Q: We hear a lot about green design, but I want to know about green cleaning. Is there a way to incorporate “green” into maintenance? — submitted via the Internet
A: Green cleaning protects the health of cleaning workers, occupants and the users of buildings and facilities, as well as the environment. One benefit of green cleaning is that it is elevating the role of the cleaning professional and the jansan industry. Never before has the connection between good health, cleaning and the industry been clearer.
However, green cleaning is a system and includes more than just the use of certified-green cleaning products. Below are a few tips for school facility managers on establishing a green cleaning program:
- Work from a plan
Cleaning should be based on a plan. How often are floors to be swept, mopped, buffed or refinished? What chemicals and equipment are to be used? How often should carpets be extracted? All cleaning and maintenance services, especially green cleaning programs, should be guided by a written, well-thought-out plan.
- Employ a matting system
As much as 90 percent of the dust and dirt entering a facility “walks in” through the front door. A green cleaning system includes matting systems of at least 15 to 20 feet in length, inside and out, weather permitting. Mats should be cleaned and vacuumed regularly.
- Develop a green product selection strategy
More than 100,000 chemicals are registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and may be used for cleaning. However, only about 10 percent of them have been studied as to their health and environmental effects. Only about 750 have been tested thoroughly for human health effects, and far fewer have been evaluated by either Green Seal or Canada's comparable Environmental Choice Program. Your strategy should include a process for evaluating and testing environmentally preferable cleaning products as to their proven protection of people and the environment; effectiveness and performance; cost per usable quart or gallon (based on performance and dilution rates for the specific facility where the product will be used as well as the cleaning applications); and certification.
- Use technologically advanced janitorial equipment
Vacuum cleaners should be true-HEPA so that impurities cannot escape the machine and become airborne. Extractors should heat the cleaning solution to above 200°F to improve cleaning effectiveness and speed drying time. Hard-floor equipment should employ dust control or “passive” vacuum systems to capture airborne particulates as the machine is operating.
- Involve and educate
Everyone using a facility should understand why green cleaning products are being used and what green cleaning practices are being employed to protect health. They should be taught steps they can take to help “green” their work areas, such as not eating at their desks because it can attract pests and bacteria. Major stakeholders — facility managers, students and staff, and others — should meet regularly to evaluate current green cleaning strategies and practices.