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EARTHWATCH

Cleanup Products Without the Poisons : Simple Green, Life Tree and Ecover are now stocked at area supermarkets.

March 31, 1994|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Spring is here and it's cleanup time, which is never much fun. But there is some news for the environmentally minded: You can get a vast array of earth-friendly products and services locally, no more dialing long distance or driving the freeway.

One company, Tallon, specializes in pest control--but without the usual poisons. So many calls from residents of this county were being made to their Santa Maria and Long Beach offices that they set up shop in Ventura last year, said branch manager Tim Williams. The company injects super-cold liquid nitrogen into the walls to purge the termites. No toxic chemicals. No tent. "We freeze their buns off," quipped Williams' boss, Jay Tallon.

And who hasn't noticed lately that in supermarkets, baking soda, vinegar and common salt are being featured on the labels of many new cleaning products? Even Efferdent and kitty litter. Goodby chlorine. Phooey to biphenyls. We've become suspicious of "super strength." Now the bias is toward biodegradable. We're watching what we wash into the water supply and onto the beaches.

Rather than analyzing this trend further I thought I'd just report on some brands I have used with good results.

New cleaning products with names like Simple Green, Life Tree, Earth Wise and Ecover are becoming available at Ralphs, Vons and Walmart, as well as at Lassens' and Mrs. Gooch's. Trader Joe's now carries a full line of very eco-correct cleaning products bearing the store's name.

The labels on the the best of these products are beginning to read like the beauty counter or snack bar at a fitness salon: citrus, vinegar, salt, soy, coconut oil. No animal products. Only materials from natural, renewable sources--no petrochemicals.

All this planetary probity doesn't mean we're sacrificing true cleanliness, by the way. I agree with David Goldstein, of the county's Waste Management District. He uses Simple Green on his walls and counters and says, "It works." I have also had the same experience with Ecover.

This might be a good time to point out that the very act of cleaning is not what we have traditionally thought it was--getting rid of dirt. We are, if you think about it, just displacing it. We take it off the kitchen floor or off our clothes and it lands in the waste-water stream.

In the heyday of "super-strength" cleaners, we enjoyed the fantasy that we were nuke-ing dirt into nothingness. In fact, we were just adding toxics and perfume to it--making it impossible for it to be returned to nature or to used for growing things. We were making toxic waste in our kitchens. And burning our skin and lungs, year after year.

The final word on this changing trend might be the comment by Karen Christiansen, author of the book "Home Ecology": "I rejected my father's environmental concerns when I was a teen-ager, but with the birth of my first child I became more interested in the future, in the way we have been using up the world's natural resources without a thought for what this will mean to our children and grandchildren."

She gives new meaning to spring cleaning.

Details

* FYI: Some spring cleaning tips on environmentally healthy, nontoxic products and services: Tallon Termite & Pest Control--Ventura office (800) 371-COLD.

* BUYER'S GUIDE: Detergents, toilet cleaner, stain remover and solvents made by Life Tree, Simple Green and Ecover are becoming available at Vons and Ralphs, already at Lassens' and Mrs. Gooch's. Trader Joe's has its own brand of equivalent cleaners.

* READ UP: "Home Ecology" by Karen Christiansen, $18.95 at local bookstores or (800) 922-2908. "Clean and Green" by Anne Berthold-Bond, $8.95 at local bookstores or (914) 679-5573.

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