As parents ourselves, we know how tough it can be to be the voice of change in your community…especially when it comes to an inconvenient topic like toxic cleaners in schools. On the one hand, it may feel like a small or uncomfortable issue to bring up in front of the PTA or school board. But, if you have a child who suffers from lung disease, asthma, chemical sensitivity, or other health challenges aggravated by cleaning chemicals, then you know how important this issue is. 1 2 Here’s how we (Kelly and Allison) have been successful introducing this topic in a non-threatening way to inspire healthy change at our children’s schools.
TIP #1: Start by educating yourself
If you haven’t yet, it’s important to really educate yourself on the benefits of switching to healthier cleaning products. People aren’t as aware of this issue as they are about children’s nutrition for example, so you’ll want to know your stuff before you broach the topic. Plus, the more you know the more motivated you’ll be to make change happen.
A few important points to address right away?
- The use of cleaners with harmful chemicals expose children to asthmagens, carcinogens, obesogens, endocrine disruptors and neurotoxins 3
- Conventional cleaners that contain EPA registered pesticides and alcohol (sanitizers and disinfectants) contribute to antibiotic resistance and the creation of super microbes.
- Over use of antibacterial products weakens the immune system 4
Check out these articles and this list we compiled for you for some excellent research and resources on why and how to make the switch to non-toxic cleaners:
- 2 Things Parents Can Do To Dramatically Improve School Air Quality
- How to Naturally Disinfect Surfaces
- Home Cleanse Guide: How to Detox Your Home
tip #2: Get familiar with the schools’ existing cleaning procedures
If your child is in a small school or daycare setting all you have to do is ask the director what’s involved. However, if your child is in public school it can take a little more digging. Start by asking your child’s teacher or principal how you can learn more about their cleaning procedures. Explain your motivation to help create a greener, healthier environment for learning and development. Also, if you get involved in the PTA and/or attend school meetings and functions, you’ll likely meet the people you need to know to get the information on procedures and budgeting faster.
tip #3: gift branch basics to the decision maker(s)
We’ve converted many people using this step alone. Plus, when they have the experience of how versatile, effective, and easy the products are to use, they’ll be on your side when it comes to presenting your case in front of the school board/decision makers.
tip #4: share your experience
People love a good story, so why not share why you switched your family to safer cleaning and household products? Remember, schools are usually run by people who care deeply about the health and welfare of children and families, and they’ll be more willing to listen if you walk your talk.
tip #5: make it easy for them to say “yes”
How do you do this? By doing the heavy lifting for them. Crunch the numbers to show them how healthy cleaning can fit into the budget, provide the first batch of safe cleaners so they can do a test-run, present the scientific literature on how harmful cleaning chemicals are to childrens’ lungs5, immune systems6, and brains7, and walk through the school with them to help decipher what products can stay and what should go. You may also choose to bring in an expert, like your child’s doctor, naturopath, or healthy home expert to help you present the facts and make a strong case.
Educators and administrators are often overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities, you must make it easy for them to say yes. For example, when my daughter’s preschool agreed to give our cleaners a go, I filled all the Branch Basics bottles for them and put trigger sprayers on hydrogen peroxide and vinegar bottles to make it super easy. If your children attend a larger school, try going directly to their janitorial service to see if you can get them to provide your list of preferred non-toxic cleaners to their list of services. That way when you bring it up to the school, it’s much easier for them to say “yes”.
Need some inspiration? Branch Basics is an approved cleaner in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second largest school district in the nation! We’ve also been able to help our daughter’s schools switch to safer cleaning in Texas and Mississippi!
tip #6: treat everyone like a partner
Remember, every person you talk to is committed to keeping a clean environment to enhance the health of these children. And while we may see using conventional sanitizers and disinfectants as dangerous, many other people see it as an essential way to prevent the spread of disease in schools.
tip #7: school not ready? start in the classroom
If the school needs more time to make changes, then see if you can get your child’s teacher on board. Use of safe cleaners in the classroom will greatly reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals while improving indoor air quality.
a final bit of advice…
Avoid fear-based tactics as much as possible and focus on the benefits of making the switch: healthier lungs, stronger immunity, better learning, etc. And above all, be politely persistent. It may take time, but it’s worth every little win and baby step to create a healthier school environment for everyone’s children!