Green Cleaning: Time to Lead

Happy New Year, and what a year 2007 was! We witnessed exponential growth in how schools and universities have embraced green: the growth and success of the U.S. Green Building Council and its LEED for Schools rating system; revisions of the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) program; the development of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Healthy SEAT Program; sustainability and climate initiatives focusing on or being led by universities and schools; passage of legislation on green cleaning in schools; the success of organizations such as the Healthy Schools Campaign; and the launch of an award program specifically for green cleaning. Green is an issue whose time has come.

It is clear that the key to continued success will be leadership. This is the time for the people involved with the daily, hands-on work — the physical plant managers, superintendents of buildings and grounds, facility managers, architects, interior designers and custodial managers — to use their knowledge of green to position themselves as leaders and, in fact, lead their institutions.

Now is the time for those in education to be outspoken. Yes, green is the right thing to do — not only for doing good for good's sake — but also for the betterment of an institution.

To lead your organization, you must speak up — be bold and confident. Let your organization know that this is not a passing fad — it is the future. Many other issues also are important, but it is clear that this is one that schools and universities should not ignore.

Your task: Help find better ways to clean and manage the other aspects of your buildings. Help find better products through greening your purchasing, and let's not forget the importance of using the right processes to truly create more healthful buildings and reduce harm to the environment. Help your institution understand the issues, and help them think long-term, because right now, people actually are listening.

Help those above and below you understand that the issue encompasses more than simply using green products and services. Help them understand that it is about becoming a green organization, and each department must do its part. By creating cleaner, more healthful, more efficient buildings with lower impacts on the environment, you are helping your institution succeed at its most important mission — creating a better environment to help students learn and teachers teach.

2008 is the time for you to lead, and together, we really can make an important difference.

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

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