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How Do Green And Sustainability Affect Cleaning?

September 19, 2010
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Green and sustainability — what do they have to do with cleaning?

I''ve been a janitor for 15 years and now all I hear the salespeople and my boss talk about is going green.

How will going green impact the way I clean a toilet, polish a floor or dust a desk?


You aren''t the only one with questions about green and sustainability as they relate to cleaning.

Green cleaning relates to processes and products that have little or no negative — and hopefully a positive — impact on the environment.

Sustainability relates to protecting the environment and natural resources and includes measuring such things as greenhouse gases, carbon footprints and life cycle costs.

These subjects are different, but closely linked to each other and go hand in hand with what we do as professional cleaners.

A janitor or custodian is responsible for maintaining the indoor environment, and doing so in a green way that protects the health of occupants, conserves resources and doesn''t contaminate the Earth is the right thing to do.

The environmental movement has been around for many years.

Even before the "hippy" days of the 1960s and early 1970s, a segment of the population has been concerned with protecting the planet and conserving resources for future generations.

The movement picked up speed over the last 15 years or so when the government became involved and presidential directives were issued.

At the same time, a growing concern and awareness regarding health and indoor air quality/indoor environmental quality (IAQ/IEQ) developed, which fit in nicely with green.

Research over the last 10 years has brought science and higher education into the picture.

Add to this the efforts of Steve Ashkin to promote green chemicals and green cleaning, along with the application of scientific measuring processes and equipment to test the validity of the work we do, and you have where we are today.

These changes are only the first wave of advancements that will enable us to do a better job while protecting the environment and the public in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

These are exciting times for everyone in the cleaning industry; never before have we had the responsibility, tools or science needed to earn the respect and compensation that we deserve for the benefits that our services bring to companies, individuals and society.

It is important to understand that, as professionals, we must continue to educate ourselves in order to stay current with the changes that are taking place in our industry and those that we serve.

Staying current or even ahead of the curve is a personal opportunity, not a responsibility that you can or should pass off and leave in the hands your employer or anyone else.

As green evolves, you can expect to see a push to track, validate and continually improve results versus simply going through the motions and hoping a process works.

The focus will be on prevention versus cleaning and surfaces will be designed to be low maintenance.

Green Resources

At this time, there is no universally accepted international standard or definition for green cleaning or green chemicals.

Worldwide, over 200 companies, organizations and groups offer third-party green cleaning certification and standards — a few of the most popular are listed below:

  • ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS)

  • Green Seal Inc.

  • The U.S. Green Building Council''s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency''s (EPA) Design for the Environment (DfE) program

  • GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI)

  • The Ashkin Group

  • Terrachoice Environmental Marketing''s EcoLogo Program

  • The International Executive Housekeepers Association''s (IEHA) High-performance Cleaning Product (HPCP) program

  • The Carpet and Rug Institute''s (CRI) Seal of Approval (SOA) program.

The International Custodial Advisors Network Inc. (ICAN) is a non-profit association comprised of industry consultants with a wide range of expertise in building management, indoor environmental and service disciplines. This network provides free janitorial and building maintenance consultation service to the industry through the Cleaning Management Institute®.

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