Green Cleaning in Prisons
Interview with Stephen Ashkin on how to Bring Green Cleaning to Correctional Facilities
Because there are likely many correctional facilities in the U.S. that have not adopted a green cleaning program, Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group, provides suggestions as to how to start and implement such a program in your facility. “But first we must clearly understand that green cleaning requires a “top-down” approach. This means that top administrators must be behind the strategy in order for it to be successful.”
From here, Ashkin says the following steps are needed:
Build a green cleaning team. This would be made up of staff and preferably inmates. The team’s key goal is to guide the green cleaning initiatives forward.
Audit the facility. How is the facility cleaned now? What is the view of administrators and staff of the overall cleaning of the facility? Are there indoor air quality problems? What training has been provided for staff or inmates that perform cleaning duties? How new and advanced are the cleaning tools and equipment used in the facility?
Develop a plan. Once the audit is complete, the team must analyze the information to determine the best procedures and opportunities for adopting green cleaning initiatives.
Transfer to Green Cleaning products. While we will discuss this in greater detail later, this step includes such things as transferring to environmentally preferable cleaning solutions; vacuum cleaners with enhanced filtration systems; floor machines that have vacuum or dust-control systems to capture dust as they are used; microfiber cleaning cloths, etc.
Provide training. Treat the transfer to a green cleaning strategy as an opportunity to train staff and inmates involved with cleaning on the most efficient and effective cleaning techniques.
Encourage feedback. There is no end point when it comes to Green Cleaning. As such, encourage feedback from staff, administrators, and inmates. The program must continuously evolve in order to reach its goal of creating a healthier facility.
Green Cleaning and Engineered Water
Green cleaning solutions have changed a lot in just the past few years. While there are now many green cleaning chemicals, what is now taking center stage in the green cleaning movement is cleaning that uses no chemicals whatsoever. Referred to as “chemical free” cleaning, or more appropriately, engineered water, these systems have proven very effective at thoroughly cleaning surfaces and removing soils without the use of any traditional cleaning agents.
One example of this that some prison administrators may be aware of is the use of automatic floor scrubbers that employ what is termed electrolyzed water. Essentially, what this system does is electrically convert tap water into highly charged acidic and alkaline water. As this blended water comes into contact with soils, it helps dissolve them, breaking them up into microscopic particles that can be wiped away.
While these machines can be used for cleaning floors, another technology has been introduced for cleaning fixtures, walls, counters, and almost all other surfaces. Referred to as aqueous ozone, these systems use electricity and oxygen to create ozone. The ozone is then infused into plain tap water, creating aqueous ozone, which helps eliminate germs, odors, stains, mold, mildew, and other contaminants on most any type of surface. After use, it changes back to water and oxygen.
“The features I like most about aqueous ozone cleaning systems is how they promote sustainability,” says Ashkin. “They eliminate packaging needs, the need to transport large amount of cleaning chemicals all over the country, reduce fuel needs, which helps reduce greenhouse gasses.”
In case the use of ozone for cleaning is raising a few eyebrows, we should explain there are four different types of ozone.
Stratospheric ozone is six to 30 miles above the Earth’s surface and helps reduce the amount of harmful UV radiation from reaching the planet.
Tropospheric ozone is ground level ozone. This type of ozone may contain a number of pollutants, volatile organic compounds, and other potentially harmful particulates. Smog or haze is a form of tropospheric ozone.
Ambient ozone refers to the ozone we breathe, typically outside. Ambient ozone is monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and as long as it is within a certain range, it is considered safe.
Aqueous ozone, sometimes called liquid ozone, is the cleaning system we are discussing here. “Because no chemicals are used with this technology, there is a cost savings,” adds Montag. “And as far as being green, aqueous ozone is sometimes referred to as ‘greener than green cleaning’ so it fits in well with a green cleaning strategy.”
Since the 1980s, many U.S. states have created “tough on crime” laws. While these have helped incarcerate more people – the U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics reports more than 2 million adults were incarcerated in American prisons as of 2013 – these laws have failed to rehabilitate prisoners. Within three years, more than half of these inmates are expected to be back in prison.
“It’s time to reimagine correctional facilities,” says Ashkin. “We don’t know if adopting a green cleaning program and the other green initiatives discussed here will turn things around. But what we do know is that it can lead to a healthier indoor environment in correctional facilities, which at the very least, gives more U.S. prisons the chance to benefit from the healthier indoor environment that Green Cleaning can provide.”