Safe space for breathing
My childhood was chock-full of great scents. At home, the fruity, wood-pulpey smell of scratch-n-sniff stickers. At school, the piney Dixon Ticonderoga with its earthy eraser. On the street, yeasty bakeries and peppery meat markets.
But one olfactory memory I could do without is the acrid, throat-constricting scent of Pine Sol. Mom's weekly ritual of scouring the floors with that corrosive stuff drove every child within its noxious orbit quickly out of doors. I came to find, decades later, Pine Sol and many other cleaning fluids were poisonous cocktails packing hazardous chemicals known to cause a slew of health issues.
Consumers are better educated nowadays about the potential health hazards of harsh chemicals in cleaning solutions. Many of us can buy or make organic concoctions for home cleaning, certain that ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda are innocuous compared to chemicals like toluene once found in Pine Sol.
But what about our public spaces? Surely a space such as LPL, that sees close to 2,000 visitors a day, would need to utilize some heavy chemicals to purge dirt and germs circulating throughout the building. Right? Thankfully, no. LPL is a safe space for breathing!
The library is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certified building, which means that its brick-and-mortar makeup is designed for both public health and sustainability. According to Jon Ratzlaff, LPL's Facilities Coordinator, patrons can rest assured that maintenance of the building is focused on LEED ideals, too, and that means a clean and healthy environment for all who enter.
"LPL’s Facility Department is thinking green in our day-to-day operations," says Jon. "My hope is to add to our LEED certification with a fully recognized Green Cleaning Policy."
LEED credentials are notoriously stringent, and with good reason; when it comes to maintaining healthy public environments, lessening energy reliance, and posing the least possible risk to an already endangered planet, cutting corners just won't do.
New solutions for an old nemesis
Jon and staff are close to the goal of additional LEED recognition with the implementation of several new green cleaning initiatives and supplies that are easy on the earth while still unmercifully vanquishing dirt.
"Most exciting to me is the implementation of Aqueous Ozone for cleaning and sanitizing. This move almost completely eliminates chemicals used in the day to day cleaning, sanitizing, and general upkeep of the building, which will improve the overall health of the library’s inner environment, especially for those who use it daily," says Jon.
Lawrence Public Schools, too, uses the Aqueous Ozone system, which transforms oxygen into ozone, then infuses the ozone into ordinary tap water. The infused tap water is brutal on grime but harmless to patrons.
Phillip Howard, Lead Maintenance at LPL, says he feels good about the library's switch from chemicals to the mysteriously effective Aqueous Ozone solution.
"I feel safe working with it, because a lot of that other stuff--you're not sure what's in it," Phillip says. "But, to be honest, I'm still trying to figure out what makes it work."
"It's my understanding that you could pour the stuff on yourself. You could drink it, it's that harmless," Brad Allen, LPL Director, enthuses. "The point is, we aren't exposing people to chemicals in the library."
And that is a very good thing, considering that every day is cleaning day at LPL.
The other new and impressive piece added to the LPL cleaning regime is the... [cue trumpets] deep cleaning extractor! Don't let the less-than-dazzling name fool you; this suped-up vacuum/carpet cleaner is something to croon about, especially for our youngest patrons.
"This special carpet extractor can be utilized for deep extraction, to get stains and deep-down dirt out of the carpet, but also for surface cleaning the carpet," Jon explains.
Because of its surface cleaning capacity, carpets get clean without getting soggy, and the staff can use it more often.
"That means less embedded soil in the carpet, a progressively brighter appearance, and an overall healthier inner environment, especially in Childrens’ where we’ve got the most crawlers," says Jon.
Let's all take a deep breath, then work on doing more
As Lawrencians, we're well aware that our town has its own uniquely wonderful smells in mud-scented river banks, bouquets of herbs and flowers at the farmers market, and voluminous Mass Street eateries instantly tugging at the salivary glands. While we can't control all the bad smells in our environment, from grease traps to cigarette smoke to post-workout funk, at least you can count on LPL for a tidy and spotless space maintained by a great crew devoted to environmentally-friendly cleaning practices.
This is a decidedly NO PINE SOL zone. We hope that means you'll flock instead of flee when the mops come out, and trust LPL as your reliably safe space to learn, imagine, and breathe.
April 22nd is Earth Day! Here are some books that highlight ecology and environmentalism, and an abiding love for the land.