Although the East Meadow School District, in Westbury, New York, has garnered a great deal of recognition for our green cleaning program, calling what we do “green” isn’t quite accurate. More appropriately, “cleaning for health” better describes the true intent of our program.

Cleaning for health entails finding the best products and procedures available and then implementing them correctly to produce the healthiest environment possible. In an effective cleaning program, green cleaning is not the intent, but it is often the result of using these best products and procedures.

Cleaning for health is our sustainable approach to cleaning and building maintenance throughout the district, and it is the result of using the best products and implementing healthy cleaning procedures.

Efficacy First

The first priority in any cleaning program is to use the most effective products possible. In East Meadow, we started years ago with basic compliance to the New York State Green Cleaning Regulation. We’ve made so much progress since then that we would now consider that original program to be ineffective and not truly green.

But you have to start somewhere, and our approach was to quantify all products being used and create a baseline district-wide. From that starting point, we only switched to green products when, through testing and pilot protocol, we could identify a product which was more effective.

Proper product and procedure testing is important. Our testing is never limited to the superficial results that any product, green or not, can produce. Germ loads need to measured, procedures evaluated and the new results analyzed against the baseline. Cleaning for health follows the results of scientific technology and peer reviewed data, not the marketing claims of manufacturers.

Identifying the best product includes researching the chemical components that comprise the product. Safety Data Sheets are important, but the chemicals contained in the product are what perform the task of cleaning, sanitizing or disinfecting.

For example, using traditional standards, biobased products and diluted petrochemicals may both be considered green, assuming they reduce health and environmental impacts compared to similar products. However, in East Meadow, diluted petrochemicals do not meet our standards for green cleaning. Why? Diluted petrochemicals may meet green standards if used as directed, but in practice are sometimes used outside the parameters of the manufacturers’ recommendations. Too often custodial staffs alter dilution rates in the false belief that doing so will have a better result.

Petrochemicals also produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs), impacting indoor air quality (IAQ). And many petrochemical products do not break down in the environment. Instead, they accumulate, changing exposure rates, especially in classrooms that are cleaned often and have less space per occupant than is typical in office environments. Even at the recommended concentrations, petrochemical cleaners are designed for use in environments occupied by adults, versus children who are more sensitive to these chemicals.

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Improving Cleaning Process And Procedures