ICS Magazine

Green Clean Schools Movement Accelerates at Schools and in Legislatures

June 2, 2009

Chicago, June 1, 2009 -- As schools around the U.S. increasingly switch to green cleaning programs in efforts to protect student and staff health, legislators in at least four more states have passed green clean schools legislation. The movement’s momentum during times of economic hardship for school districts and cleaning companies underscores the practical, cost-effective nature of green cleaning.

"What we’re seeing is a real movement as more school leaders recognize green cleaning as a simple change that goes miles in protecting the health of everyone in the school building,” said Mark Bishop, deputy director of the Healthy Schools Campaign, an independent not-for-profit organization dedicated to healthy school environments. “It’s a common-sense, cost-effective switch for schools, and it’s simply the right thing to do.”

The states of Illinois, Maine, Missouri and New York have laws in place requiring or encouraging green cleaning in schools. Legislators in four states-Connecticut, Maryland, Nevada and Hawaii-all passed green clean schools legislation this year.

“This shift in cleaning practices is spreading through the school marketplace and among the industry that provides cleaning products to schools,” said Steve Ashkin of The Green Cleaning Network and The Ashkin Group, LLC. “Green cleaning in schools is a win-win situation, protecting our children’s health while helping our marketplace evolve toward safer and more sustainable practices.”

Green cleaning is most commonly defined as cleaning to protect health without harming the environment. And while there are variations in how states are defining environmentally preferred cleaning, most states are turning to three leading eco-label programs to aid their efforts in simplifying green purchasing decisions:
  • The U.S. Design for the Environment (DfE) Safer Product Recognition Program is a voluntary U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that partners with manufacturers to ensure use of the safest possible ingredients in chemical-based products. The DfE Program applies a rigorous scientific methodology, based on ingredient component-class screens and whole product criteria, to ensure that products bearing the EPA logo contain best-in-class ingredients and are safer for families and the environment. Product manufacturers who become DfE partners and earn the right to display the DfE logo on recognized products have invested heavily in research, development and reformulation to ensure that their ingredients and finished product line up on the green end of the health and environmental spectrum while maintaining or improving product performance. The DfE Program has allowed use of its logo on more than 1,000 products, reducing the use of chemicals of concern by 270 million pounds. More information on the DfE Criteria and Screens for Safer Ingredients is available at http://www.epa.gov/dfe/pubs/formulat/formulator_review1.pdf and http://www.epa.gov/dfe/pubs/projects/gfcp/index.htm.
  • EcoLogo (formerly Environmental Choice) is a multi-attribute environmental standard setting and third-party certification program. In addition to being one of the founding members of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN), EcoLogo standards are recognized as one of the two North American ecolabelling programs to meet ISO 14024 requirements. EcoLogo standards address resource use, chemicals used during production, waste and emission reduction, energy consumption and packaging. Originally started by the Canadian government, EcoLogo is now used throughout the world. EcoLogo certified products are widely available throughout North America. http://www.ecologo.org
  • Green Seal is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to safeguarding the environment and transforming the marketplace by promoting the manufacture, purchase, and use of environmentally responsible products. According to the organization’s website, they certify hundreds of products using credible, science-based, and transparent standards, their certification program meets the standards for ecolabelling set by the International Organization of Standards (ISO), 14020 and 14024, and the criteria for bona fide ecolabelling bodies of the Global Ecolabelling Network. To learn more about Green Seal standards, visit http://greenseal.org.
These programs are becoming increasingly central to green cleaning decisions as more schools purchase green cleaning products and more companies seek to enter the green marketplace.

“Providing a clear definition of ‘green’ goes a long way toward helping schools make good purchasing decisions and protect the health of their students and staff,” said Bishop. “In an ever-changing marketplace with more and more schools sorting through new innovations and competing environmental claims, programs such as these play an increasingly important role.”

States with new policies on green clean schools:
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Maryland
  • Nevada
States that introduced green clean schools legislation in 2009:
  • California
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont