Green cleaning involves the use of cleaning products that work
effectively while minimizing adverse impacts on human health and the
environment. Green Seal and Eco Logo are two organizations that test and
certify cleaning products as "green."
The New York State Office of General Services (OGS) Environmental Services Unit (ESU) developed a list of green cleaning products approved for school use, which can be found on the OGS website.
Students, teachers, and staff spend eight to ten hours each weekday in school buildings. Even more so than adults, children are vulnerable to, and may be severely affected by, exposure to hazardous chemicals found in cleaners, waxes, deodorizers, and other facility maintenance products. In addition to the use of green cleaning products, a green cleaning program uses technologies like microfiber cloths to reduce the use of cleaning chemicals and HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaners to promote healthy indoor air quality. A healthier school environment leads to a better learning environment for students and working environment for staff.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the concentration of indoor air contaminants can be two to five times greater than the outdoors. Common indoor contaminants include dirt and dust, chemical vapors, pesticides, bacteria, and mold. An unhealthy indoor environment created by harsh cleaning products and/or improper cleaning procedures is linked to a variety of ailments such as:
In 2005, New York amended the state Education and Finance Laws and thereby became the first state in the nation requiring mandatory use of green cleaning products in elementary and secondary schools. This legislation includes school districts, special act school districts, city school districts in cities having a population of 125,000 or more people, boards of cooperative educational services, charter schools, approved private schools for the education of students with disabilities, state-supported schools for the deaf or blind, and any other private or parochial school. The law went into effect on September 1, 2006.
Green cleaning programs are designed to improve the health and wellbeing of everyone in the school. An effective program promotes a healthier facility with improved indoor air quality, reduces environmental and health impacts, and may positively affect students' grades and attendance.
Yes, most green cleaners are as effective as traditional cleaners when used properly. All OGS-approved products have undergone a rigorous certification and review process (i.e., Green Seal or Eco Logo) to ensure they adhere to strict performance standards and meet environmental and human health criteria.
Many green cleaning products are cost competitive and offer the same cleaning power as traditional cleaners. Because green cleaning products are often sold in concentrated form, the actual in-use cost may actually be less than some traditional, "ready-to-use" alternatives. In addition, the health benefits of implementing a green cleaning program outweigh any extra cost of the program.
Implementation of a comprehensive green cleaning program requires support and cooperation of many stakeholders including administrative and custodial staff, students, teachers, parents/PTA, and the school board. Together the funding, support, and implementation of a green cleaning program; and ensure that defined goals and objectives for the program are met.
In order for the program to be effective, only OGS-approved green cleaning products must be used within the school. The school district actively works with staff to address cleaning issues. The staff, as stakeholders, play a key role in successful implementation of a green cleaning program.