Did you know that we donate a percentage of the proceeds from the homes we clean to Cleaning for a Reason? We've got an interview with Stephanie Floyd, owner and operator of World Class Cleaning; and we're discussing what Cleaning for a Reason is, and how hiring us to keep your home clean and tidy also benefits cleaning the homes of women battling cancer.
So we're here to discuss your partnership with Cleaning for a Reason. For those who don't know, what is this organization?
Cleaning for a Reason is a nonprofit organization that partners with local cleaning companies to offer cleaning services to women battling cancer. We do anything in the house that the customer would like us to do. From washing laundry, to doing dishes, going through canned goods that might be expired, organizing work spaces, cleaning out refrigerators -- we do it all. Each visit, the customer gets 4 hours of cleaning. So we ask that the customer prepares a priority list of what they would like cleaned in their home.
We don’t get any payment for these cleanings. We pay our staff, but we don’t receive any payment. From our paid cleanings we donate proceeds to Cleaning for a Reason, and we’re always looking for extra donations!
To ask a rather personal question, what is your experience with cancer that has led to such personal passion regarding the subject?
My aunt had pancreatic cancer and passed away from it. She struggled to keep up with housework amongst other things. I didn’t know about Cleaning for a Reason at the time, and once I found out about the program I definitely knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. I knew of my aunts struggle and I wanted to do my best to make the battle a little less stressful.
How long have you been offering this service?
We’ve been offering free cleanings for seven years.
And for how many women have you provided these free cleanings?
About 240 women!
How does somebody get in touch with Cleaning for a Reason and request services from World Class Cleaning?
A family member or friend of the patient can call (877) 337-3348 and request World Class Cleaning, and Cleaning for a Reason will contact us directly.
Stephanie, thank you for your time and thank you for what you do! 240 women is no small number and we're proud to be a part of a team doing something so wonderful for the community around us. To learn more about Cleaning for a Reason visit http://cleaningforareason.org/
While we’re in the kitchen, let us discuss dishes. I know you’re not using paper plates anymore (huzzah!) but I also know you’ve discovered the value of laundry detergent that isn’t gross!
Could we make washing dishes a less gross process as well?
That’s all for this week! See you next time!
JK obviously I’m not going to do you like that. Not only can you make your own dishwashing soap in a very cheap and very planet-friendly way that eliminates a ton of packaging as well as all the usual manufacturing and transport chain that sucks up water, energy, and fossil fuels.
Dishwasher soap recipe
Turns out, just as with laundry detergent, you don’t need to purchase chemical-laden stuff with a ton of packaging—stuff that chokes out rivers with its algae-encouraging properties. It is even easier to make than laundry detergent too, and, if you’ve made that good stuff, you will have a lot of this on hand.
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax
1/2 cup citric acid
1/2 cup kosher salt
Mix it all up, stick it in a jar, done.
1 Tbsp per load and your dishes will be beautiful with a minimum of spots.
For those dishes you wash by hand, I simply cannot recommend castile soap enough. A gallon gets me through a full year, at least. I decant it into a smaller bottle and use it for everything. It works perfectly, has no scent (or, I guess you could throw some essential oil in there if you wanted, but I like things to smell neutral), AND you can use the same soap to wash your hands. A one-soap-fits-all experience, without anything bad in it!
A well-packed dishwasher with a full load uses less water than washing those dishes by hand!
I just let things air dry, or do a cool one in my dishwasher, but occasionally we’ll have to towel dry a dish to get room in the dish rack for a big pot or something. In which case, I use, instead of paper towels, dish towels—which dry dishes perfectly well! It’s almost like they were named appropriately!
Paper products are confusing your brain
One of the very first changes I made to my lifestyle in an attempt to create less waste also made me remember (or possibly even fully realize for the first time) that things like paper towels, paper napkins, and paper plates were developed for convenience at the expense of quality.
