Green cleaning is the number-one trend in the school maintenance industry, according to the International Sanitary Supply Association, and the movement is showing no signs of slowing down. Providing students and teachers with a clean school is a hallmark of learning, and the cleaning supplies that you use play a major role in both how clean your school is and how safe it is.
Cleaning products are supposed to enhance the school environment by eliminating harmful germs and providing an attractive place for learning. However, many products contain chemicals that can actually make teachers and students sick. They can contribute to poor indoor air quality, which can trigger asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Some products even contain toxins that can cause and/or contribute to cancer, reproductive disorders, major organ damage, and permanent eye damage.
Some of these issues can be greatly reduced by using green cleaning products. These products can help reduce health risks, as well as play an important part in boosting school attendance and productivity. Using green products is beneficial to students, teachers and administrators. Every year millions of school days are lost as result of poor air quality, which causes students and teachers to become sick. This leads to decreased performance by both students and teachers.
A green approach to cleaning is also better for custodial staff. Long-term exposure to toxic cleaning chemicals can have negative health effects, particularly for women of childbearing age. Green cleaning products can help reduce these hazards. It is also better for the environment in general.
Green cleaning can also help to increase the lifespan of your facility, minimizing wear on carpeting and other furnishings, and saving money.
How do you know if a product is green? In addition to looking for the typical buzz words such as all “natural” and “green,” look for certain certifications. These include Green Seal, which evaluates institutional cleaners, hand soaps, sanitary paper products, cleaning-service providers and floor-care products. The Carpet and Rug Institute certifies carpet-cleaning systems, including solutions, extractors and vacuum cleaners. If you are looking for the safest possible ingredients, you can look for the Design for Environment (DfE) certification. DfE employs a group of EPA scientists that apply rigorous standards to evaluate how products impact people and the environment. (For a more detailed discussion of these certifications, read this month’s Green Cleaning column on pg. 34)
Companies can also voluntarily choose to use the UL Environment/Ecologo to indicate that their products are a better choice for the environment.
For more information on how you can make greener choices for school maintenance, consult the International Sanitary Supply Association at issa.com; Green Clean Schools at greencleanschools.org; Healthy Schools Campaign at healthyschoolscampaign.org; and Green Seal, at greenseal.org.