At present, 20 percent of states in the United States have enacted laws promoting green cleaning products and practices in schools. While this is good progress, it still means that the majority of public schools are not required to commit to cleaning products that can keep their students and staff healthy and safe.

Why haven’t more states taken up the cause of green cleaning? The Center for Green Schools’ study shows that cost is a perceived obstacle to implementation. With so many more green and sustainable products available, however, costs are now competitive, says Stephen Ashkin, a leader of the green cleaning movement and president of The Ashkin Group, Los Angeles.

“These changes are easy to make and they are an easy win-win for state governments and schools,” says Ashkin. 

For example, since 2009 when Missouri’s law was passed, the Columbia Public School District in Columbia, Missouri, has saved approximately $750,000 while attendance and graduation rates have improved by switching to green cleaning products, says Michael Jones, director of custodial services.

Sometimes, the hardest part of implementation is getting buy-in from employees.

“The change was difficult for some of our long-time staffers,” says Jones. “We told them it was better for the students, but also better for them.”

That’s why education and training are an important part of the process. 

State policy is a major factor in getting green cleaning adopted across the country. The report’s authors conclude by saying that states can build on the experiences depicted and find even better, more creative ways to mobilize schools in their use of cleaning products that will promote and enhance a healthy environment for students and staff who spend their days in the classroom.  

JoAnn Petaschnick is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee.

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