Green Cleaning, Sustainability Related, But Not the Same
- By Stephen P. Ashkin
- June 1st, 2010
When it comes to green cleaning, many administrators and custodial crews
are now sitting back, comfortable that they understand it and have properly
implemented it in their facilities, making their schools much healthier with a
reduced impact on the environment. Well, get ready for a little jolt. Green
cleaning is evolving. Now, healthy well-operated facilities need to be not only
green but sustainable as well.
Some administrators may believe that the two terms address the same
issue. However, although they are related, they are not the same. The concept
of green cleaning focuses on reducing the negative impacts on health and the
environment associated with conventional cleaning products.
Sustainability goes far beyond this. It includes green, but also
encompasses more aspects of how a facility is operated and its impact on the
community and the environment. This is often referred to as the triple bottom
line: planet, people and profit. As to a school facility, which is often
government owned or operated, profit would refer to cost savings because
becoming more sustainable is typically a way facilities reduce their costs.
When the term green cleaning was first introduced, there was
considerable misunderstanding as to what it actually meant. A similar problem
is occurring with sustainability right now, even though it is actually a very
Some say the word dates back to the 18th century, when
foresters in Europe were becoming increasingly concerned at how fast the
continent was being deforested. At that time, wood was used for just about
everything from making homes and buildings to powering factories and heating
To address the problem, some foresters developed what was then termed
“scientific” or “sustainable forestry.” They realized that if enough trees were
planted to replace the wood provided by the trees harvested every year, the
entire forest could be better monitored and managed.
This is all well and good when it comes to trees, but what about oil,
ore or other natural resources. In 1987, the Brundtland Commission, formally the World Commission on Environment and Development, officially
defined the word sustainable to mean the using of natural resources in such a
way “that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of
future generations to meet their own needs.” This is the definition in use
Making a School Sustainable
With your school already much greener as a result of green cleaning, how
can you take it to the next level and make it sustainable? This requires school
and college administrators to consider virtually every aspect of their daily
operations. Some examples include the following.
- Finding ways to reduce energy
and water consumption, from adjusting heating and cooling to replacing
urinals and toilets with high-performance systems that use less than half
the water of older fixtures.
- Reducing waste, increasing
recycling and implementing purchasing policies that require the selection
of products that are packaged in recycled and recyclable materials.
- When building or retrofitting
facilities, requiring the use of construction materials that are green
certified and are derived from renewable, reusable or recycled resources.
- Buying locally whenever
possible to reduce transportation costs, which reduces fuel consumption
and the emission of greenhouse gases.
- Emphasizing greater social
responsibility as to the impact your facility has on local neighborhoods
and the larger community.
- Ensuring workers are provided
adequate wages, benefits and training opportunities for advancement.
- Having nondiscriminatory
- Encouraging volunteerism and
philanthropic efforts of the organization and its staff, as well as
increased community involvement.
A business is in operation to make a profit. But as touched on earlier,
this is not necessarily a goal for an educational facility. Instead, something
quite interesting has been noted: sustainable facilities can save money. And
the reason is simple. A sustainable building tends to operate more efficiently,
and this greater efficiency leads to cost savings. In addition, sustainable
buildings tend to have lower utility bills along with decreased maintenance
costs when compared to conventional facilities.
The triple bottom line has transformed the way institutions and
corporations conduct business. With these factors in mind, becoming sustainable
is very much a winning proposition: the planet wins, people win and, with the
cost savings, school administrators win as well.
P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in
greening the cleaning industry, as well as Sustainablity Tool LLC, an electronic
dashboard that allows jansan companies to measure,
track and report on their facility’s environmental impacts. He is also coauthor of both The
Business of Green Cleaning and Green
Cleaning for Dummies. For more information, visit www.AshkinGroup.com.