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ECP sees era of integration

September 19, 2010
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For many in the cleaning industry, green cleaning still means using only environmentally preferable cleaning chemicals.

However, those more familiar with the concept of green cleaning know that it is much more encompassing and applies to such things as the effectiveness of the filtration systems on vacuum cleaners and larger floor machines, the use of low-moisture extractors, and advanced matting systems.

In other words, green cleaning is very integrated.

And, the benefits of green cleaning — such as improved worker productivity, less absenteeism, and fewer allergic reactions — are the result of all of these components in place and working together.

The professional cleaning industry must now join with the building, construction, design and other industries to take this concept of green integration a step further.

If green cleaning has been incorporated into a facility’s operations but the materials used for carpeting, flooring, upholstery, and other products are not green and are not environmentally preferable — emitting high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) — the goal of creating a healthier indoor environment is all but defeated.

The opposite is true as well.

Greg Norris of the Harvard School of Public Health reports that as healthful as it may be to install environmentally preferable flooring materials in schools and offices, their benefits can be eliminated if they are cared for with conventional polishes and cleaners.

“The amount of VOCs emitted from a single waxing of the floor (using conventional cleaning products) is comparable to the amount of VOCs emitted from the flooring over its entire lifetime,” says Norris.

Joining forces
Several leading organizations such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the EcoLogoM Program have initiated programs to help architects, designers, contractors, and building owners develop healthier, high-performance buildings by identifying building and construction materials that are certified green.

The value of selecting certified green products cannot be undervalued.

The certification process verifies that the product — whether carpeting, hard-surface flooring, construction materials, or cleaning products — has undergone a rigorous evaluation and testing process, has been proven to have less impact on the environment, is made from recyclable materials, and is to be cost and performance competitive with similar non-green materials.

In some cases, especially when facilities are being renovated, it may be the responsibility of building service contractors (BSCs) and JanSan distributors to help building owners, architects, and contractors understand the close relationship between construction materials, cleaning products, and a healthy, high-performance facility.

Just as architects and planners do not always consider cleaning and maintenance when designing buildings, many do not realize that virtually every material used to construct the facility — as well as the materials used to clean and maintain it once construction is completed — helps determine how green the facility actually is.

Looking to the future, there is a definite need for understanding the importance of this correlation and connection.

By helping the building and construction industry recognize this, it allows the professional cleaning industry to once again point out just how vital and crucial its role is in protecting the health of facilities and building occupants.

Kevin Gallagher is vice president of TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, which manages the Environmental Choice Program on behalf of the Canadian government.
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