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Green Cleaning: Positive Support

Kermit the Frog was right or wrong, depending on how you look at it. It still may not be “easy being green,” but it appears to be getting easier.

A few noteworthy examples: the U.S. Council of Mayors unanimously approved a resolution supporting green schools. This is especially important because much of public education is handled at the local level, and local political support means good things for the green movement.

Another example comes from the state of Illinois, which recently signed new legislation to help schools use green cleaning. The Green Clean Schools Act calls for all elementary and secondary schools in the state to purchase environmentally sensitive cleaning supplies. The state worked with the Healthy Schools Campaign (, a founding member of the Green Cleaning Network. Other states are sure to follow.

The U.S. Green Building Council's recent release of its revision to LEED for Existing Buildings Rating System (LEED-EB) may have the most impact. The revision to LEED-EB is not perfect, but it includes some important changes and is another very good step toward making green cleaning (among other operational issues) easier in education institutions.

Some of the important changes specific to the cleaning credits:

  • Changing the name to LEED for High Performance Operations to help clarify that this rating system is for maintenance and operations, and not for doing a major renovation on an existing building.

  • Making green cleaning a prere-quisite. This requires just a basic plan, but it means that green cleaning now is required of every green building; there are still plenty of credits to reward leadership and encourage innovation.

  • Adding a credit based on APPA's “Custodial Staffing Guidelines” for conducting a custodial effectiveness audit. This is the council's first effort to identify “effective” cleaning; it recognizes that using green products is only the beginning of the journey, and only by combining green products with more effective cleaning can institutions create a high-performing building.

  • Increasing the focus on health by, for example, rewarding the development of an effective hand-hygiene program, which includes both handwashing and the use of hand sanitizers, and the use of more effective janitorial equipment.

  • Offering additional compliance paths. For example, LEED-EB has added the Environmental Choice Standards that are comparable to Green Seal.

  • Encouraging product innovation, such as expanding the janitorial paper credit to include the option of products made from tree-free fibers and those made from trees that are rapidly regrowable (as compared with only using recycled content) and the use of microfiber products.

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

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