Newark Star-Ledger, January 13, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Outgoing N.J. Governor Richard Codey has directed all New Jersey state agencies to use least-harmful cleaning products -- a big boost for small firms making 'green' alternative products.]

By Alexander Lane

Gov. Richard Codey ordered state agencies yesterday to use less toxic cleaning products, much to the delight of environmentalists in the state.

The directive was a marquee endorsement for the plant-based, low- impact cleaners that have begun elbowing their way onto supermarket shelves among the big-name ammonia and bleach products.

"Today we can breathe easier knowing our workplaces will be safer and our environment will be cleaner," Codey said while standing beside Deirdre Imus, an environmental activist and wife of radio personality Don Imus.

All state agencies and public authorities will have to use less toxic cleaning products if they can find ones that still protect public health and safety, according to the executive order Codey signed in Trenton.

The Department of the Treasury has to report to the governor and the legislature within a year on how well the state is doing with the order, he said.

"If it's implemented it's an important role model," said Rick Hind, director of the toxics campaign for Greenpeace. "These products are safer for you and better for the environment."

"Green" household cleaners are a tiny fraction of the market, but brands like Seventh Generation, Method, Mrs. Meyer's, Earth Friendly Products and Ecover are getting easier to find.

Many traditional cleaning products contain chemicals that people should try to avoid coming into contact with, like ammonia, bleach, phosphates and the catch-all category "fragrance," which can mean just about anything, said Paul McRandle, senior research editor for The Green Guide.

McRandle suggested consumers use classic cleaners like vinegar, lemon juice, hot water, mild soap and baking soda where possible, and try some of the growing number of green cleaners as well.

"I tried some Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent, and for me it just didn't work," he said.

Imus, founder and president of the Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology at Hackensack Medical Center, said she was delighted with Codey's action.

"An executive order is the first step that can have far-reaching consequences for environmental health, and it's an excellent opportunity for other governors," she said.

Alexander Lane covers the environment. He may be reached at or (973) 392-1790.

Copyright 2006 The Star Ledger