If you’ve noticed “natural”, “green” or “organic” dry cleaners popping up in your neighborhood, it may be a sign that the area is moving up in the world. But while they may be good for property values, not all of these businesses live up to the eco-friendliness they advertise. Many of these green cleaners are simply regular dry cleaners that noticed the demand for greener products and services and retooled their operations in a way that is not entirely up to snuff with the sustainability customers are looking for.
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Old communities deemed new hotspots by affluent New Yorkers are experiencing more than just an infusion of healthy bank accounts and trendy nicknames like SOBRO (South Bronx) or NOHA (North Harlem). The newer residents moving into these areas tend to also be big supporters of green products and services, and the companies that feed their need for sustainability. As a result, many businesses that have called their local neighborhoods home for decades struggle to stay relevant and customers what they’re looking for.
Traditional dry cleaning techniques include harsh chemicals such as perchloroethylene, or “perc”, hydrocarbons and silicone. The Environmental Protection Agency advises that the perc chemical poses an environmental risk and is a likely human carcinogen. In 2010, councilwoman Jessica Lappin even introduced a bill to regulate mandatory licensure for cleaners that called themselves green, but was unsuccessful.
In an interview with the New York Times, Jimmy Im, owner of Joy S. Organic Dry Cleaners, mentions that he had received direct requests for eco-friendly cleaning options. “Most of the old customers who have been coming here for years, they don’t care; they just want the cheapest thing,” Mr. Im told the Times. “But the neighborhood changed, and more people became concerned.”