Some of our greatest green schools champions are the facility cleaning managers, teachers, administrators, students and community members who are working to inspire and transform their schools. It is these individuals and the organizations that support them that form the backbone of the green schools movement.

When the Department of Education launched the Green Ribbon Schools program in 2011, only five applicants mentioned the use of green cleaning products in their applications. Now, almost every entry mentions green cleaning as part of their sustainability efforts. This tells us that schools are increasingly embracing green cleaning, and facility cleaning managers, teachers and administrators are leading the way.

In addition to developing green cleaning policies and purchasing agreements, schools can commit to sustainable school grounds management or implementing comprehensive integrated pest management. For each of these outcomes, there are a variety of paths a school can take to become “greener.”

When it comes to comprehensive sustainability, giving schools clear and simple ways to measure and communicate progress is integral to the green movement’s success. Developing common measures will allow the movement to quantify and celebrate the broad array of green activities happening every day. Common measures also provide schools with better ways to benchmark progress, which in turn will increase investment and form a strong foundation for continued green schools research.

Measuring Our Impact (MOI) is the Center’s broad initiative to work towards defining these measures. And developing metrics for cleaning processes and technologies is an integral part of the MOI initiative. These measures will likely come from state and school policy makers, and also school facility cleaning managers who work to make their schools better places to learn.

Getting Involved

Facility cleaning managers are at an advantage when it comes to promoting environmentally preferable initiatives. They are already leaders within the community, but it is important to take the step toward implementation.

Learn more about green cleaning, and why it is important to the health of students, teachers and staff. The Healthy Schools Campaign’s Green Cleaning Schools program has developed a series of tools and resources focused on implementing green cleaning.

The United States Department of Education’s Green Strides web portal is also a good resource. It provides a one-stop-shop for resources, webinars, case studies, best practices and collaboration so that all schools can make progress across every pillar.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also offers a range of resources such as guidance for selecting greener cleaning products and equipment.

These are just a few of the many resources that exist in support of healthier and more environmentally friendly cleaning practices. Organizations such as the Environmental Law Institute and Healthy Schools Network, as well as industry groups such as ISSA, also offer wonderful guidance.

Whether launching a new program, or showcasing a tried and true green lineup, participating in Green Apple Day of Service is a wonderful way to implement tangible change within a school. For years, our community has mobilized around this day to transform schools into healthier, safer and more productive learning environments through local service projects.

Since 2012, Green Apple Day of Service has inspired more than 12,000 school improvement projects, commitments, and events in all 50 states and 73 different countries, collectively impacting more than 7 million students worldwide. This year’s Green Apple Day of Service will take place on September 24.

In our work, we like to dream big. Imagine what we could accomplish if every classroom, every school district, every state, adopted policies that encouraged green cleaning. 

Where we learn matters. And it is our obligation to ensure all school facilities support healthy, happy and productive students now and far into the future. 

EMMA ARNOLD is a Research and Data Analysis Associate at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools. She is based in Washington, D.C.

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Promoting Student Health And Sustainable Cleaning