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Getting from here to green

September 19, 2010
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Green cleaning is a red-hot trend in the industry today.

As more consumers demand safer, effective cleaning products that have a lower impact on the environment, companies — some established and some new — are vigorously working to supply them.

But, if you are still a greenhorn in the world of green cleaning, navigating the multitude of products, assessing which ones are truly green and wondering whether you’re headed in the right direction may have you a bit confused.

Well, don’t fret. There are really just three things to keep in mind as you start your journey.

The light is green
First, there are a variety of well-regarded organizations that independently evaluate and certify green products.

And, once you’ve familiarized yourself with established standards and certifications, you can let the labels do the labor.

Simply identify marks on products and know they meet current green standards.

Second, start small by making a few changes at a time. Don’t feel so overwhelmed that you do nothing at all.

Finally, congratulate yourself simply for beginning the journey.

Today’s green market offers more choices and better products, and market demand and competition have driven prices down.

Newer products also use more efficient technologies, which often lead to lower in-use costs for green products.

Green go-to guide
This guide provides an overview of some respected organizations that establish standards for — and, in some cases certify — cleaning chemicals, equipment, paper and related products.

These are organizations to trust and labels to depend on.

Use these resources as you implement your green program:

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). This is the oldest and largest standard-setting organization in America and a trusted source for technical standards for various industries. Based on these standards, ASTM offers the Standard Guide for Stewardship for the Cleaning of Commercial and Institutional Buildings. This guide can help identify issues that need to be addressed when developing a green program. Visit www.astm.org (enter E1971-05 in the search box). Phone: (610) 832-9500.

California VOC. To reduce air pollution, California sets limits on the concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in various consumer products, such as deodorizers and other high-VOC cleaning products. Check product for a label stating that it’s registered for sale in California. The California standards are an excellent starting point when evaluating products not covered by other independent standard setting organizations. Visit www.arb.ca.gov/consprod/regs/cp.pdf. Phone: (800) 242-4450.

Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). CRI represents the carpet and rug industry in the U.S. CRI’s Green Label and Green Label Plus programs test carpet, cushions and adhesives to help identify products with very low emissions of VOC. CRI introduced its testing program for vacuum cleaners (the only one in existence) in 2000 and introduced a program for carpet extractors. Look for the CRI Seal of Approval or Green Label. Visit www.carpet-rug.org. Phone: (706) 278-3176.

Center for a New American Dream. The center is a non-profit environmental advocacy group that offers a comprehensive environmentally preferable purchasing program online. Its database lists purchasing programs from around the country as well as products approved through those various programs. Visit www.newdream.org. Phone: (301) 891-3683.

International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA). ISSA is the leading trade association representing the commercial and institutional cleaning industry. ISSA offers numerous tools and educational programs on the subject and recently released Green Cleaning for Dummies, published by Wiley Press, which includes topics to help define green and green cleaning, product selection, implementation strategies, training requirements, communications and a list of resources. Visit www.issa.com. Phone: (800) 225-4772.

Chlorine-Free Products Association (CFPA). CFPA is a non-profit accreditation and standard-setting organization. It evaluates paper products based on their chlorine usage, among other issues. Products will bear the logo “Totally Chlorine Free” and “Processed Chlorine Free.” Visit www.chlorinefreeproducts.org. Phone: (847) 658-6104.

Environmental Choice (EC). EC offers its EcoLogo to companies that meet the organization’s standards. EC certification requires third-party verification, which ensures the program’s credibility. EC has a mutual recognition agreement with Green Seal. Visit www.environmentalchoice.com. Phone: (800) 478-0399.

Greenguard Environmental Institute (GEI). GEI is a non-profit organization that sets standards for indoor products, buildings and environments. It focuses on improving indoor air quality that affects quality of life and public health. GEI recently introduced a certification program specific to the cleaning industry that measures chemical cleaning product emissions during actual product use. Look for the Greenguard Environmental Institute label. Visit www.greenguard.org. Phone: (800) 427-9681.

Green Seal. This independent, non-profit organization uses a consensus process to set standards that address a product’s environmental, health and performance attributes. It also offers certification for cleaning services. Products that comply with the organization’s standards may use the Green Seal certification mark on products and services and in advertising. Authorized manufacturers and services are subject to an ongoing program of testing, inspection and enforcement. Visit www.greenseal.org. Phone: (202) 872-6400.

Healthy Schools Campaign. This non-profit organization works to create healthier schools for students and staff. The campaign recently published the Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools. It is supported by numerous school-based organizations and members of the cleaning industry. Visit www.greencleanschools.org for a free copy or call (888) HSC-1810.

Pennsylvania Guide to Environmental Purchasing. This manual provides excellent information about choosing safer products along with use guidelines for janitorial procedures. The guide is a terrific resource for manufacturers and service providers and can be found at www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/gateway/PTARGS_0_2_31543_0_0_18.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA’s Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) establish recycled content requirements for paper and plastic products. These guidelines are based on producers’ information rather than on third-party certification. The EPA’s website, www.epa.gov/cpg, provides a list of CPG-rated manufacturers and suppliers.

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) rating system to rate how efficiently a building operates, while minimizing its impact on the environment. Building owners and operators use LEED-EB as a benchmark to measure operations, improvements and maintenance on a consistent scale. LEED-EB provides a set of prescriptive requirements, a “roadmap” for green cleaning, and covers cleaning chemicals, janitorial paper, liners, equipment, training and other requirements. Visit www.usgbc.org. Phone: (202) 828-7422.


A 26-plus year veteran of the cleaning industry, Stephen P. Ashkin is a tireless advocate for environmentally preferable cleaning. Often referred to as the “father of green cleaning,” Ashkin has played a pivotal role in setting industry standards, promoting environmentally preferable products and advocating for socially responsible practices. Read more about standards and certification in the recently published Green Cleaning for Dummies by Ashkin and David Holly. Go to www.greencleaningfordummies.com for more information.

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