Green Cleaning

State legislation requiring green cleaning in schools is gaining momentum. Illinois and New York were the first to make green cleaning in schools law (followed by Missouri and Maine), but now the country is witnessing a substantial trend within state governments to ensure the quality of public health and minimize harmful effects on the environment.

Recently, Connecticut passed a green cleaning in schools bill, and Maryland enacted a green cleaning in schools law as well.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed legislation (HB 1363) that requires the state's K-12 public schools to procure and use green-cleaning products.

The law requires local school boards to buy green-cleaning products for use in K-12 public schools. The boards also must draft “clear and accurate descriptions of the functional characteristics or nature” of green cleaning products that will be bought and used by the schools.

The bill's language defines “green cleaning products and supplies” as those that have “positive environmental attributes,” such as biodegradability, low toxicity, low VOC content, minimal packaging and low life-cycle energy use. Another specification is that, at minimum, the products are “recognized” by the EPA's Design for the Environment Formulator program, Environmental Choice or Green Seal. The bill goes into effect on Oct. 9, 2009.

In early May, Hawaii's House and Senate passed HB 1538, requiring all public school buildings to build and maintain a list of approved green-cleaning products, and give first preference to Green Seal products when making purchases.

Also in May, a compromise in the Nevada legislature resulted in only floor surfaces being covered by green-cleaning legislation. It does allow individual districts to make decisions on other products. Although this is not an ideal green cleaning bill, it can be a springboard to a more comprehensive approach.

Illinois used its existing “Illinois Guidelines and Specifications for the Green Cleaning for Schools Act” as a blueprint for all public buildings. With the passage of HB 2437, Illinois now will require all state-owned buildings to create and maintain a green-cleaning policy, including the purchasing of only products that are compliant with the Green Cleaning for Schools Act.

Connecticut also expanded its existing laws that require green cleaning in all state buildings (including universities and vocational schools) to include all school districts and require the use of only certified Green Seal or Eco Logo products for general-purpose cleaning, floor-care products, soaps and hand cleaners. The bill was approved unanimously by the state senate. Supporters of the bill emphasized the economic advantages of switching to green products.

“This is another small step in making sure we can do things in a better way — not just for the environment, but I think also for public health,” said Sen. John McKinney (R-Conn.).

Other states, including California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Iowa, Rhode Island and Vermont, have introduced legislation for green cleaning in schools this year.

This is exciting news within the green cleaning industry. Furthering the excitement is the number of school districts across the nation creating their own directives that establish green-cleaning programs within their facilities. From the beaches of Florida to the shores of the Pacific Northwest, green-cleaning programs are multiplying at a rapid pace within individual districts.

Ashkin is executive director of the Green Cleaning Network and AS&U's "Green Cleaning" columnist.

Notable

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In millions, the number of school days missed each year because of asthma exacerbated by poor indoor air quality.

Source: Healthy Schools Campaign

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