Putting greenness aside for a second—I’d like to follow this thought through. Convenience over quality in the case of single-use paper products means “we all accept that this item doesn’t work as well as the original, but when you’re finished you can just throw it out, which is pretty rad.” No laundering, no folding, just use and go on with your business.
When the paper towel was invented in the late 19th century, it was originally meant to stop the spread of germs in public bathrooms. Listen, I’m all for that. Public bathrooms should definitely be as not-gross as possible. But their convenience led them to eventually replace cloth in kitchens and homes.
And companies like Scott were like, “Well dang, now we have this thing that people enjoy throwing away, which means they need to buy more of them pretty quickly! We are brilliant!” So not only did humans get used to convenience over quality, they got more used to paying more for it too.
What a weird thing brains are! Over the generations, paper towels (and then paper napkins and even paper plates, which blows my mind) became not just ubiquitous but basically required in every household.
Back to being green, paper towels may not have as much of an environmental impact as, say, plastic stuff, but, like everything else, they’re manufactured, which means deforestation, and lots of energy, water, and fuel used in mills and transport for something we just…toss (along with the money we use to buy them). Sure, they might be biodegradable and even work pretty well in compost piles, but the chemicals used to make them aren’t exactly planet-friendly.
So, what to do?
I use “bar mops,” which are less mops and more “large-ish squares of terrycloth fabric of the kind that a barkeep might sling over his shoulder while you’re telling him a story that’s making his eyes glaze over.”
I might have these, but I honestly can’t remember. I got them close to a decade ago in a huge pack, and have not had to buy them since. Sometimes, one of my cloths will get so nasty that I have to throw it out—or is used for cleaning up something particularly gross, which is often my dog’s fault. But for the most part, I have about 8-10 cloths in rotation at a time, with a big stack of pristine cotton cloths waiting for me under my sink that I’ve never even used.
The cloths get thrown into the washer (after letting them dry if they’re really wet so as to prevent mildew), and then when I do laundry, there they are. They get dried, folded and stuck back into a small cabinet for ease of use.
But what about paper towels as napkins?
Friends, cloth napkins do the basic napkin job (keeping food from getting all over you) in a superior fashion. They also work better for wiping hands and mouths and spills, and you just toss them in the laundry—daily if you want, or MAYBE every other week if you’re me.
Because I read too much Jane Austen, I have a set of napkins that are more formal, which we use at dinner, particularly if people are over. And I have another set of kind of mismatched ones that I use for eating pizza in front of the TV.
Mostly, though, cloth napkins seems entirely normal to me. The weight and feel of a paper towel or paper napkin on my lap is frankly unsatisfying, and won’t hold up to the spills I will inevitably produce, because I am basically a grownup child.
But what about paper plates?
Surely I do not have to make the case that a real plate is better at holding food than a paper plate. Jane Austen would cry at the very idea of a paper plate, and I’m guessing you already have these in your kitchen anyway.
It’s almost as if quality costs less money sometimes.
You’re correct! I don’t find my laundry-doing significantly impacted, and I just never even visit that aisle anymore in the grocery store. Except for toilet paper, which we’ll get to in this series one of these days.
I want you to try going without paper towels, napkins, and plates for a month, and I bet you won’t miss them. Then, I want you to look around and think about what other things we have that we just accept are the Way Things Have Always Been And Must Continue Forever because generations of marketing has led us to believe this. Which other things are you paying money to throw away?
There are entire internet tomes available for you to read (in addition to actual made-of-paper tomes) about the importance of eating organic food that hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals that are harmful to both your body and the environment.
I won’t bore you with what you already know—eating well became one of the first things I ever did to improve my greenness and it was instantly rewarding. But, it gets expensive if you don’t do it right.
It also gets super, super wasteful. Buying a bunch of organic produce (or any food, for that matter) that you don’t need just means it ends up in landfills, where rotting food makes up a gross amount of trash and releases methane into the atmosphere.
