Mason introduced a "Green Cleaning for a Healthier Wisconsin" bill that would eventually require all state, county and municipal buildings to be cleaned with methods and products "that minimize adverse effects on human health and the environment." As part of the bill, the state Department of Health Services would adopt rules and standards for such products as restroom cleaners, hand soap, toilet paper and paper towels and vacuum cleaners.
Initially, the bill would adopt standards promulgated by such programs as Green Seal, Inc., TerraChoice Enviornmental Marketing, Inc., the Green Label Program of the Carpet and Rug Institute and the federal Environmental Protection Agency; when standards conflict the bill says DHS "shall give a preference to standards that are more protective of human health and prevention of the spread of infection and disease."
Mason, said the bill would "encourage healthier and more environmentally friendly cleaning in schools."
"Childrens' lungs are susceptible," he said, "and the students at Walden have decided being a leader in the environment is really part of their goal."
Robert Israel, vp of global environmental sustainability at JohnsonDiversey, noted that health problems caused by indoor air quality cost the U.S. more than $120 billion a year: "Asthma alone causes children to miss 14 million days of school each year." JohnsonDiversey launched a line of commercial indoor green cleaning products in 2003, "to save lives and preserve the earth." JohnsonDiversey partnered with Mason to develop the bill.
Brian Torner, a Walden biology teacher, said his students did a lab experiment last year and "found that green cleaning products work as well as others."
Jane Finkenbine, parent of two Walden students and president of the PTSA, agreed that "Walden is leading the way," and told how student-learned lessons carry on to the home: "We don't buy bottled water any more," she said.
State Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, said the legislation addresses "public health, environmental needs and our economy," and praised Mason as "one of our shining stars."
Sheridan, left, and Mason
examine JohnsonDiversey products
examine JohnsonDiversey products
The press conference was held at Walden both because of its environmental awareness (see our stories about the school's rain garden and "green revolution" from this summer) and because of JohnsonDiversey's presence in Racine. Mason is a Walden graduate and said he would not be a public official if not for his experience with student government there.
Speakers were reluctant -- they outright refused -- to name any harmful cleaning products now on the market. When asked what they do use, Jeff Neubauer, president of Johnson distributor Kranz Inc., said, "Johnson-Diversey products," and Mason said "SCJ." Neubauer elaborated that schools and office buildings use "towels and tissues that require up to 35 million trees. We don't need to do that; recycled paper is available." He cited products made in Wisconsin by Wausau Paper Co.
When asked how to choose among products, to find those that are most environmentally sound, Israel said, "third-party certification," which is where Mason's bill begins.
Mason said one-third of Unified schools already use environmentally sound products; "Walden is at the epicenter and the state needs to provide some leadership for all public buildings." He urged everyone to think about what's on the janitor's cleaning cart: cleaning supplies, papers, vacuum.
Walden senior Rachel Pettit asked what enforcement was built into the bill. None, Mason said. "It's advisory; we're saying you need to do this. There are no penalties in the bill, no green police." But he said, "using the purchasing power of the state will change the way the market works."