Recently I came home from the grocery store with a new “green” glass cleaner. Every week, my local grocery store gives a gift to all shoppers who spend a certain amount of money at their store. This week the free gift was a “green” glass and window cleaner. Since I normally would not purchase this type of product (I use our own professional brand of cleaning products at home) I was a little curious to see how I would like the product. My experience was not a good one. The product left streaks and was not an effective glass cleaner. It was at this point that I realized why so many consumers continue to be leery of green or environmentally preferable products. Performance can still be an issue. For this reason I believe the industry needs to qualify what is the definition of a “green” cleaning product. Here are the criteria that I think professionals should consider:
- First the product needs to do what it is formulated to do – If the product is a degreaser, it must be able to remove grease from surfaces. If it a washroom cleaner, it must remove soils from washroom fixtures. The cleaner needs to do this as efficiently as a non green product and, when feasible, better than a traditional product.
- The product must be safe to use and protect the health of building occupants – The green cleaning product must be safe for the person applying the product, safe for the person who is working or visiting the building where the product has been applied, safe for the surfaces that the product will be applied on. Maintenance personnel are exposed to cleaning chemicals for 6 to 8 hours a day. Building occupants spend more hours at work inside the building than anywhere else. Their health needs to be protected. A healthy building requires green cleaning products to effectively remove both soil and germs from surfaces without compromising their health.
- The product must be formulated to reduce the impact of the cleaning process on the environment. Choosing Green third party certified products takes the guess work out of this decision. Products bearing the logo of a third party certification organization such as Ecologo meet stringent standards of environmental leadership. Ecologo compares products/services with others in the same category, develops rigorous and scientifically relevant criteria that reflect the entire lifecycle of the product, and awards the EcoLogo to those that are verified to comply with the criteria.
So how does one choose a green cleaning product that meets these criteria?
- Choose a green third party certified product – most certification programs require the product to meet certain cleaning standards. The certification also offers assurance that the product is formulated to minimize the impact on the environment
- Examine the cleaning process and the tools required to achieve the desired cleaning results. Using a green certified floor cleaner that is applied with a conventional mop that is dipped in the same solution for most of the day will not result in cleaner floor and a healthier building. How the product is applied and with what tools can be just as important as the choice of the product itself.
- Choose a distributor that offers to train users on how to use the product correctly. Maintenance personnel need to understand how the green chemical, the tools and the cleaning process are linked. Training is a key success factor to implementing a new green cleaning program and must be part of both the decision making process and budget requirements.
Not all cleaning processes can implement Green Certified products in all of their cleaning tasks. Acute Care and other health care facilities require the use of disinfectants that kill specific and broad spectrum bacteria and viruses from environmental surfaces. Unfortunately, green disinfection formulations have yet to be developed to meet both the environmental concerns and the performance requirements specified by healthcare customers. The health and safety of employees, patients and visitors are the first priority healthcare facilities. This does not prevent health care facilities from implementing green cleaning procedures and using green products for all other areas that require cleaning without the use of disinfectants.
Green cleaning is more that just choosing “green” products. The ultimate goal of implementing a green cleaning program is achieving a cleaner, healthier building with the least amount of impact on the environment.