The dry cleaning business is among the most-frequently
chastised consumer industries for its use of harmful chemicals, but
were you aware that many of those same toxins are released into the
environment by landscapers and masons? Stone-sealing solvents expel
volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which not only deteriorate indoor
and outdoor air quality, but when misused, also can contaminate public
One of New Jersey's premier landscaping firms is leading the
way toward eradicating the use of these products. Beginning this fall, Cipriano
Landscape Design will finish its stone patios and outdoor
kitchens exclusively with water-based sealants. "They are an excellent
substitute for the previous VOC products," says Chris Cipriano,
president of Cipriano Landscape Design. And not just because they're
less toxic. "The water-based sealant is more versatile and can be used
both indoors and out on natural- or man-made surfaces," Cipriano
explains. With the VOC-emitting chemicals, there was some guesswork
involved in how they would react with the materials they were sealing.
Since water-based substances are safe for all surfaces, a stone's
finish and texture no longer are factors in determining whether the
sealant can be used.
So what does this mean for the homeowner? Unprotected masonry
is both a practical and an aesthetic concern since it is subject to
staining, fading and water corrosion, as well as ice damage. Unlike
silane/siloxane solvents, the new sealants can be used anywhere and are
safe enough even for use in outdoor kitchens.
Having installed 75,000 square feet of natural stone in the
past five years alone, Cipriano recommends the water-based sealers be
reapplied annually. It's also best to have the work done
professionally, especially over large areas. "In larger applications,
it requires several people to properly apply the sealer," Cipriano
explains. "Overlapping the sealer often causes streaking, and
inexperienced applicators will often track the sealer or get it into
places it doesn't belong."
Five states including New Jersey, New York, Maryland,
Pennsylvania, and Delaware currently have VOC regulations in place. But
real change occurs when businesses are proactive and employ the more
environmentally friendly products available to them, Cipriano says.
"With the numerous products out there full of chemicals and toxins,
it's really important to become aware of what's being used and to
eliminate those that are dangerous," he says. "If we can eliminate 80
percent of the VOC-based products that we and other landscapers use, it
would make a tremendous difference."
Cipriano Landscape Design is no stranger to conservation. The
company already has spent more than $250,000 over the past three years
updating its fleet of vehicles. That, combined with new fuel-management
practices, has enabled the firm to cut its fuel consumption in half.
Cipriano Landscape Design also incorporates into all of its projects
soil conservation techniques recommended by the Natural Resources
Conservation Service (NCRS), a division of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture. "We recycle 90 percent of the organic soils on job sites
and incorporate soil stabilization techniques that protect natural
resources," Cipriano says.
Making these types of changes is a win-win all around--for the
business, its clients and the environment. But ultimately, they're just
a natural part of the company's philosophy. "I always treat a client's
house as if it were my own, and my employees as if they were family,"
Cipriano says. "I don't want these products used at my house exposing
my own family to harm. I owe the same consideration to my employees and
He adds, "If these small changes can reduce future health
risks, then it's an easy choice to make."