Green Cleaning is Alive and Well – Thank You
By Stephen P. Ashkin – Despite the vaporings of naysayers, Green Cleaning is doing very well, so much so it is becoming mainstream. For example, I just saw that the State of Kentucky passed legislation on Green Cleaning in Schools, and it is the second State already this year to do so (Vermont passed legislation in January). What also makes this an amazing accomplishment is the fact that virtually nothing is getting done by politicians these days at the State or Federal level. Yet, the politicians were able to agree on Green Cleaning. Impressive momentum we have…
So my observation is that Green Cleaning has successfully moved from an exciting new trend that manufacturers, distributors and service providers used to differentiate in the marketplace, to one that is mainstreaming. And along with this has been a reduction in the marketing, advertising, puffery and other bravado. Thus it might not be getting all the media attention, but companies are now just doing it. Also, take a look at this “Quick Clips ” which was just put out by ISSA.
Let’s also go back to the mid 90’s. At this time I began thinking about the “Cleaning for Health” movement to objectively look at what had changed in the marketplace as a result of that effort – and there was little to show (I am NOT trying to negate the importance of this work, but rather to objectively identify what had actually been identified as a tangible and lasting result of that effort). Objectively I could not find a single law that had been passed, product manufacturers who had reformulated their products, third-party standards that had been established, etc. And this failure to achieve lasting and tangible results helped to shape our strategy.
I am thus pleased to say that from the lessons we learned, our strategy has resulted in Green Cleaning laws in 11 or 12 States, there are 3 third-party certifiers with standards for chemicals and other third-party standards for paper, equipment and performance, new products that were specifically tied to Green Cleaning including reduced- or chemical-free cleaners, non-profits specifically working on Green issues (e.g., Healthy Schools Campaign and Practice Greenhealth), and of course the USGBC and the LEED Rating System. And I could keep going…
As to the future, I belief we can expect many innovations from manufacturers and that – from a process perspective – we will see more training focused on what janitors can do to reduce the environmental impacts of the building in which they work. For example, janitors and processes in general will increase the focus on actions, products, processes that can reduce energy, water, waste, consumption in general (including cleaning supplies), as well as what janitorial organizations can do to reduce transportation impacts. And to do all of this without compromising cleanliness and preferably to create healthier and more productive buildings.
Finally, as we continue moving towards more sustainable cleaning (going beyond just the immediate environmental impacts of the products and processes used to clean), we will also begin considering how janitors are compensated, trained, opportunities for advancement and other issues to add greater professionalism to the industry and insure that a janitor who puts in an honest day’s work can afford to feed their family, put a roof over their head and provide the other basic necessities of life. And of course, we still have vastly too many people getting sick in our buildings, which has to be addressed.
So to those who say that Green Cleaning is dead or dying, I beg to differ with them. And furthermore, I would suggest that the best and perhaps our most important work is still ahead.
Originally published at Healthy Facilities Institute.