Today, green is all around us. Over the years, it has become clear that green cleaning is one of the lowest-hanging fruits. Many upgrades and improvements such as energy efficiency and water conservation are important and have a reasonable payback, but they can require significant upfront capital expenditures — capital that schools and universities often lack.
However, because schools and universities already have an established cleaning budget, the upfront expenditures are minimal at best. As the cost of green products — chemicals, paper, equipment, mats, tools — becomes comparable to its traditional counterparts, the barrier to adoption has gone away.
The benefits of green cleaning are real. It helps to reduce the environmental impacts associated with the billions of pounds of chemicals, paper and other items used annually by the cleaning industry. An effective green cleaning program can improve occupant health, performance and productivity. And it can help a facilities department demonstrate and promote its contribution to sustainability and solving global environmental problems.
The “Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities,” sponsored by AS&U Magazine in partnership with the Green Cleaning Network and the Healthy Schools Campaign, has been developed to recognize the best-of-the-best and to promote “lessons learned” to help others get started or further improve their programs.
The award has been built around the Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools, developed by the Healthy Schools Campaign (www.HealthySchoolsCampaign.org). Using this free guide, which identifies best practices in green cleaning products, processes, training, communications and more, makes the application process a good way to benchmark current cleaning practices, identify opportunities for improvement, and plan a path forward regardless of how new or advanced the cleaning program.
The awards application itself has been simplified. It asks for data about the institution, a written summary of the program, and a list of what green products and supplies are used. In addition, this year's application provides an easy-to-use outline of products, including chemicals, equipment, supplies, janitorial paper and plastic liners, that only requires the blanks to be filled in.
Winners will be recognized in AS&U's December issue and will receive a certificate for members of the team, including staff, vendors and others who deserve to be recognized.
Perhaps as important, schools and universities can use the application process itself as a good way to review their existing programs annually.
Green cleaning has become a major part of the cleaning industry. Manufacturers in all product categories are investing heavily in “greening” their products. The innovations truly are remarkable.
Some green developments: chemicals made from bio-based ingredients; floor scrubbers and carpet extractors that eliminate chemicals and clean with only electrolyzed water; buffing pads for powered equipment that eliminate floor-stripping chemicals, and others that eliminate coatings and impregnators from terrazzo and marble floors; improved paper quality that reduces consumption; vapor, steam and hands-free cleaning equipment that reduce water consumption; and electric hand dryers that capture water droplets.
The real value of the application process might be to serve as an annual check-up or self-diagnosis of the state of the cleaning program and to aid in the process of continual improvement. And the lessons learned will help others as well.