Green Cleaning Definitions: Sorting Through the Green Lexicon

One of the best ways to understand Green Cleaning and properly implement it is by having a good overall understanding of its terminology.  The following are some of the key words and terms building owners and managers should be aware of when it comes to Green Cleaning and a Green Cleaning strategy:

Biomimicry.  Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary defines this as, “the copying or imitation of a natural phenomenon’s or environment’s efficiency and survival mechanisms in manufacturing processes or in applied case-based reasoning; also written biomimickry.”  Put into Green Cleaning practice, an example would be instead of using a solvent to dissolve grease end –users could use an enzyme, which is likely more environmentally preferable, to essentially digest it.

Bio-based. Many traditional cleaning products are based on petroleum or other nonrenewable resources. Bio-based products are based on renewable resources, often agricultural, such as corn, coconut oil, or citrus fruit.  Recent regulations now mandate that the Federal government begin using bio-based products.

Certification.  Reputable Green certifications are based on meaningful and credible testing and analysis conducted by a third party. To date, there are several certification organizations but in the professional cleaning industry, the following appear to have the greatest impact:
• GreenSeal
• EcoLogo
• U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Design for the Environment (DfE) program

Cleaning for Health®.  This concept refers to cleaning that has value beyond the aesthetic, and places greater importance on cleaning to positively impact human and environmental health by reducing the overall environmental impact of cleaning.
Cradle to Grave or Lifecycle.  The life cycle of a product is a concept that recognizes the products impact on the environment not only when it’s used, but across its entire life cycle. This includes everything from the extraction of raw materials to the manufacturing process, transportation, and recycle or disposal of the product.

Eco-labeling.  Eco-labeling is a logo affixed to a product that suggests sustainability.
Green. To be “green” means reducing the negative impact of a product, tool, chemical, or service on human and environmental health.

Green cleaning. Green Cleaning involves the use of products and cleaning strategies that have a reduced impact on human health and the environment.  In recent years, it has also become more closely tied to sustainablity, referring to products and services that use natural resources more wisely, are good for people, businesses, and communities, as well as help protect the planet.

Greenwashing.  This refers to the use of sales or marketing information that overstates or misinterprets the environmental attributes or benefits of a product or service.

LEED. LEED is an acronym for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system and certification program. Today there are seven different categories of certification available affect the cleaning industry including:
• LEED-EB (existing buildings) which states that cleaning products used in a facility meet specific Green criteria and standards
• LEED-NC (new commercial construction and major renovation projects)
• LEED-NC Application Guides

Restorative.  A restorative product is environmentally preferable and helps to restore the environment.

Self certification. This is when a manufacturer employs certifies their product is environmentally preferable.  In some cases this is accurate, in others it is misleading, and in still others it is based on the best scientific information at the time. However, in many cases, the testing has not been completed by an independent, third-party

Sustainability.  When used in cleaning, it means using products and ingredients so that they will be available for future generation.  Recent definitions are much broader and refer to what is known as the triple-bottom-line of People, Planet, and Profits.

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC is a membership organization comprised of owners, manufacturers, service providers, and architects that are some of  the leading proponent of Green cleaning and operations in the U.S. The organization has created the LEED rating criteria and continues to oversee the certification process.