As one of the first major institutional sectors that has embraced healthier and safer cleaning practices, educational facilities are at the forefront of the public green cleaning movement. Schools contain one of the most vulnerable populations: children. As more and more school districts consider outsourcing cleaning services, building service contractors are in a position to bid for and secure those contracts.

The normal activities of children introduce and spread germs to peers through surface and air contamination. Additionally, more children suffer from allergies and asthma than ever before. With those variables, keeping this population safe and clean can be quite a challenge.

While many individual private and public school districts, as well as universities, have made independent decisions to require green cleaning, some statewide edicts have been passed by legislatures in states such as New York and Illinois. BSCs — whether they practice green cleaning yet or not — should expect to see more mandates, and be prepared to comply with regulations.

Whereas green cleaning in other sectors such as governmental has largely been a response to mandates, some schools and universities are opting to require it ahead of the legislative curve. That means educational facilities are likely to be one area in which BSCs will find green-hungry customers. The Healthy Schools Campaign can assist BSCs with its outline of five steps to green cleaning.

A healthy environment is important to facilitate learning in schools, through attendance and attentiveness. Chemicals that contain low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) improve indoor air quality (IAQ) by providing a safer breathing environment. That can lead to increased productivity for students and staff. Much of green cleaning in schools is preventative maintenance, creating high-performance environments by focusing on not just chemicals but on procedures. Implementation of entryway matting, high-performance vacuum filters, microfiber cloths and mops and proper dilution of chemicals are important steps to take in any green cleaning program.

Increased learning leads to higher test scores, which translates to increased state and federal funding — a huge selling point when bidding for a school contract. Contractors can start to and continue to implement green cleaning and cleaning for health procedures, from training and certification to daily tasks such as portion control and education of customers. It can be difficult to get a foot in the door in educational settings traditionally dominated by in-house cleaning staffs, but in a time of tighter educational budgets, now is a great time to try.

Exerpted from the April 2007 issue of Contracting Profits.