Green Cleaning: Earth Day Education

March 23, 2017
Earth Day is a great day to showcase green cleaning.

Our nation seems more polarized than ever on environmental issues. Students, however, are increasingly concerned about their future, including the quality of water they drink and the air they breathe. Interest in Earth Day has moved beyond politicians and environmentalists to students, millennials and Main Street America.

This has clearly affected our schools and universities, which have been the early adopters and leaders in many environmental areas. As a result, all across the nation, schools and universities are planning to showcase environmental accomplishments on Earth Day (April 22). 

Most of these efforts will focus on energy efficiency, purchasing of recycled and other environmentally preferable products, water conservation and the like. As the people responsible for cleaning school facilities, custodians and maintenance workers should take the opportunity to showcase green cleaning efforts.  

This will help make an institution look good and demonstrate the importance of cleaning to administration and staff, including those responsible for approving facility budgets. It also sends a message of green stewardship to occupants and other important groups such as parents and alumni.

To help showcase green cleaning accomplishments, develop a few options and present them to relevant staff, such as the director of buildings and grounds, vice president of operations or those responsible for all facilities related activities. Also loop in the organizer of the school’s Earth Day events, such as the director of sustainability.

A first option might be to work with suppliers to develop a simple flyer or poster in case this is all the institution will allow.  Many suppliers of green cleaning products have this information readily available.

Use the information to illustrate accomplishments, especially if the reduction of chemicals, paper, plastic liners, water, waste, or other materials has been measured.  Just remember to “connect the dots” by identifying any health or environmental benefit achieved by the action.  

For example, using green products helps reduce the potential for harming the health of custodians and students, and reduces negative effects on the environment. Note how the use of recycled paper products can save X number of trees, reduces water and energy consumption, and conserves landfill space.

A second option to consider is a display of green cleaning materials. Some of the products to consider:

  • Green cleaning products, especially if the label includes a “seal of approval,” which makes it easy to broach green issues.
  • On-site cleaning chemical systems, which significantly reduce environmental impacts by eliminating raw material extraction and packaging.
  • Microfiber cloths and other chemical-free cleaning devices, which may expand the discussion beyond “greener” chemicals to include the potential of eliminating chemicals altogether for some cleaning applications and the environmental benefits of eliminating the impacts stemming from the extraction of raw materials, manufacturing and packaging.
  • Green toilet tissue to demonstrate that green paper doesn’t have to be low quality or scratchy. It can even come from fibers that are rapidly renewable and mature in less than 10 years.
  • Backpack or other high-efficiency vacuums with high filtration to explain why it’s important to capture small particles.
  • Entrance mats of different types to explain the importance of capturing soils before they enter a building. 
  • A durable mop bucket and wringer demonstrate the positive effect durability has on the environment.
  • Ergonomic tools highlight how green cleaning, in addition to protecting the environment, seeks to protecting the health and safety of cleaning personnel.

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