Green cleaning is a holistic approach to janitorial services that takes into account: (1) the health, safety, and environmental risks of products and processes associated with cleaning; (2) the mission and use of the facility to be cleaned and the behavior of facility occupants; and (3) the cleaning, maintenance, and sanitation needs of the facility.
In other words, it is an approach to cleaning that involves the use of alternative products, applying those products in different ways, and evaluating and/or changing behaviors associated with how buildings are used to reduce risks while maintaining a satisfactory level of cleanliness and disinfection.
Traditional glass cleaner-made of alcohol and ammonia, which are solvents-is typically applied by using a trigger spray, which creates a fine mist. Vapors created by this product and process have the following effects:
Green cleaning alternatives can include:
If occupants eat in their individual offices, they are likely to produce crumbs, which could attract pests. This might require more frequent pesticide or rodenticide applications than if all eating were centralized in a lunchroom or conference room. In addition, if employees clean up coffee or beverage spills at the time of a spill, rather than wait for the cleaning crew to do it (especially when it involves carpets or other fabrics), janitors can use fewer, and less-toxic, cleaning products than if spills dry or seep into carpet. Hence, green cleaning requires some involvement by building occupants.
Does Green Cleaning Work?
Green cleaning is a concept; it is a collection of new tools and practices that can be applied to traditional approaches. Green cleaning approaches vary from building to building. Green cleaning works if the products and processes used are targeted to the specific risks associated with each building, and if building managers, janitorial personnel, and building occupants all participate in the development of a green cleaning plan.
Why is Green Cleaning Important?
Green cleaning is all about reducing risk. Risk is the measure of the probability and severity of harm to human health or the environment. It is based on the type and toxicity of a hazard (that is, its potential effect on plants, animals, humans, and ecosystems) and the type and degree of exposure to that hazard (based on intensity, frequency, and duration). Risk is characterized by evaluating hazard and exposure together, along with the pathways by which people or the environment are likely to become exposed (e.g., through eyes, skin, lungs, or mouth and through contact with contaminated air, water, or soil).
No matter what changes are made to traditional products and processes, cleaning buildings-like all other activities in life-will never be without risk. All risk, however, can be evaluated on a continuum that ranges from very high to very low. Current cleaning practices might pose very high risks or avoidable risks, and changing certain practices and products might reduce unnecessarily hazardous practices with alternatives that are equally effective. Keep in mind, however, that although hazards and exposures generally can be evaluated for humans or the environment, the specific risk to an individual person or individual waterway, for example, will be unique based on individual circumstances, such as pre-existing health conditions, and vulnerabilities (i.e., asthma, heart disease) (for example, children and the elderly are more vulnerable). There are also trade-offs to be considered-for example, using a less-toxic product that requires more scrubbing to be effective-might reduce the risk of inhalation or skin contact, but that might also increase the risk of arm or hand injuries brought on by additional scrubbing.
Overall, however, the practice of green cleaning has many benefits. Green cleaning can:
What Are the Federal Mandates for Green Cleaning?
Green cleaning is evolving into a professional standard. In fact, several federal mandates already exist that require federal agencies to consider environmentally preferable products and services in their acquisitions and procurements.
Executive Order 13101
Executive Order 13101 on Greening the Government Through Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Federal Acquisition requires federal procurement officers to consider environmental factors in their purchasing and contracting decisions and directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop guidance to address environmentally preferable purchasing.
EPA established the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) program in response to the Executive Order and developed guiding principles for applying environmentally preferable purchasing in the federal government setting. EPP clauses are being included in many federal contracts. The application of these principles in specific acquisitions varies depending on a number of factors, such as: the type and complexity of the product or service being purchased; whether or not the product or service is commercially available; the type of procurement method used (e.g., negotiated contract, sealed bid); the time frame for the requirement; and the dollar amount of the requirement.
For more information, see www.epa.gov/opptintr/epp.
