Green Cleaning: Promising Programs

2009 brings hope for green-cleaning efforts.

The year has begun with hope and excitement tempered by concerns caused by the nation's economic crisis. One reason for optimism is that green programs are a high priority for our new national leaders.

The great news is that these programs are based upon providing grants to public and private buildings, including schools and universities. For those of you in an existing public building that seeks financial assistance for a retrofitting program, there is help. If you have dreams of constructing a new building that follows LEED guidelines, you also may be eligible for financial assistance.

In the "Barack Obama and Joe Biden: Promoting a Healthy Environment" fact sheet, the incoming administration spells out how it will confront climate change, with specific measures regarding energy management, and the soundness of new and existing buildings.

Obama and Biden appear determined to do some heavy tinkering with the EPA and Federal Energy Efficiency Codes, and "flip incentives" with energy utilities. According to the plan, for utilities that establish efficient programs and then pass the savings on to their customers, the administration will "ensure the utilities get increased profits" for promoting and practicing energy conservation, as opposed to allowing utilities to enjoy heightened profits through the practice of energy mismanagement and waste.

For new and existing buildings, the plan is to use "innovative measures to dramatically improve efficiency of buildings." Specifically, Obama's team will create a set of National Building Efficiency Goals, making all new buildings carbon neutral by the year 2030. It also will set a national goal of "improving new building efficiency by 50 percent and existing building efficiency by 25 percent over the next decade to help us meet the 2030 goal."

A grant program for "Early Adopters" promises to help expedite efforts during this economic downturn. Pioneers and self-starters in establishing new building codes and programs that prioritize energy efficiency, retrofitting and similar green programs can position themselves favorably to receive an award.

Other "matching" federal grants soon may be available for states that allocate funds to support energy-efficiency retrofits for existing buildings. The new administration plans to expand Federal Efficiency Grants for public buildings that "adopt aggressive green building provisions" such as the USGBC's LEED requirements.

To anticipate these and other related opportunities, school and university planners should get organized. Document what has been done to make your buildings green, and include green cleaning and other efforts — past, present and planned — with as much detail as possible. For those in the planning stage, lay out your plans, goals and logistical hurdles.

Stephen Ashkin is executive director of the Green Cleaning Network, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational organization. He can be reached at [email protected].

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