True Quality CleaningStraight talk about caring for fine garments & household textiles from an expert who calls it like it is. In plain English.

Outgreening the green cleaners with carbon neutrality

Outgreening billboardAccording to climate scientists, we're spewing more carbon dioxide, a heat trapping gas, into the atmosphere than all the forests and oceans can possibly absorb. This is why carbon dioxide is considered one of the primary contributors to global warming. And why we're hearing so much these days about "carbon footprint", "carbon offsets" and "carbon neutrality."

Of course, it was only a matter of time before "green" cleaners (both actual and, yes, imaginary) started claiming that they were "carbon neutral" and featuring promotional tag lines such as "the only drycleaner in the Southwest to become carbon neutral" and "our delivery vehicles are carbon neutral."

The process of becoming carbon neutral sounds quite complicated and expensive. Actually it's quite simple and, for most cleaners, involves no more than a couple of minutes and a couple of hundred dollars.

To become carbon neutral a cleaner first calculates their carbon footprint, i.e., how much carbon dioxide their operations emit into the atmosphere (carbon dioxide emissions are typically calculated in metric tons per year). Next, they take actions to remove an equal amount of emissions from the environment, essentially creating a neutral or zero impact.

To help you calculate your personal or business carbon footprint, a number of reputable websites (such as CarbonFund, BeGreenNow, Terrapass, CarbonNeutral and SterlingPlanet) offer online carbon calculators. Plug in a few variables and the calculator determines your "carbon footprint".

At this point, a cleaner can neutralize their emissions by (1) adopting energy conservation practices and/or (2) cancelling out the remaining emissions by purchasing carbon offsets from a non-profit or for profit company. These companies acquire the carbon offsets by "investing" in carbon dioxide reduction projects such as renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels, etc.) and reforestation projects.

So how much are these carbon neutral credits costing these cleaners?

I went to and plugged a few variables into their online calculator: a business (such as a drycleaner) occupying 2,500 square foot of retail space and operating 2 midsize delivery vans each doing 15,000 miles per year.

The final cost? About $350.00 per year (34.35 metric tons of CO2 at $10 per ton).

Truth is, these "carbon neutral cleaners" are purchasing a barrel full of marketing hoopla for a pittance. And, in the process, giving themselves carte blanche to pollute as much as they want, pay someone else to offset their emissions, make outrageous claims about their "carbon neutrality", and feel good at the end of the day.

Clearly, these cleaners are hoping that their customers and potential consumers

  • might be impressed that they "invest" in carbon neutral credits,
  • might believe that their cleaning is somehow "more eco-friendly", and
  • might assume that they can reduce their own personal carbon footprint by using that cleaner.

As usual the thing that's all the rage - green cleaning - is being oversold and underscrutinized. That's why it's important to look beyond the slogans and the claims. Being an environmentally conscious consumer means doing your homework.

In many cases, you'll find that the emperor has no clothes.

How can I help you?

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