As the EPA says, feed people, not landfills.
On a family level, watching your fridge fill with food you don’t end up eating makes shopping seem pointless. “I end up just throwing most of it away and it feels like I’m wasting money, so I might as well eat out,” is something I hear a lot. Bad news, but restaurants are wasteful too, and they’re way more likely to have stuff in your food you don’t want to be putting into your body. Plus, if you believe you’re saving money by eating out all the time, I would like to have a look at your bank statements.
In sum, the most sustainable (and delicious) ways to eat are:
- Grow as much of your own food as you can
- Go organic, particularly from local farms (the farmers market is your friend)
- Cook all the time
I can’t help you with the first—I’m just figuring out gardening myself—but over the years I’ve perfected the art of planning my meals to a minimally wasteful, seasonally appropriate, money-saving and skill-building art. Also, I get to listen to audiobooks while I’m cooking, so I’m not sweating it either.
Susan’s Tried and True Meal-Planning Approach
Step 1: Subscribe to food magazines for seasonal ideas, and never say “I don’t know what to make for dinner” again.
You could also find some good blogs you like, but it’s important not to just search for recipes. Sure, I’ll search for a special request for a baked good, but the world of internet recipes is too vast and too untried. Finding your favorite food magazines gives you a trusted source that gets delivered to your door, and features recipes that have seasonal produce in them.
This way, you get a sense of what’s in season when, and don’t head to the grocery store for strawberries in February. (Strawberries in February are not only subpar, they have to be shipped in from far away, and will usually be expensive.)
My favorite food magazines are Milk Street, Cook’s Illustrated (both of these are a little more advanced), and Martha Stewart Living—also handy if you need to make a superfluous thing from a rope, some paint, and 14 other special craft tools you do not own. I go off and on with Vegetarian Times, too. I’m not a vegetarian, but their focus on produce is more in line with my style.
Step 2: Once a month, or as they arrive, look through your magazines and any cookbooks you feel like using and dog-ear (or write down with page number) any recipes that catch your eye.
Step 3: Each weekend (or whatever day works for you), go through your calendar and figure out which days you are eating at home. Go through your list (or dog-ears) and try to pick recipes that feature a lot of the same ingredients, particularly those that come in bunches.
Does one recipe require two scallions? Well, guess what, cooks. Scallions come in bunches of six or more. Try to find two recipes that require scallions and you’re good to go.
Does one require a tiny amount of a weird thing you don’t have and you don’t feel like buying a ton of? Skip it, unless you think it’ll be vital to the recipe. Then, find some other recipes to make that month that use the ingredient.
Then, look at serving size to see if you can stretch one meal into leftovers for the following night. Make a meal plan on your calendar so you can keep track of what you’re planning to make when. This will help you remember to defrost a thing, and it will provide a very big incentive to not go out.
Step 4: Make a shopping list and do not veer from it. I use the app Shopper, which sorts it into nice aisles for you.
Step 5: Shop at a place that carries good food. I try to start with the farmers market on my weekly trip there, then hit up a store that specializes in natural foods, then will go to Kroger if I need to. I don’t always do this three-stop process but sometimes, it cannot be helped.
Stock up on stuff like coconut milk, ginger, and rice at Asian markets, and treat yourself to good spices at Penzey’s. Once you get your pantry stocked, your grocery list will get pretty minimal.
Step 6: Look up the ways to store your food properly, and keep your fridge pretty clean. This last part is for psychological reasons. If you know you’re going to open up your fridge to 25 pounds of rotting food, you are less likely to open up your fridge at all and will just throw your magazines away and order pizza. The number of times I have done this is…embarrassing.
And of course, compost everything you don’t eat (unless it’s an animal product).
Bonus step: Get a binder or folder, tear out the page with a recipe you loved, and don’t bother with ones you merely liked. Who has time for recipes that are just OK? Might as well just keep the gold-medal winners. Then, when you can’t find any inspiration, you can just go to your binder and find your faves. I have some sorted into “quick and easy” and “impressive dinner” sections.
