Sustainable Schools

Game On for Green Cleaning

If you’re reading the Sustainable Schools column in SP&M, you’re probably using some green cleaning products, and you may even have a robust green cleaning program (products, procedures, and policies) in place. For too many of our schools, though, green cleaning is something they haven’t been able to implement. Some of the same, longstanding myths about green cleaning continue to pop up as reasons why not: green products are more expensive, green products don’t work as well, etc.

Advocates for healthier school environments have been touting the benefits of green cleaning products for many years now: they’re cost-neutral to cost-saving (especially if you switch from ready-to-use products to concentrates), they perform like “traditional” cleaners, they’re safer for staff to handle and use, and they contain far fewer ingredients of concern to growing children’s bodies (and grown-ups, too). Even with all the positives, there are still schools and school districts where green cleaning hasn’t yet been embraced.

Rather than continue to espouse the same green cleaning benefits and run headfirst into the same myths, I thought I’d share two resources that may help your school make the transition to a cleaning program that’s better for students, staff, and the environment.

Fresh on the heels of the Summer Olympic Games, nearly everyone is a fan of one sport or another. While your facility managers, custodial staff, and school board may not all cheer for the same professional sports teams, I guarantee they all own at least one item of clothing with an elementary, middle, or high school mascot on it. They may even have been spotted wearing face paint or with hair sprayed in team colors. To take advantage of this enthusiasm, the first resource I want to share is the Green Sports Alliance Greener Cleaning Playbook.

As noted on the Green Sports Alliance website (greensportsalliance.org), “The Greener Cleaning Playbook is designed to help sports facilities reduce the health and environmental threats associated with cleaning sports venues. Beyond protecting health, the cleaning industry uses significant quantities of chemicals, paper products, cleaning equipment, plastic liners for waste receptacles, and other supplies.”

The Greener Cleaning Playbook contains all the guidance, tools, and resources a venue needs to plan and implement a green cleaning program. Although focused on sports venues, the very same products and procedures can be used to greener clean classrooms and administrator offices. If you can clean a stadium with 63,000 seats and 1,000 restroom fixtures using green cleaners, I daresay those products will work just fine for the local high school stadium or the multi-purpose room/gym at my children’s elementary school (and all the other school buildings).

Another set of green cleaning resources comes from the Healthy Schools Campaign, which recently hosted the second annual Green Clean Schools Leadership Institute to directly engage with school facility directors and provide training to overcome challenges in implementing green cleaning programs. A good place to start is with the 5 Steps to Green Cleaning in Schools (greencleanschools.org). However, even when armed with the step-by-step process and tools, you still might encounter resistance from somewhere along the critical path. The ongoing work of the Green Clean Schools Leadership Institute can help with education, training, and success stories. In some circles this might be thought of as “coaching for success.”

Earlier this year, the Green Sports Alliance, the Healthy Schools Campaign, and ISSA (The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association) were part of several regional green cleaning workshops hosted at professional sports venues. The K-12 schools and district representatives that attended heard an overview of the Greener Cleaning Playbook and got to network with others from the area interested in, or already practicing, green cleaning. Your green cleaning team can include players from outside your staff, and you don’t even have to give up any first-round draft pics.

At the ISSA/INTERCLEAN North America 2016 show in Chicago Oct. 25-28, the Healthy Schools Campaign and ISSA will be hosting a two-day Green Clean Schools Forum, and the Green Sports Alliance and ISSA will be hosting a Chicago Greener Cleaning Workshop. Whether you attend one of these Chicago events or another one near you, the green cleaning tools from these organizations can help you put a new spin on a topic that’s critical to maintaining student health and school infrastructure on a daily basis.

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of School Planning & Management.

About the Author

Mark Petruzzi is senior vice president of Outreach & Strategic Relations with Green Seal and works to implement sustainable operations with local, state and Federal purchasers, K-12 schools, higher education, healthcare, green building programs, restaurants, sports venues and hospitality. He can be reached at mpetruzzi@greenseal.org.

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