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Making Green The Way To Go

September 19, 2010
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There''s no question that when it comes to the cleaning, sanitation and general upkeep of the nation''s schools, hospitals, hotels, office buildings and supermarkets — among many, many others — green is becoming the new black.

"Green" as in green cleaning practices that are being put into place encourages — and, in some states, even mandates — the use of environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, water conservation and reconfigured cleaning regimens that decrease the use of energy.

Green Is Spreading

To illustrate the growing awareness of the benefits inherent in the adoption of green cleaning practices, ISSA has created a report titled, Green Cleaning Product Procurement Policies, Initiatives and Requirements in the U.S., which currently lists a total of 16 states that have adopted green cleaning policies of one kind or another.

Falling in the sweet spot of this increased emphasis on green cleaning are the nation''s schools and hospitals.

In fact, according to ISSA''s report, a number of states and other entities have introduced legislation or guidelines that recommend green cleaning regimens and the types of chemicals and products that should be used in educational environments.

Three states have mandated green cleaning legislation (at the time this article was written):

  • In August 2005, Governor George Pataki signed into law S.5435 that requires the use of environmentally friendly cleaning products in all schools in New York State. The law lists green cleaning guidelines, addresses the best cleaning management practices and specifies criteria for selecting green cleaning products

  • In August 2007, then Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed the Green Cleaning Schools Act, which requires all public and non-public elementary and secondary schools with 50 or more students to "… establish a green cleaning policy and exclusively purchase and use environmentally sensitive cleaning products"

  • Missouri recently passed legislation that required the state''s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop guidelines and specifications for green cleaning in the state''s schools.

Three others have developed guidelines, without mandating their implementation (at the time this article was written):

  • In 2007, Maine''s legislature passed a bill that requires the State Department of Education to compile a list of cleaning products that have been certified as meeting "health-based criteria for safety and efficacy" by a third-party independent agency or have been listed by a state agency as "environmentally preferable cleaning products"

  • Minnesota has issued its Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Guide as a reference tool to assist government agencies and schools in the selection of environmentally preferable products

  • The Chicago Public School District has adopted a Green Cleaning Policy that encourages the "maintenance of clean, safe and healthy schools through the elimination of contaminants that affect children and adult health, performance and attendance, and the implementation of cleaning processes and products that protect health without harming the environment."

Beyond Education

When it comes to hospitals, a recent report by The Journal of the American Medical Association disturbingly reveals that hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are now the fourth-largest killer in the U.S., with more than two million hospital patients a year contracting infections and an estimated 103,000 dying as a result.

This total is more than the yearly deaths in the U.S. attributable to car accidents, breast cancer and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) — combined.

As a result, more and more attention is being paid to the cleaning processes at hospitals and other health care facilities.

A growing number of "how-to" manuals for the cleaning and sanitation of medical facilities are being produced, with many highlighting the need for green cleaning practices.

One, Hospitals for a Healthy Environment, which is now part of an organization called Practice Greenhealth, has produced a 10-Step Guide to Green Cleaning Implementation that acknowledges that traditional cleaning products and processes can negatively impact both health and the environment.

Yeah, But…

Surely, there is universal agreement that facility cleanliness is something the public expects and should be provided with.

More vigilant cleaning regimens — which will inevitably include green cleaning principles — will make all facilities healthier, while, in the case of educational facilities, ancillary studies have shown that cleaner schools can lead to higher student achievement.

Too often, though, improved cleanliness goals come to cross purposes with cleaning budgets that have been slashed in an attempt to prop up the bottom line.

Recently, the first-ever Integrated Cleaning and Measurement (ICM) Symposium was convened by the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA) to assess the current state of facility cleaning.

ICM is an open-source, unified-systems approach to institutional and industrial cleaning, with a primary purpose of creating a unification of elements and a holistic view of building environments and to use measurement as a means to assess progress and track the benefits of synergies.

An underlying theme of the ICM Symposium was that some traditional cleaning methods are sometimes no longer sufficient to ensure facility cleanliness.

This means that the epoch of hands-on, mop-and-bucket restroom cleaning — a labor-intensive exercise performed with a brush, mop and spray bottle full of cleaning chemicals by an oftentimes less-than-motivated custodial staff — is currently being challenged by new technologies.

The first of the new alternatives to hands-on cleaning is automated touchless cleaning.

First-generation automated systems are typically high-volume/high-pressure mobile spray-and-vac cleaning machines that require access to an electrical outlet.

Spray-and-squeegee Technology Benefits

A newer generation in automated touchless cleaning machines is categorized as spray-and-squeegee.

The design and operation of these new touchless cleaning systems makes them perfect for the daily cleaning of small- to medium-sized restrooms.

Whereas earlier generations of touch-free cleaning units consume water and chemicals at a rate of approximately one gallon per minute (GPM) and dispense liquids at a range of pressures sometimes as high as 500 pounds per square inch (PSI), spray-and-squeegee units use only one half-gallon of cleaning solution per minute, which is dispensed at less than 100 PSI.

This allows the cleaning chemical, rather than high pressure, to achieve the desired results.

The large amount of water needed for some touchless systems also requires the use of a wet/dry vac to remove the excess water, whereas spray-and-squeegee systems enable the liquid remaining on the floor to be removed by squeegeeing it into a floor drain.

This design also means that the system can be battery-operated, eliminating the need for a power outlet.

And, because there is also none of the noise that is associated with wet/dry vac cleanup, the unit''s almost-silent operation makes it perfect for Day Cleaning.

Proven Results

The operation of these new units also puts them within the acceptable standards for recent green cleaning recommendations.

Among the environmental, health and well-being benefits of spray-and-squeegee systems are:

  • Reduced energy consumption
  • Reduced natural resource and chemical usage
  • Reduced risk of sprayback of soil- and bacteria-contaminated water
  • Noise pollution elimination
  • Reduced physical stress on workers.

Another principal topic at the ICM Symposium concerned measures that can be used to determine the actual cleanliness of a facility after it has been "cleaned."

One new method of determining just how clean a restroom might be is through the use of an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meter.

A high level of ATP on a surface may indicate an elevated level of bacteria.

So, even though a surface might appear clean, a quick and simple test with a hand-held ATP meter — called a "truth detector" by some for its ability to make the invisible world visible — will quickly and accurately measure the level of cleanliness.

Studies have found that a surface that has been cleaned with a spray-and-squeegee method will see a dramatic reduction in the ATP count.

Simply put, spray-and-squeegee cleaning can be scientifically proven to significantly outperform the outdated mop-and-bucket technique because the squeegee does a better job of removing soiled water and chemicals from the surface, which results in an overall cleaner environment.

Today, facility managers face a difficult juggling act: Patrons demand and deserve the cleanest facilities possible, and studies have shown that green cleaning processes — in some states backed by legislation — will soon become the norm in facility sanitization, while tightening budgets have made meeting these requirements increasingly problematic.

An automated touchless cleaning system can fill the void.

Modern equipment innovation, such as automated touchless systems, create a more environmentally friendly cleaning experience with less energy consumption.


Bill Taylor is the ICS Sales Manager for Cincinnati, Ohio-based Hydro Systems Company, the world''s largest independent manufacturer of proportioning, dosing and dispensing systems for concentrated chemicals, serving the janitorial, institutional, food service, commercial cleaning, industrial and automotive-care markets. Bill can be contacted at (513) 271-8800 or btaylor@hydrosystemsco.com. More information can also be obtained at www.hydro-ics.com.

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