Factors Affecting the Adoption of Environmental Innovation: An Examination of Dry Cleaning Businesses in California

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McAuley, Wynne
article description
Dry cleaners in the United States use a chemical called perchloroethylene, or perc, in order to remove difficult stains from garments. However, perc is considered a hazardous air pollutant by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Besides contaminating the air and water, perc causes harmful health problems to anyone exposed to it. Fortunately, there are alternative methods of cleaning. These include Professional Wet Cleaning and CO2 cleaning, both of which are nontoxic and environmentally friendly. Moreover, studies have shown that their costs are comparable to perc and that they have equal or higher rates of customer and business owner satisfaction. Recent legislation in California, called Assembly Bill number 998, taxes perc imports and provides grants to businesses that eradicate perc. Even with these incentives, over 85% of dry cleaners today still use perc. This study investigates what may be causing this reluctance to get rid of perc by examining what characteristics of dry cleaners in California make them more or less likely to switch to the new technologies. It provides an extensive review of literature on environmental innovation adoption and the behavior of small immigrant-owned businesses. A comprehensive data set containing all California dry cleaners and information about their business permits and machines is in the process of being made, as well as a preliminary look at the ways neighborhood demographics such as average income, education, and age may contribute to the likelihood of a given area having a green drycleaner.