Green Cleaning: Celebrating Earth

Green Cleaning: Celebrating Earth

Last-minute Earth Day ideas.

Over the years, I have written many articles encouraging facility folks to participate in Earth Day, which is April 22. Far too often our role has been limited to setting up and cleaning up, and we missed the opportunity to take part and let people know about the contributions of facility managers.

For those who have established green-cleaning programs, this year's Earth Day celebration can be an opportunity to explain just how big the annual environmental impact is from the institutional cleaning industry:

  • 8 billion pounds of cleaning chemicals, most of which are made from nonrenewable natural resources, such as petroleum.

  • 4.5 billion pounds of janitorial paper products, which require the cutting of about 25 million trees.

  • 1 billion pounds of janitorial equipment that is disposed each year — enough to fill 40,000 garbage trucks.

To that end, let everyone know that your institution's green-cleaning program is reducing negative health and environmental impacts. Plus, use the opportunity to tell them what they can do to make even greater progress.

For those of you still preparing for Earth Day, several steps can quickly and easily help you. First, talk to your vendors. Some of them have some terrific resources that can help you.

The second opportunity is through the National Environmental Education Foundation, which sponsors National Environmental Education Week, April 13-19. This year, the week is focused on carbon footprints. Participants have access to a variety of free environmental education resources, including:

  • Standards-based environmental education lessons and activities, including special climate change educational resources and an online student carbon calculator.

  • Monthly e-newsletters highlighting curricula, professional development and funding opportunities.

  • Opportunities for online communication and knowledge sharing, including a special photo blog.

The link to the foundation's environmental health curricula is www.eeweek.org/resources/environmental_health_curricula.htm.

Some of the specific green-cleaning opportunities highlighted:

  • Lutherville Laboratory for Science, Mathematics and Communications, an elementary school in Lutherville, Md., made a “green” detergent that students took home for use as a household cleaner. (www.bcps.org)

  • As part of the Greener Learning Foundation's “Ban the Bag” campaign, students developed ways to curtail pollution from disposable garbage bags. (www.greenerlearning.org)

  • Williamstown Middle School Community, Caring Gardens, Williamstown, N.J., prepared an exhibit on recycling and preventing non-point source pollution. (www.monroetwp.k12.nj.us)

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

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