Federal Acquisition Regulation
Section 23.703 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requires Executive agencies to consider environmental factors when purchasing products and services. Agencies must:
For more information, see www.arnet.gov/far.
Comprehensive Procurement Guideline
Section 6002 of the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), along with Executive Order 13101, requires EPA to designate recycled-content products and to recommend to federal agencies practices for buying these products. Once a product is designated, procuring agencies are required to purchase it with the highest recovered material content practicable. In response to these directives, EPA developed the Comprehensive Procurement Guideline (CPG) program to research and designate products and provide guidance. Federal agencies are now required to purchase janitorial supplies, such as facial tissue, bathroom tissue, paper towels, industrial rags and wipes, and plastic trash bags, with recycled content.
For more information on this program, visit www.epa.gov/cpg.
What Green Cleaning Standards Already Exist?
Several reputable standard-setting organizations have already developed voluntary standards and guidance for agencies, companies, and other organizations that want to adopt green cleaning practices.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), an independent consensus based standard-setting organization, has issued guidance on procedures for developing a green cleaning program. The "Standard Guide for Stewardship for the Cleaning of Commercial and Institutional Buildings" (ASTM E-1971) was issued in 1998 to help owners and operators of commercial and institutional buildings adopt green cleaning and housekeeping practices. The standard provides recommendations for developing a stewardship plan; provides guidance on evaluating cleaning processes and selecting, using, storing, and disposing of products; and discusses equipment, training, and communications activities for a green cleaning program. According to ASTM, following the principles set forth in this guide can lead to greater tenant/occupant satisfaction, reduced operational costs, and greater productivity of occupants and cleaning personnel.
Green Seal is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the environment by promoting the manufacture and sale of environmentally responsible consumer products. It has developed a consensus-based standard for industrial and institutional cleaners. Green Seal standards set forth a list of product requirements that are based on an assessment of the environmental impacts of product manufacture, use, and disposal and reflect information and advice obtained from industry, trade associations, users, government officials, environmental and other public interest organizations, and others with relevant expertise.
Visit www.greenseal.org for a description of Green Seal and its certification process. Also, see the attached copy of the Green Seal Industrial and Institutional Cleaners standard.
Can Green Cleaning Help Reduce Regulatory Burdens?
Green cleaning can potentially help agencies, municipalities, or companies reduce the regulatory burdens associated with the use, storage, or disposal of chemicals used in traditional cleaning. Organizations should be familiar with the regulations governing the use of janitorial chemicals, but this manual provides an overview to demonstrate how switching to green cleaning can potentially reduce regulatory procedural and financial burdens.
Most agencies, municipalities, or companies that use dangerous chemicals in the workplace are regulated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA regulations require employers to protect the health and safety of their employees through training, use of certain procedures (including personal protection), development of emergency plans, and more.
For information on OSHA regulations, visit www.osha.gov.
In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has passed several regulations affecting the janitorial industry:
For more information about the Clean Water Act, visit www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/33/ch26.html.
For more information about the Clean Air Act, visit www.epa.gov/oar/oaqps/.
For more information about RCRA, call toll-free 800 424-9346 or TDD 800 553-7672.
For more information about EPCRA, visit http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/index.htm.
For more information on CERCLA, visit www.epa.gov/superfund.
For more information about the Safe Drinking Water Act, visit www.epa.gov/safewater/sdwa/sdwa.html.
For more information on FIFRA, visit www.epa.gov/pesticides.
Depending upon your exact location, you also might be regulated by state or regional laws, such as the following examples:
For more information on AQMD, visit www.aqmd.gov.
For more information, visit http://prop65news.com/pubs/brochure/madesimple.html#safe.
For more information, visit www.chesapeakebay.net.
Some of these regulations primarily affect upper management in an agency, municipality, or company, while others directly impact janitorial management and staff.
Changing cleaning practices and using less toxic products can reduce safety and health risks to workers and occupants and can reduce certain regulatory requirements, which can save organizations money.
What is Green Cleaning?: Created on July 21st, 2009. Last Modified on July 21st, 2009
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