Survey: Why Schools Implement Green Cleaning

Cleaning programs are a critical part of a school’s and university’s effort to provide students and staff with the opportunity to learn and work in a place that is healthy and safe. An institution’s approach to cleaning says a lot about how it values its students, staff and the communities where they are located.

As part of a long-term effort, Healthy Schools Campaign and ISSA surveyed school and university executives from across the country to better understand cleaning processes, and determine the resources and tools facilities need in an effort to support the growth of the green cleaning movement.

Importance Of Green Cleaning

Each school day, more than 60 million students and staff attend our nation’s schools, representing 20 percent of the American population. Unfortunately, half of them are being exposed to polluted indoor air — lead, asbestos, chemical fumes, pesticides, molds and other toxins — at those schools. A green cleaning program can help reduce these harmful exposures — and it can do so much more, too.

Green cleaning helps students stay healthy and ready to learn. Students miss more than 14 million school days each year because of asthma, which is often exacerbated by poor indoor air quality (IAQ). Research shows a clear link between poor IAQ and sick students and staff, which leads to lower academic and occupational performance. Reducing the number of harmful chemicals used in schools can improve indoor air quality and reduce asthma triggers.

Students and staff aren’t the only occupants affected, custodial workers are particularly susceptible to health problems from frequent exposure to toxic cleaning chemicals and unsafe equipment. Roughly 6 percent of school custodians are injured on the job each year by chemical exposures. The use of green cleaning products and techniques can reduce the risk of these illnesses and injuries.

Green cleaning programs can also result in sustainable advantages — they reduce impacts from production, use and transport of cleaning products and materials. This is an important component of any facility’s environmental footprint. If all U.S. schools started using energy-efficient cleaning equipment, 23 million tons of carbon emissions could be saved.

In addition to helping save the environment, switching to green cleaning products and equipment can actually save schools money. While green chemicals used to cost more, in today’s market, costs are similar to traditional products. And schools can really save when switching to equipment and processes that are more efficient and effective for the cleaning staff.

Survey Says

The 2018 National Education Facilities Cleaning Survey found that 96.7 percent of schools have implemented green cleaning to at least a small extent, and nearly one in three schools have implemented green cleaning to a very large extent.

These school executives view cleaning as an essential component to a healthy school environment, one that keeps students and staff healthy and safe. Although managers agree on the importance of a cleaning program, their concerns and problem areas vary.

Almost all schools in the survey implemented green cleaning to at least a small extent, and almost all did so out of a concern for health — an improvement area many schools have experienced after implementing a green program. On the opposite side, schools were least concerned with sustainable and green initiatives as a reason to implement green cleaning policies.

No matter the reason for starting a program, having a formal green cleaning policy at the district or state level can help cleaning executives implement and sustain a green cleaning program. Schools that have this level of support tend to have deeper adoption of green cleaning.

According to the survey, those schools that implement green cleaning programs don’t operate in vacuums. Cleaning executives use various third-party certifications and resources to support and identify green cleaning products, introduce new equipment and adopt training and procedures.

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Driving The Green Cleaning Movement In Schools