Charter School Switches to Eco-Friendly Cleaners to Help Students with Allergies

Between 2011 and 2012, the average school size was 146 students across all private schools. Yet no matter the school size, many schools are now looking for ways to create more eco- and health-friendly school environments. And one charter school recently proved just how easy it can be to make a difference to protect the earth and students.

The River Valley Charter School is one of the first schools in the country to replace the toxic chemical cleaners everyone is used to and turn to greener options instead. The school recently replaced their chemical-filled cleaners with an alternative made with a mixture of salt, water, and vinegar.

In November, the mixture, called Force of Nature, was introduced into the school. Officials from the school say that they were simply used to using high-chemical mixtures in their building. School director Andrew Willemsen spoke to the Daily News about switching to an alternative.

“If you look at what’s in some of these products, it’s quite toxic,” Willemsen said. “It’s effective but we wanted to find something that would keep the kids safe and at the same time get the place clean.”

The school switched cleaning products after they became aware of multiple students with severe allergies. Many schools offer kids with allergies the option to sit at “nut-free” tables during lunch so that no allergens come in contact with them or their food. However, River Valley Charter School doesn’t have a cafeteria and students have to eat lunch at their desks. This could cause a higher chance of exposure to children with allergies.

Even though standard, chemical-filled cleaners are commonly thought to be more effective, this isn’t actually the case.

“For kids with life-threatening food allergies, these cleaning products weren’t cutting away all of the particles,” Willemsen said.

Since the school would use a substantial amount of cleaning products on the desks and tables to try and prevent any cross-contamination, the price of cleaning supplies quickly added up. The switch to Force of Nature helped the school out financially and helped ensure that no child was at risk.

Today, more parents and educators are taking special care to avoid exposing kids to potentially dangerous chemicals, and The River Valley Charter School is hardly the only educational institution looking for ways to be more Green and Clean. In fact, according to a recent international study by Unilever, one in three consumers now tries to buy from brands that have a positive social and environmental impact.

At River Valley Charter School, custodians will use the new chemical-free product to clean everything from desks to tables, to hallways, and floors. School officials haven’t noticed any differences in how the new cleaner affects the children.

“There have been no differences, which is actually good news,” Willemesen said. “It doesn’t have any odor to it except that it smells a little like pool water. The good news is that everyone is fine.”

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