Environmentally Friendly Dry Cleaning Arrives

Thursday, July 1, 2010

by Bridget A. Otto, THE OREGONIAN, June 25, 2010

image "Eco-dry cleaning is not an oxymoron," says DJ Widmer, sitting in the offices of Eco Dry Cleaner.

He smiles, but in truth, dry cleaning has for years been shackled with a reputation as an environmental bad boy. Failure to regulate the industry in its infancy resulted in mishandling of toxic materials and waste. That, of course, has changed dramatically over the years with the imposition of environmental regulations on the handling and disposition of chemicals as well as the creation of greener cleaning solutions.

And changes continue.

Take perc, for example. It’s short for perchloroethylene, the industry’s widely used petroleum-based cleaning solution. In Oregon, there are just over 300 dry cleaning operations and, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, about 60 percent use perc, which is classified as an air contaminant by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In an effort to be, as Widmer says, "the cleanest dry cleaner in the area," Eco Dry Cleaner is going a route some other Portland area dry cleaners have taken.

Instead of using perc, Eco — formerly Dry Cleaning Station — uses GreenEarth, a liquid silicone solution that has gained favor with dry cleaners here and throughout the country. Plaza Cleaners, with locations in Northwest Portland and the Pearl District, is the state’s longest running user of GreenEarth.

Growing the green cleaner is his No. 1 goal, and Widmer’s taken a different tack there as well, from building relationships to making dry cleaning as convenient as possible to keeping prices competitive.

In addition to two storefronts — one in Bethany; the other on Northeast Broadway — Eco has satellite locations in Seven Planet in Old Town and Lamb’s at Strohecker’s. New to the line up is a sleek, bamboo drop box inside Whole Foods in the Pearl. Just drop your laundry bag in the one-way slot and your dry-cleaned clothes are ready the next day — either at the store or delivered free to your home.

Housing the drop boxes within grocery stores turns two errands into one, Widmer says.

As far as relationships, Widmer’s reached out to several large firms — Nike, Miller Nash, Bank of the West, to name a few — where he’s established a green quid pro quo of sorts with each firm’s in-house sustainability coordinator: They spread the news about Eco Dry Cleaner and he offers them a discount. In addition, he lists the companies on Eco’s website as green supporters who promote clean, green living. [Read rest of story]

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