While it has been a part of professional cleaning for more than twenty years, many end-customers still ask, what is green cleaning?
Green cleaning is best defined by then President Bill Clinton’s Executive Order 13101, as:
“Products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose.”
Green cleaning includes the use of products that have been certified “green” by leading certification organizations such as UL/Environment, the EPA’s Design for the Environment Program (DfE), and GreenSeal.
However, green cleaning involves far more than just chemicals or products. Rather, it is a comprehensive program that evaluates the unique needs of a building and its occupants, as well as the cleaning chemicals, janitorial paper, cleaning equipment, cleaning procedures, and training programs.
- Selecting green certified products including cleaning and maintenance chemicals, janitorial paper items, and tools and equipment
- Understanding how these products are used to reduce their impact on custodial workers, building occupants, and the environment
- Implementing stewardship (leadership and caring) for the occupants of the building where the products are being utilized
- Providing training for those using the products
- Green cleaning methods and proceedures
- Communicating with building users why the program is being implemented…to protect human health.
Why Implement a Green Cleaning Program?
New technologies and advances within the professional cleaning industry now allow us to clean effectively with less impact to health or the environment. Traditional cleaning products, while they have served us well, can endanger the health and well-being of building occupants as well as of the cleaning workers using the products. In addition, green cleaning products help promote sustainability. This is because they are typically manufactured with ingredients that are renewable and do not include petroleum based byproducts.
They pose an even greater threat when used in day-care facilities, locations where building occupants have existing health conditions and sensitivities, and health care facilities where building occupants may have compromised immune systems.
Traditional cleaning chemicals can also have an adverse effect on indoor air quality. Studies of workers’ compensation claims indicate that some cleaning chemicals can result in serious burns to skin and eyes, carcinogenic risks, and chronic health risks to the endocrine, neurological, respiratory, reproductive, and other systems of the human body.
Today, several federal, state, and local governments and private building owners have implemented a green cleaning program. They have found that indoor air quality has improved, complaints from office and janitorial workers about their indoor environment have diminished, there is reduced or no adverse environmental impact because of cleaning, and the program has often saved them money.
Looking at the broader perspective, implementing a green cleaning program has both environmental and economic benefits, including:
- Improving air and water quality
- Conserving natural resources
- Reducing costs and increasing profits
- Improving employee productivity and satisfaction
- Optimizing life-cycle economic performance
- Contributing to the health and well-being of the community
Update on Green Cleaning:
This blog was actually written some time ago. Here is where we are today when it comes to green cleaning. In most cases, building managers and cleaning professionals ask for environmentally preferable cleaning solutions first and only select traditional cleaning solutions if they are not available or are not performance or cost effective, both of which are increasingly rare today.
In other words, green cleaning is now status quo. When you consider that twenty years ago, it was considered nothing more than a fad that would soon disappear, you can see just how far the industry – and the end-customer – have come when it comes to green cleaning.