Mike Sawchuk
Vice President
Enviro-Solutions/Charlotte Products
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

Brent Crawford
Core Products Co.
Canton, Texas


Rebecca S. Kaufold
Spartan Chemical Co., Inc.
Maumee, Ohio

Dan Daggett, Ph.D.
Manager, Corporate
Diversey Inc.
Sturtevant, Wis.


Question: What makes chemicals green?

One of the prevalent concerns when using chemicals is the impact to air quality. So, the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted is one of the first indications of how "green" a chemical can be.

In addition to the VOC's, there may be standards, such as the EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE), EcoLogo and Green Seal programs that require testing/evaluation of skin/inhalation toxicity for product use. Most products have a Health Materials Identification System (HMIS) rating based on guidelines from OSHA. There are four categories with ratings from 0 — 4, with 0 being the safest. The categories include Health, Reactivity, Flammability and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required. Obviously, a product with all 0's is a safer choice than a traditional product with higher ratings in these categories.

— Brent Crawford, president, Core Products Co., Canton, Texas.


First of all, do not fall prey to greenwashing or "ecobabble." Most products today make green claims. How do you know if they are accurate?

As per the recent study by TerraChoice, approximately 98 percent of the claims on cleaning chemicals found on products in major retailers are false and commit at least one of seven sins of greenwashing or ecobabble. If products are certified green by EcoLogo or Green Seal, they must meet around 15 different criteria, and be proven by independent 3rd party verification for their human health and environmental impacts.

— Mike Sawchuk, vice president, Enviro-Solutions/Charlotte Products, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.


That depends. Each independent green certification is unique, as well as each product category. The end use and the frequency of product use are also factors. For example, consider a facility that cleans the bathroom mirrors daily and applies floor finish once every 12 months. Once might logically deduce that daily exposure to low indoor air quality is more important than one time exposure, thus the restrictions on solvents in the glass cleaner may be more strict than the floor finish. It is important to understand the product use, the facility priorities and the product chemistry.

— Rebecca S. Kaufold, chemist, Spartan Chemical Co., Inc., Maumee, Ohio.


Our industry has been expanding the term "green" into the area of sustainability. Sustainability seeks to achieve long-term success by balancing environmental, social and economic considerations. Therefore, the preferable chemicals are the ones with low potential for human health threats, excellent environmental profiles, while offering the efficacy necessary to deliver economically viable cleaning products.

Products that don't work well aren't sustainable. Products that are too dangerous aren't sustainable. Products that damage the environment aren't sustainable.

— Dan Daggett, Ph.D., manager, Corporate Sustainability, Diversey Inc., Sturtevant, Wis.


Question: Should building service contractors use green-certified chemicals?

We believe they should as then it allows them to then compare price at use/dilutions, performance, value provided by their distributor and distributor sales representative, and the value provided by the manufacturer.

Let's apply the analogy of a facility requiring an electrician. Only licensed electricians would qualify and from there pricing, references, reputation, etc., factor in. Cleaning chemicals should be treated the same. If all are not certified green by EcoLogo or Green Seal, then don't allow them in.

The only exception is where a BSC wants to assume the risk of accepting non-green certified products. Unless they have the time, skill set and receive 100 percent full ingredient disclosure to do a full and comprehensive review, if they are missing any one of the three requirements, they are at the mercy of the manufacturers and their claims. If they want to accept the risk, then so be it. It is more prudent to set the hurdle and then find the best products providing overall value.

— Mike Sawchuk, vice president, Enviro-Solutions/Charlotte Products, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.


Third party certifications of cleaning products provide a minimum level of assurance of the health, safety and environmental performance of a product. Contractors should use third party certified products if they want a minimum level of performance without having to really work to understand the true nature of the product.

Easy isn't always better. Manufacturers and distributors can often provide information that goes well beyond what is covered by "green-certifications." We recommend BSCs to ask suppliers for additional information such as "how will the products save time, energy, and water?" Engage with suppliers to get a deeper understanding of just how sustainable is the product.

Green can mean a lot of different things to people. You should have your top concerns in mind when you ask for the information. Are you most concerned about skin burns? Indoor air quality? Saving money by reducing energy costs? Certifications aren't custom made for you, but your supplier should be able to give you a custom program that meets your needs.

— Dan Daggett, Ph.D., manager, Corporate Sustainability, Diversey Inc., Sturtevant, Wis.


Depending on the needs for the specific job, a building service contractor may or may not have the product choice solely to his/her discretion. More and more government and school contractors must abide by product specifications when they are awarded the contract. Products that are evaluated by third party organizations such as Green Seal, have been tested for minimal VOC emissions and overall toxicity.

According to the EPA Web site, "For indoor air quality, all organic chemical compounds whose compositions give them the potential to evaporate under normal atmospheric conditions are considered VOCs and should be considered in any assessment of indoor air quality impacts."

Most importantly, it is important to read label ingredients and follow the manufacturers' suggestions dilutions/directions for use. A product may be —green certified,' but the category and testing results may not be relevant if the product isn't used correctly.

— Brent Crawford, president, Core Products Co., Canton, Texas.


Third party green certifications are meant to independently identify products that have reduced human health and environmental impact. While it is important to also consider the product usage and the facility priorities, without an intricate knowledge of the available options and impact of each, it would be a monumental task.

By using a green-certified product, the BSC can trust that the chemistry is ideal and then input their knowledge of product and facility use to find which product will fit all parameters. Even though green certifications have specific parameters, there is still individuality within each product class and only the BSC will know which specific product meets its individual needs.

— Rebecca S. Kaufold, chemist, Spartan Chemical Co., Inc., Maumee, Ohio.