Mark Petruzzi from GreenSeal in front of green trees

Lately I’ve been reading stories about how college students and young adults are missing some life skills that were historically considered pretty basic. Some of the missing skills, such as driving a car with a manual transmission, are influenced by technological advancements in vehicles and the rise of ride-sharing services. Others, such as sewing, cooking, and familiarity with basic woodworking and metalworking tools, were attributed to a lack of home economics and “shop” classes in schools. The lack of basic cooking skills meant that those college students tended to eat meals out or eat a lot of heavily processed microwaveable foods, both of which are expensive and not necessarily the most healthy options.

If the primary and secondary schools and parents weren’t passing on these skills to children and young adults, it occurred to me that knowledge around basic cleaning might also be lacking — I’m assuming that personal hygiene doesn’t fall into this category. Television commercials and product labels only go so far in conveying information about how to properly clean surfaces or wash a load of laundry. And far too many people fall under the spell of clever marketing or an attractive fragrance when it comes to cleaning products.

We’ve worked hard to emphasize the importance of staff training in green cleaning procedures and the effective use of cleaning products and equipment, which helps to emphasize the cleaning industry as professional. But what if we took the cleaning professional and let them expand their role occasionally as a cleaning professor?

Education for building occupants around a green cleaning program usually takes the form of a show-and-tell covering the green cleaning products in use or the green equipment being used. I haven’t seen much occupant education around green cleaning procedures, so the lack of young adult knowledge concerning proper cleaning techniques seems like an opportunity to interact.

Wouldn’t it be nice to learn how to properly clean a bathroom? How cleaning from top-to-bottom and back-to-front is efficient and allows for proper dwell time? Or the art of identifying and removing stains from carpet and clothing — is it oil or grass or wine or pet urine and what to use for each?

It may be a toss up between households and institutions that still feel an unnecessary desire to sanitize or disinfect everything, but try to do so without a thorough understanding of active ingredients and dwell time. A basic familiarity of the main purpose of cleaning (to remove unwanted contaminants and maintain a healthy and safe indoor environment), along with proper cleaning techniques and methods for avoiding cross-contamination, is something that many students and young adults are lacking.

I don’t have a specific educational format in mind, but I wanted to suggest the idea so you can find what might work for your students in your facility. Maybe it’s a tie-in with a hands-on “maker” class or workshop. Maybe it’s a column in the school newsletter or newspaper highlighting your green cleaning program and adding a “cleaning tip of the month.”

No matter the method, it’s an opportunity to help the next wave of young people so they enter society knowing how to cook, clean, or sew a button that fell off. 

Mark Petruzzi is Green Seal’s former Senior Vice President of Outreach and Strategic Relations. He’s in his third decade of striving for more sustainable purchasing and operations by using his engineering powers for good. He can be reached at