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 terms building owners and managers should be aware of when it comes to Green cleaning and a Green cleaning strategy:
Bio-based. Many traditional cleaning products are made from petroleum or other nonrenewable resources. Bio-based products are developed from renewable resources — often agricultural, such as corn, coconut oil, or citrus fruit. Recent regulations mandate that the federal government begin using bio-based products.
- 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.” An example in Green cleaning 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 the grease as would occur in natural circumstances.
- Reputable Green certifications are based on meaningful and credible testing and analysis conducted by a third party. There are several certification organizations, but in the professional cleaning industry, the following appear to have the greatest impact:
- Green Seal
- 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 life cycle. The life cycle of a product is a concept that recognizes the product’s 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 recycling or disposal of the product. Related to this are Environmental Declaration Programs now emerging that certify the life cycle environmental and sustainable impacts of products.
Eco-labeling. Eco-labeling is affixing to a product a logo that suggests sustainability.
- 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 sustainability, referring to products and services that use natural resources more wisely; are good for people, business profits, and communities; and help protect the planet.
- 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 is an acronym for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system and certification program. Today, one category of certification affecting the cleaning industry is LEED-EB: O&M (Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance), which prescribes that cleaning products used in an existing facility meet specific Green criteria and standards.
Other LEED certification programs include:
- New Construction (NC)
- Commercial Interiors (CI)
- Core & Shell (CS)
- Schools (SCH)
- Healthcare (HC)
- Neighborhood Development (ND) (NOTE: all hyperlinked)
Self-certification. This is when a manufacturer claims its product is environmentally preferable. In some cases, this is accurate; in others, it is misleading. 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.
- When used in cleaning, sustainability means using products and ingredients so that they will continue to be available for future generations. Recent definitions are much broader and refer to what is known as the triple bottom line: protecting the health of people, protecting the health of the planet, and improving profits and/or reducing costs.
U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC is a membership organization comprising owners, manufacturers, service providers, and architects that are some of the leading proponents of Green cleaning and Green operations in the United States. The organization has created the LEED rating criteria and continues to oversee the certification process.