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The concept of green is quickly taking hold in the JanSan industry.
This growing awareness is a reflection both of the spread of the Earth-friendly principles that guide businesses and consumers today and the fact that custodians are sensitive to the potential for harm from the range of chemical-based products they encounter as they do their jobs.
Green labels can help steer JanSan professionals toward Earth-friendly products.
But, the green label can sometimes be confusing.
The reason: There aren't any firm regulations that govern when the term green can be used in promotional materials, product names and packaging.
Some products may claim Earth-friendly status merely because the manufacturer created a unique definition of green to match his or her product specifications.
The Ice Melt Industry
Because the ice melt industry is largely unregulated, there's nothing to prevent a manufacturer from adding small traces of additives to basic rock salt and claiming greater environmental benefits, creating a unique symbol that implies eco-friendliness, including "green" or "environmentally friendly" in the product name — or making other misleading marketing claims without providing validation.
Ice melt manufacturers may use these terms to merely indicate that packaging is made from recycled material or that the product contains green coloring, whereas maintenance professionals may interpret these terms to mean that the product is beneficial to the environment in some way.
Other products truly are environmentally friendly, substantiating their claims with the manufacturer's own research and/or third-party certifications.
While environmental claims are often more subjective than performance claims, they should be quantifiable in some way, such as through fewer chemicals introduced into the environment or other means.
To help protect businesses and consumers against misleading marketing claims, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued the Green Guides that give general guidelines for corporations to follow when making claims that their products are environmentally friendly.
Green Guides was first published in 1992, updated in 1998 and is currently undergoing further updates.
Proposed changes can be viewed on www.FTC.gov but, in general, the Green Guides essentially states that marketers should not make environmental benefit claims without the appropriate substantiation in place to prove them and that claims should be limited to a specific benefit, with clear and prominent qualifications.
Substantiation may require scientific evidence, tests, analyses, research, quantification or other validation.
Marketing claims should also specify whether they refer to the product, the packaging or both.
What To Look For
The DfE symbol means that the EPA's scientific review team has thoroughly screened the ice melt product for potential environmental harm and determined that it contains "only those ingredients that pose the least concern among chemicals in their class."
Product manufacturers who pass the DfE's strict certification requirements earn the right to display the DfE logo on their recognized products.
Another certification agency worth noting is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which uses a suite of rating systems for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings, homes and neighborhoods.
Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is intended to provide building owners and operators with a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.
Although few deicers are currently LEED-certified, demand for environmentally friendly ice melt products will surely grow the number of certified products.
Here's What Matters
What is the key takeaway for maintenance and sanitation professionals?
When it comes to ice melt, finding the terms "green" or "environmentally friendly" should be the beginning of your investigation, not the end.
Look for some type of claim substantiation or quantification, either from the manufacturer or from a reliable third-party.
Manufacturers who have gone through the effort to secure scientific data that substantiate or quantify their claims — or have passed the rigors of a third-party validation — will be eager to share that information on their packaging and promotional materials.