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Sustainable Green Cleaning for Educational Facilities

August 27, 2012
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From a custodial operations standpoint, it is important to realize that how and what we use to clean a building has an impact on everyone who enters the facility. From a broader environmental standpoint, how we construct, remodel and maintain facilities impacts the air, water and all living things that inhabit the earth.

This is no minor point. Most people spend over 80% of their time inside of buildings, be it homes or workplaces, and health and comfort are impacted in a positive or negative way depending on the condition of the indoor environments in which they live, work and play.

Sustainable green cleaning is a natural extension of concern and responsibility for the cleaning industry and building custodians, as they know the building and it's occupants better than most anyone else and are already responsible for the care and custody of the property. With a few minor changes and a broader understanding of how all the elements of building operations work together, building custodians are in the right position to help protect building occupants, the building owner's investment and the environment.

The words sustainable and green are often used interchangeably. Being "green" and being "sustainable" is not the same thing. Green cleaning relates to the chemicals, equipment and processes that are used to clean a building or facility. Sustainable cleaning is a much broader and encompassing term that includes not only the products and processes, but longer term environmental, social and financial impacts related to the cleaning and maintenance of a facility or building.

Requirements and Expectations Evolve

Cleaning is no longer a simple matter of sweeping the floor and dumping the trash. Over the last 10 years the role of the building custodian has evolved to include knowledge of and responsibility for health, safety, recycling, Indoor air quality and security. In addition today professional cleaner must be able to recognize and service new and delicate surfaces that include natural stone, exotic woods, coated plastics, polished metals, faux fabrics, and the list goes on.

The responsibilities for green sustainable cleaning are also changing and increasing. Today custodial services management may be involved with validation testing, internal and external audits and certifications, tracking and monitoring maintenance schedules, along with usage levels of chemicals, water, waste and other resources.

Floor and Carpet Care Go Green

Green sustainable cleaning is all encompassing. Hard floor and carpet care account for high percentages of costs and product usage in all types of facilities cannot be overlooked when it comes to implementing a green cleaning or cost containment programs.

The basic concept is prevention, followed by capturing and removing soil where it enters a facility and is concentrated, before it gets spread around the entire building where it is more difficult and expensive to find and remove.

Examples include such things as 12 – 15 ft of interior and exterior entry matting at entrances, more regular and frequent vacuuming or dust mopping of the first 30 – 50 ft inside of entrances and focusing on micro areas of a building that have a greater need for cleaning than other lessor used areas.

Equipment, chemicals and supplies have changed over the last ten years to better meet the needs for green sustainable cleaning of modern buildings. This includes such things as micro fiber cloths and flat mops, HEPA filtration vacuums, natural and bio based chemicals, automated dilution systems, oxygenated and ionized water, and equipment that uses gel batteries, low energy usage motors, and ultra high concentrate chemical cartridges.

Resources Are Readily Available

Cleaning Consultants and CMI are partnering to bring you a one-day training program for Educational Facilities focused on sustainable cleaning practices.  You can find more information here.

There is no shortage of information available to guide anyone wanting to know more about green sustainable cleaning. Most association, manufacurers and a growing number of third party certification organizations offer training, audits, specifications and standards that can be used in any size and type of facility.

Some of the more well know and respected resources are listed below;

  • www.greenseal.org
    • Information on it's Green Seal Approved Cleaning Chemicals Standard (GS-37) and a report on Green Floor Care. The group has also established a green cleaning service standard.
  • www.usgbc.org
    • Information on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program.
  • www.carpet-rug.org
    • Information on Green carpeting, and the CRI's Green Label and Seal of Approval testing program for vacuum cleaners and carpet spotters and cleaning chemicals.
  • www.epa.gov/iaq/schools/asthma/eat-cumcm.htm
    • Informative site on IAQ, mold and green issues in schools.
  • www.healthyschools.com
    • Information on green school programs
  • www.hcwh.org
    • Health Care Without Harm Organization (HCWH) offers a free Going Green Resource Kit and other information for health care facilities.
  • www.h2e-online.org
    • Hospitals for a Healthy Environment organization offer tools and resources on greening health care facilities.
  • www.orkin.com/commercial
    • Information on the companies Green Pest Control Gold Metal Protection Program
  • www.westp2net.org
    • An informational resource on pollution prevention and green cleaning issues.
  • www.healthyindoors.com
    • A source of green info.
  • www.ashkingroup.com
    • An industry consultant provides information on green cleaning and offers free subscription to his e-newsletter “Destination Green”.

Why Not?

The question on the lips of forward thinking building owners, managers and occupants today is why aren't you using green sustainable cleaning processes and products. Green sustainable cleaning has become the norm in many facilities, and with good reason as there are many benefits, including cost savings. If you aren't doing green sustainable cleaning, the question you should be asking yourself is: Why Not?

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