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Empire State latest to join green frenzy

September 19, 2010
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The movement toward the implementation of green cleaning programs by and into states, cities and organizations has gained a great deal of momentum recently, as more and more individuals are realizing the benefits of using environmentally preferable cleaning products and techniques.

Green cleaning protects the health of cleaning workers, occupants and the occupants of buildings and facilities, as well as the environment, according to the movement’s advocates.

Gaining momentum

Thus far, states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, as well as cities such as Santa Monica, CA, and San Francisco have enacted green purchasing plans, according to Stephen Ashkin, president, The Ashkin Group, LLC, Bloomington, IN, a major proponent of the green cleaning movement.

Mark Petruzzi, vice president of certification, Green Seal, Greenville, RI — an independent organization seeking a healthier and cleaner environment by promoting environmentally preferable products — agreed with Ashkin that there are numerous municipalities at all levels (federal, state, county, city, etc.) with specific green cleaning specifications included procurement procedures. And now, one more can be added to the list.

New convert

New York State Governor George Pataki announced in his 2005 State of the State Address in January that he has signed an executive order mandating that state agencies and authorities use only non-toxic cleaning supplies; a similar mandate is currently being created for all New York State schools.

The mandate — an effort led by the New York State Office of General Services (OGS) — makes the state the latest to join the trend, prompting Ashkin to believe this is another important step in the green cleaning journey, since a large state such as New York contains many potential customers for the cleaning industry.

Ashkin said the move by New York indicates the importance of following green cleaning procedures, and likened the trend to a train headed down a track. There are three options for the cleaning industry, he said — get on board, get out of the way, or get run over.

Petruzzi agreed, saying the green cleaning trend will eventually spread to all types of facilities (office buildings, hospitals, schools, hotels, etc.), as Pataki alluded in his State of the State address.

Greening your institution

Ashkin said he believes that, in order to successfully implement green cleaning for all institutions, it is critical that the cleaning industry — and not legislators — assesses the products and procedures used by buildings or organizations. (See “Regulations vs. procedures” on previous page.)

But, just what does a switch to a green cleaning program entail?

Ashkin said implementing a green cleaning program requires facility service providers to consider chemicals, along with all the other products and equipment used in the cleaning process, including: Janitorial paper products; vacuum cleaners; floor machines; carpet extractors; entry way mats; etc., as well as how these products are used.

In addition, manufacturers must ensure green cleaning products work in a way that makes it easy for the end user to efficiently insert them into an existing cleaning program without having to significantly rearrange the program or retrain staff, according to Ashkin.

Certifying bodies

Selecting environmentally preferable cleaning chemicals and other products, especially those that can be “certified” by organizations such as Green Seal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI), is a crucial step in the process, Ashkin said. (See “Federal agency follows the green track” below.)

Ashkin added that it is imperative to explain to building occupants, managers, and facility service providers — and to everyone else involved in the greening process — why environmentally preferable cleaning products are used.

The mandate states...

The executive order regarding New York State has very specific requirements for the types of cleaning products that will be used by state agencies and authorities, as well as when the switch to green products will occur.

The executive order states, “All State Agencies shall procure and use cleaning products having properties that minimize potential impacts to human health and the environment consistent with maintenance of the effectiveness of these products for the protection of public health and safety.”

Jennifer Meicht, spokesperson for Governor Pataki, said the executive order went into effect on the date of the State of the State, but it will likely take the agencies close to six months to use their remaining cleaning supplies and ensure proper training for the use of green cleaning products.

Meicht said the cleaning products would conform to guidelines set forth by the EPA for environmentally preferable purchasing.

In addition, the OGS will work to create a centralized contract where state agencies can buy the products through contracts set up by the OGS, Meicht said.

The cost of going green

The switch to using all green cleaning products — which will necessitate new procedures to safely and effectively utilize the products — will not create additional costs for the state because, when OGS puts a product on contract, it has found the best price for that product, said OGS spokesperson Jennifer Morris.

Ashkin agreed, and said that, while green products may require slightly different techniques to use them, they do not generally cost more or work that much differently than traditional cleaning products.

The cost difference, if any, is minimal, according to Petruzzi, especially when examining the overall life-cycle costs versus initial costs.

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