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State orders schools to clean green or else

April 15, 2008
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SPRINGFIELD, IL – (Chicago Sun Times) -- Green cleaning.

That's the plan at schools statewide, under a law that took effect this year requiring them to use environmentally sensitive cleaning products to scrub their floors, clean their windows and even for staffers to wash their hands.

Schools -- public and private -- have until May 5 to comply, though the law doesn't have any provision for enforcement.

"We support green cleaning," said Suzanne Carlson, environmental program manager for Chicago's public schools. "We are working on a bid right now to get green cleaning products into our schools. It seemed like a good idea for both the kids and the environment."

Green cleaning products have few toxic chemicals or alternative chemicals, said Kate Tomford, a senior policy adviser to the lieutenant governor who helped devise the plan.

Schools can get an exemption from the law only if they compare the cost of three "environmentally friendly" products to their current products and prove they can't afford to go green. So far, none have applied for an exemption.

In Chicago, "We don't expect it to cost more," Carlson said.

But there's still resistance.

"This is a prime example of the state micromanaging school districts," said Ben Schwarm, associate executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards. "It's a huge leap in telling a school what cleaning supplies to use."

"The mandate is so complex," said Zach Wichmann, associate education director for the Catholic Conference of Illinois. "I think people are trying to push it off till the last minute. And the other problem is, well, there's no teeth to this law."

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