Green cleaning plays a significant and supportive role in helping education institutions meet their sustainability goals. However, identifying cleaning products, supplies and equipment that truly are environmentally preferable can be daunting.
The marketplace is inundated with products and services purporting to be "green" or environmentally preferable. The proliferation of products and services purporting to offer an environmental benefit has made it difficult to distinguish between those that are truly "green" and those that make false or misleading claims. This situation creates a challenge for schools looking to start a comprehensive green cleaning program and for the cleaning professionals who use the products.
The good news is that schools can choose from many credible ecolabel programs for their green cleaning programs. Such programs help schools identify green cleaning products and services that truly are environmentally preferable and effective.
A number of credible ecolabel programs have won acceptance in the marketplace. By lending a level of certainty to the procurement process, ecolabel programs help schools avoid greenwashing and deliver a clean, healthful and safe learning environment.
Chemical cleaning products
In the realm of chemical cleaning products, three ecolabel programs have established themselves as reliable in qualifying environmentally preferable and effective products.
Green Seal (www.greenseal.org), EcoLogo (www.ecologo.org) and the U.S. EPA Design for the Environment (www.epa.gov/dfe) have developed credible environmental standards, along with certification or recognition programs for chemical cleaners that qualify effectively as green products. Each of these programs covers a broad swath of cleaning products, such as general purpose, carpet, bathroom, glass and toilet-bowl cleaning products. In addition, each of these programs covers floor finishes and strippers, along with hand soaps and sanitizers.
The labeling established by Green Seal, EcoLogo and the U.S. EPA DfE programs uses standards based on multiple environmental, health and safety attributes including but not limited to corrosivity, skin sensitization, biodegradability, toxicity, combustibility and VOC content. In addition, each of these programs has a performance component that ensures the products recognized by these programs also perform their intended cleaning function.