Why Green Cleaning?
Each school day, more than 60 million students and staff attend our nation’s schools, representing 20 percent of the American population. Unfortunately, half of them are being exposed to polluted indoor air, including lead, asbestos, chemical fumes, pesticides, molds and other toxins at those schools. A green cleaning program can help reduce these harmful exposures—and it can do so much more, too.
Why should you care about green cleaning?
A well-designed green cleaning program will:
– Help students stay healthy and learn
– Protect the health of custodial staff
– Increase the lifespan of facilities
– Preserve the environment
– Promote fiscal responsibility.
From reducing carbon emissions to boosting test scores, green cleaning comes with a long list of benefits. In fact, green cleaning is one of those rare practices that meets all three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social.
The Economic Pillar
Some people still have the misconception that green cleaning will cost them more than a traditional cleaning program. In fact, the opposite is true. After introducing a green cleaning program in 2006 East Meadow School District in New York estimated its savings to be more than $365,000 per year. With green cleaning, schools can save money by using concentrated green cleaners, reducing the number of chemicals needed, saving energy and water, reducing the number of accidents and injuries from chemicals, reducing absenteeism, and extending the longevity of school building materials and furnishings. Green cleaning is a proven strategy for cutting costs and a great opportunity for streamlining a school’s budget.
Real-World Example: Economic Case Study
Two years after implementing a green cleaning program in Columbia Public School District in Missouri, the Custodial Services Department estimated a 10 percent or more reduction in the overall cost of the program. For example, by replacing antiquated soap dispensers and non-green paper towel and tissue products with new dispensers and green products, the department saved $17,000 a year in tissue paper and $8,000 a year in soap.
The Environmental Pillar
Green cleaning supports sustainability on a number of levels, including energy efficiency, raw material conservation, water consumption, waste management, and the development of new green technologies. Adopting a green cleaning program can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and waste by replacing ready-to-use products with concentrates that have less packaging and require less fuel to transport. In addition, green cleaning products must meet stringent criteria to ensure they are environmentally preferable. Plus, schools can reduce their energy use by 25 percent with simple energy efficiency measures like using ENERGY STAR certified cleaning equipment. If all schools got on board, this would result in a reduction of almost 23 million tons of carbon emissions. Green cleaning programs in individual schools can change the local environment for the better. And once more and more schools start catching on, the planet will reap huge benefits, too.
Real-World Example: Environmental Case Study
In Howard County Public Schools in Maryland, a switch to green floor finish products resulted in a 99 percent annual reduction of floor stripping requirements, an estimated reduction of non-biodegradable waste by more than 40 tons.
The Social Pillar
The social impact of green cleaning is significant. About 6 percent of janitors experience a job-related injury from chemical exposure to cleaning products every year. And students in the U.S. miss approximately 14 million school days per year due to asthma.Certified green cleaning products are not allowed to contain ingredients that have been linked with asthma and cancer, including phthalates and heavy metals. Green cleaning means better indoor air quality–and staff and students breathing easier. It means kids showing up to learn and better chances for their success. It means custodial staff members not being exposed to toxic chemicals that corrode their skin and eyes. It also means an opportunity to rally the community–including policy makers, parents and administration–behind the belief that students deserve a healthy learning environment.
Real-World Example: Social Case Study
At Sidney Sawyer Elementary School, a key factor in the decision to go green was the health of custodial staff. A member of the custodial team who suffered from asthma would get violently ill when she mixed cleaning chemicals in the bathroom with hot water. “No one should have to work in a potentially harmful environment, nor should any child have to go to school where cleanliness comes at the price of student health,” said Thomas O’Connell, chief engineer at Sawyer. After bringing green cleaning to Sawyer, the employee is no longer having severe asthma attacks.