Photo courtesy Jessica Guthrie
                                Green cleaning kits are given to attendees at the end of every workshop.

Photo courtesy Jessica Guthrie Green cleaning kits are given to attendees at the end of every workshop.

Bellevue Utilities presenting green-cleaning workshops

The seasonal workshops started in 2012.

Bellevue Utilities is presenting a series of green-cleaning workshops at King County Library System locations throughout the fall season.

The workshops, which began in 2012, are held annually in short periods over the spring and fall months, with six classes offered during the beginning half of the year and five during the second.

According to Jessica Guthrie, the city’s communications specialist, the workshops are an extension of Bellevue’s environmental outreach programs. The programs are supported by a grant from King County’s Hazardous Waste Program.

“In our area, we have a lot of interest in sustainable, environmentally friendly practices,” Guthrie said in an email. “But many people don’t realize how toxic our common cleaning products are.”

Sam Wilder, the city of Bellevue’s school waste reduction specialist, teaches the classes. Each hour-long workshop aims to be both informational and interactive. Participants discover relevant facts about cleaning products to make well-informed buying decisions, then they learn how to make their green cleaning products themselves.

“We want to design it so, as people leave, they feel comfortable and confident about what they’ve just learned,” Wilder said.

Wilder said she’s often found that people don’t always think to make their own green cleaning products because they think it will be time-consuming. This is a notion the workshop seeks to disprove through its interactive component, where participants might learn how to make a quick-and-easy window-and-mirror cleaner using baking soda and vinegar, for instance.

Guthrie pointed out that many household cleaning products are classified as hazardous waste. The workshop hones in on that often obscured fact.

“This is one point we hit on in the classes: why would we want to use something to clean our countertops that isn’t safe to throw away?” Guthrie said.

At the end of the workshop, participants are given “green cleaning kits.” The kits typically include ingredients to make cleaning products at home, recipes and a resource sheet that shares where residents can drop off hazardous cleaners for safe disposal.

Wilder said the only major challenge she’s encountered was the initial struggle to find venues to hold the events. But that changed once Bellevue Utilities partnered with the King County Library System, which has regularly offered up locations for each program.

“They have been a wonderful partner,” Wilder said. “They have been fantastic at providing rooms and having things set up for us, advertising the program and helping us get a really good turnout for these classes.”

Wilder has seen lives tangibly change after putting on a workshop. It isn’t uncommon at a workshop to encounter someone who has suffered from injuries as a result of their cleaning products. After attending one of the workshops, product-related health issues have eased, and the information and tools provided allow people to make immediate changes in their lives.

“It inspires action right away,” Wilder said of the workshop.

Wilder and Guthrie discussed the way the classes have had a positive impact on a range of people.

“A lot of the people who come will start telling their friends to come to the next class,” she said. “We just hope that we keep getting the attendance we’ve been getting.”

“It’s been really encouraging to see the level of interest and participation from very diverse audiences,” Guthrie said.

Wilder also cited the sense of community that forms as being particularly affecting.

“Each one of these classes inspires community,” she said. “People are working together with people they didn’t necessarily come with.”

For more information, visit the city of Bellevue’s website online at https://bit.ly/2zf2HpE.

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