass, and tin products can often be "post-consumer recycled," and many disposable products are now made with bio-based materials so that they can be composted or at least decompose more easily. Make room in your budget for these purchases, and set up a policy that encourages sustainable purchasing.
We can make smart, sustainable choices in all aspects of our organizations, and this includes our purchase and disposal of textile, furniture and flooring. Flame retardants often used in electronics, mattresses, and other furnishings are known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers and are linked with endocrine disruption and neuro-developmental effects. These brominated flame retardants have been found to leach out of consumer products and accumulate in the environment and in our bodies and food supplies. As the furniture contents break down, the brominated flame retardants are released into the air in room dust and accumulate on surfaces and can be inhaled and ingested. Thankfully, there are plenty of environmentally conscious and sustainably sourced alternatives on the market. When it comes to disposal of furniture, textiles, and flooring, re-purposing and refurbishing are always the best options, but if this isn't possible, it's most sustainable to donate these items to an organization in need of them or to an institution with the means of recycling them.
Cleaning products are often overlooked when it comes to sustainability. Surprisingly, even low level exposures to some of the chemicals routinely found in many of the products used to clean our homes pose significant health risks to our families. These toxic substances include chemical disinfectants, fragrances, surfactants and solvents and are known to trigger eye, skin and throat irritation, chronic respiratory and neurological diseases, endocrine disruption, kidney or liver damage, and certain types of cancer. Cleaning products can also pollute drinking water when they are rinsed down sink drains and flushed down toilets. While there is no legal definition of "green" products, you may find products that provide full disclosure of ingredients and contain simple, non-toxic ingredients. You can also make your own safe cleaners from simple household ingredients. For more information, please visit: www.grassrootsinfo.org. For The ChildSafe School Guidelines for Green Cleaning Products in Schools, please visit: www.thechildsafeschool.org
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