Bonus bonus step: Invite me over for dinner. I will bring dessert.
Real quick, let’s revisit my goals for this series:
* To help you reduce your impact on the earth…
* …in ways you can absolutely handle
I wanted to reiterate because this is an episode that might start you out with an eye roll. But once your eyes settle back into their normal reading position, I want to assure you that I will replace dry cleaning in your life with something just as convenient, effective, and effortlessly better:
More dry cleaning.
But first, let us define.
Dry cleaning is neither dry nor clean. Well, I guess it depends on how you define either. Dry cleaning could be better described as “non-water cleaning.” Your clothes certainly get wet, they just get swished around in chemicals that don’t do whatever damage water does to various fibers. And if “clean” means that you can’t see dirt on your clothes, then sure. But if it means “not bathed in toxic chemicals that now are entering your airspace as well as your skinspace,” then nope.
A brief history.
Cleaners used to use kerosene—yes the kind that easily bursts into flames—before bursting into flames started to seem like a bad trait for textiles you wear on your body, not to mention your place of work. Then, perchloroethylene was discovered.
Perc & you!
Perc, which is also used to degrease metal and shine shoes, is very likely cancer-causing—as the wearer, you’re at less of a risk (still gross, though), but as a dry cleaning employee, you certainly are—and it definitely can cause brain and nerve damage, liver damage, and a bunch of other damages you don’t want. Even people standing close to other people who work at a dry cleaners can get secondhand perc fumes. Even if you live NEAR a dry cleaners, you can be breathing in perc, which is toxic even in low levels.
How to avoid
- A lot of stuff you typically dry clean can be laundered at home—I’ve been using these tips by Martha Stewart for many years. You could just avoid these types of fabrics, but as both silk and wool meet my natural fiber standards. I enjoy them, so I do the work.
2. Go to the dry cleaners. But not just any dry cleaners! Find yourself an eco-friendly cleaners that doesn’t use perc.
To make it even easier for you, allow me to recommend my new favorite, C. Alexander’s Cleaners in Church Hill (2007 Venable St.). As far as I could find (or the owner, Marion Fields, knows of), it’s the only green cleaners in town. And don’t buy anyone who just says “organic”—it could just mean carbon-based, which perc, technically, is.
To make it EVEN easier for you so that you don’t have to talk to strangers (although you should, because Marion is a really cool lady), I have asked her her motivations and her methods. Put simply, she did a lot of research and didn’t want her or her employees (some of whom are her own family) to get sick. So, instead of sending clothes out to the dry cleaning plants most retailers do (spoiler, you didn’t think the tiny cleaners next to your old apartment really has a big chemical processing facility down in the basement did you?), she found one in Highland Springs that was perc-free.
Caption: Here’s Marion and the patient customer who endured my question-asking.
As far as I can tell, prices seem pretty on-point at C. Alexander’s, where they also do alterations in a pleasant friendly environment—one customer even pleasantly waited forever for me to ask a million questions.
3. Request no plastic bagging for your clothes. If you’re at C. Alexander’s, this reduces the amount of plastic in the world. If you’re determined to stick to a perc-using cleaner, this lets your clothes air out so you’re not creating a weird gaseous greenhouse and making things worse than they already are.
Bonus: Return wired hangers if your dry cleaner accepts them, and I bet they do. Velvet hangers save space, hold your clothes way better, and do not make Joan Crawford mad. There’s no reason to encourage even more wire hangers to eventually end up in landfills, chilling with all the plastic and living for a very long time.
Double bonus: Tell your current cleaner what’s up. The easiest way to do this is to walk right in, ask if they use perc, and when they say yes, say “Oh, I’m sorry I’ll have to find someone else.” The more they hear this, they more they’ll consider switching over.