Green Schools

Green Cleaning: Summer Deep Clean

In some parts of the country the snow is just melting. Nonetheless, it is time to start thinking about the deep, restorative cleaning that will be needed this summer. This also is the perfect time to think about starting a green cleaning program, improving an existing one or testing new green technologies.

For schools and universities just getting started, use the product specifications in either the Healthy Schools Campaign’s Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools or the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance Rating System (LEED-EBOM). These programs identify requirements for chemicals, sanitary paper, powered equipment, plastic liners and more. Most suppliers of janitorial products are familiar with these programs and offer these products at a competitive price. The product specifications can be found here and here

With this product information, purchasing departments can revise their procurement language by adding the specifications that make the products green. Using this strategy means that there will be no need to change legal requirements, packaging configurations or other issues. And to make it even easier, consider using the green cleaning procurement specification offered for free from the Green Cleaning Network. Its procurement document is based on LEED-EBOM and the Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools and is found at www.greencleaningnetwork.org/
gc-standards.html.

For those already using green cleaning, this is the time to enhance a program. Begin with a quick audit to compare the products now being used with those recommended in the above specifications. To make this easier and less time-consuming, ask existing suppliers of janitorial products to conduct the audit and to prepare a gap analysis. Make sure they include the costs of the current products and the greener alternatives that have been identified in the gap analysis. This will provide all the pertinent information to decide which products to include in a summer cleaning program.

Don’t forget that some product changes will require testing. Floor finishes are a perfect example and where the "one-size-fits-all" strategy should not be used. Environmental issues, performance and cost objectives can be achieved best if the product meets the specific needs of the individual buildings within a school district or university campus, as there may be significant difference based on a number of issues such as:

Foot traffic. The number of students using a building or particular areas within a building. Some buildings may be in an area where the soil may be more abrasive or where more soil collects, compared with other buildings.

Floor materials. Different areas use different materials, and the floor finish must meet the needs of the specific material.

Maintenance processes. Floors in open areas such as hallways may use high-speed burnishers; classroom floors may not be suitable for burnishing.

Appearance expectations . Main entrances often are a highly visible area within a building and demand a shinier floor compared with a floor in a classroom or laboratory.

Finally, this is a time to think about new technologies. Consider testing a new piece of floor equipment, "chemical-free" or "no-touch" cleaning products and equipment, new entryway matting systems, and maybe even consider some of the new measurement devices. The simple way to begin this process is to ask vendors "What’s new?"

With so much innovation going on in the cleaning industry—regardless of how new or advanced the green cleaning program—this is the time to plan your summer deep and restorative cleaning program.

Ashkin is executive director of the Green Cleaning Network, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational organization. 

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