The Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC), an Illinois-based independent nonprofit, has joined cleaning industry leaders to unveil The Quick and Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools, the first-ever multimedia handbook designed to demystify green cleaning and promote to schools.
The Guide consists of an eight-page, full-color handbook that outline five simple steps for setting up a school green cleaning program. An accompanying CD-ROM contains comprehensive information, practical advice, tools, and resources to help schools learn more and institutionalize their efforts. Importantly, the resource includes a purchasing guide that puts products that meet environmental standards at their fingertips.
Schools have been cleaned the same way for so long, that most people don’t really given it much thought. Starting a Green Cleaning Program can feel overwhelming, but Green Cleaning is not an “all or nothing” proposition. Most schools that successfully implement Green Cleaning programs begin by addressing the most significant or easily accessible issues. As they experience success, they add new elements to their plan or make adjustments to improve the results of current efforts. Schools can get the process started with just five simple steps:
Step 1: Switch to Green Cleaning Products: Purchase certified green cleaning products. There are dozens of choices that work well and are cost-competitive compared to traditional products. This stage also includes training or retraining cleaning personnel regarding the proper product application, mixing, dilution and disposal.
Step 2: Introduce Green Equipment and Supplies: Use vacuums and other floor cleaning equipment with high-efficiency filters to capture microscopic materials that might adversely impact building occupant health or damage sensitive equipment. Green equipment tends to cost more, but the higher quality and greater durability is more cost-effective in the long run.
Step 3: Adopt Green Cleaning Procedures: Change the frequency, technique or time when cleaning is performed. For instance, spraying product on a cleaning cloth rather than on the surface being cleaned or adopt integrated pest management to cut down on pesticide exposure.
Step 4: Use Green Paper and Plastic Products: Introduce environmentally preferable paper and recycled plastic trash can liners. By taking a few simple steps to reduce consumption (such as replacing multifold hand towels with large rolls and replacing single roll toilet paper dispensers with dispensers that hold multiple rolls), you can offset the higher initial cost.
Step 5: Share the Responsibility: Educate custodial staff, administrators, teachers, students, union representatives, vendors and visitors about what they can do promote a healthy school environment, such as recycling paper and plastic, conserving water, maintaining uncluttered classrooms and workspaces and handling food and potential contaminants properly.
With the support of industry leaders JohnsonDiversey, Ecolab, and Unisource Worldwide, 10 manufacturers and distributors of green cleaning products have provided financial support and product information for the printing and distribution of 50,000 copies of the free Guide through national educational associations, school authorities, district purchasing agents, and school administrators. The other sponsors include ProTeam, SCA Paper, Andersen Company, PortionPac, Spartan Chemical Company, Inc., SPEEDS – Microfiber Cleaning System and Wausau Paper.
Each school day, some 53 million students and five million staff members attend our nation’s schools, representing some 20% of the American population. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), half this population may be exposed to polluted indoor air, lead, asbestos, chemical fumes, pesticides, molds and other toxins, along with overcrowding and poor sanitation.
“There is widespread recognition that the quality of the school environment can have a significant impact on the health and performance of students and staff members,” said Rochelle Davis, founding executive director of the Healthy Schools Campaign. “This is a great opportunity for us to partner with the cleaning industry and the educational community to promote products and practices that can make schools healthy places to learn and work.”
HSC collaborated on the development of the Guide with author Stephen P. Ashkin, president and founder of The Ashkin Group, LLC. Ashkin is a 25-year veteran of the cleaning industry, in which he has held key management positions in leading commercial and household product companies. He has been working on the issue of Green Cleaning since 1990.
“With several States looking at indoor air quality programs and New York State requiring Green Cleaning in both public and private schools, it is just a matter of time before Green Cleaning becomes the standard and schools will need to have access to the information and products to comply,” says Ashkin.
In addition to the corporate sponsors, eight professional organizations representing the nation’s school administrators, school boards, teachers, and parents are participating in the effort by promoting the Guide and distributing it to its member at conferences and trainings. These organizations include American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Association of School Business Officials International, Chicago Department of Environment, National Parent Teacher Association, National Association of State Boards of Education, National School Plant Management Association, Parents for Public Schools.
“These organizations are opinion leaders in the education field, and have the power to influence tens of thousands of schools to adopt green cleaning policies and practices and expand the market for green products,” said Davis.
The Chicago Department of the Environment was among the first organizations to sign onto the project as a result of the City of Chicago’s strong commitment to environmental efforts. The Healthy Schools Campaign helped the Chicago Public Schools design and implement a pilot program in ten Chicago public schools as part of a larger effort to explore green cleaning within CPS. As a result of the pilot, last year, CPS adopted a district-wide green cleaning policy and plans to distribute the Guide to every school to help build awareness of the policy.
HSC’s Davis is optimistic that more participating organizations and corporate sponsors will join the effort for the second printing of Guide. “Researching the standards and finding the right products have been among the biggest barriers to green cleaning in the past. The Guide takes the guesswork out of identifying and evaluating which products to use. The more sponsors who list their products in the Guide, the easier it will be for school decision-makers to disseminate the Guide as a tool for change.”