Often, those of us who have spent our careers in the facilities department operate as though we are invisible. We want the occupants of our buildings to enjoy the benefits of a healthful, safe, clean, high-performing and even inspiring building, but without giving thought as to what it took to achieve this.

The downside of this is that we may go unrecognized for the efforts. But I suspect that recognition is not the primary reason you do what you do, and one of the downsides of working in the background is that it tends to limit our exposure to others, even in our own profession. As a result, innovation and leadership often is slow to be recognized.

Thus, I was thrilled a new green-cleaning award program will recognize and achieve a high level of distinction for facilities, specifically for custodial operations that excel at green cleaning.

American School & University magazine is collaborating with the Green Cleaning Network and the Healthy Schools Campaign on the program. The purpose is to recognize education institutions for exemplary green-cleaning programs by identifying those who have gone beyond chemical, janitorial paper and equipment choices to include policies, procedures, training and shared responsibility efforts that result in an effective cleaning program. At the same time, recognized programs will minimize potentially harmful impacts on the health of building occupants and staff, as well as on the environment as a whole.

The competition is open to all education institutions at all levels, as well as entire school districts.

The award particularly seeks to recognize teams involved in establishing green-cleaning programs, which may include administrative and janitorial staff; vendors, including janitorial product distributors and service providers; community members; and advocacy groups.

Entries will be judged by a panel representing school stakeholders, cleaning industry experts and school health advocates. The criteria are modeled on The Quick and Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools, published by the Healthy Schools Campaign, a founding member of the Green Cleaning Network.

The application process for the awards is simple, requiring you to identify what makes your program truly innovative in a series of short questions. You'll be given plenty of opportunity to identify your team and to highlight those things that distinguish your program.

Calls for entries begin this month, and the deadline for submissions is mid-September. To enter, visit asumag.com/green_cleaning_award.Winners will be profiled in the December issue of AS&U.

Ashkin is executive director of the Green Cleaning Network, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational organization. www.GreenCleaningNetwork.org SteveAshkin@GreenCleaningNetwork.org