Green Cleaning: What's Next?

Green lives beyond Earth Day.

It is safe to say that green is everywhere these days — from the newsstand to national newscasts and television programs. Beyond just the media hype, which may come and go, green is especially important among students who occupy the buildings that facility managers clean and maintain. Protecting the Earth has become important, especially if we can make it easy for everyone.

Recently, it was impressive to see the huge increase in interest and activity at schools and universities for Earth Day. Increasing numbers of students and staff members participated in many different ways. In discussions with some prominent green and environmental organizations, all reported a huge increase in both the quantity, and perhaps more important, the quality of this year's Earth Day events compared with last year.

So now that Earth Day has passed, what's next?

One of the most important, yet frequently overlooked, activities and strategies to keep green programs moving forward is ongoing communication. People take notice of Earth Day because of the activities that go along with it. But now is the time to keep the issue before building occupants, staff, visitors and other stakeholders — especially from a facilities perspective.

Think about it. If our stakeholders think about green only in terms of global warming or a single-day event, then what does that mean for the facilities department?

It is essential to make the connection about how facilities staff members affect climate change through their efforts to reduce energy and water use, reduce waste and increase recycling, as well as the specific improvements associated with green cleaning. For example, how will stakeholders know of the important accomplishments and benefits of using green chemicals, paper, equipment, processes, recycling and other strategies if no one informs them?

One opportunity is to participate in this year's “Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities,” sponsored by American School & University, The Green Cleaning Network and the Healthy Schools Campaign. This program is a great way to keep the momentum going and be recognized at the same time. Numerous applicants from last year's awards have said that the application process itself helped them identify even more opportunities to improve their programs.

Entries will be judged by a panel of school stakeholders, cleaning industry experts and school health advocates. Judging criteria are modeled on The Quick and Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools, published by the Healthy Schools Campaign. Copies can be requested at HealthySchoolsCampaign.org. The call for entries is open (asumag.com/green_cleaning_award), and the deadline for submissions is mid-September. Winners will be profiled in the December issue of AS&U.

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

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