While many customers may lease their spaces and are unable to control their building infrastructure, they can still make a significant impact by modifying their own operations and product purchases.

Green products are flourishing today, driven by a rising tide of demand. A full 78 percent of Millennials prioritize sustainability and make purchasing choices accordingly — higher than any generation before them. As a result, end users are likely very interested in the benefits of green cleaning products, but they may not know that safer, effective, cost-comparable products that meet the need of rigorous cleaning and disinfecting are available.

In fact, these products are increasingly available, perform at least as well as conventional products, and can be obtained at similar price points. When Green Seal launched 30 years ago, only about 10 percent of available products claimed to be green. In 2018, it was 22 percent and rapidly growing.

These certified cleaning products promote transparency and enable informed decision making. Green Seal works with manufacturers' raw material suppliers to track down every ingredient before making the decision to certify a product. The result is a comprehensive list of cleaning products that are better for indoor air environments, those that have lower rates of illness and a smaller environmental footprint.

The same could be said for disinfectants recognized by the EPA, the authority on these products. There are many types of disinfectants on the EPA's List N, which includes chemicals effective against the COVID-19 virus, if used correctly.

Because disinfectants are designed to kill pathogens, however, EPA does not allow manufacturers to label disinfectant solutions with third party certifications, such as Green Seal. Nevertheless, there are safer options within the overall List.

Green Seal recommends choosing List N products with one of the following active ingredients:

  • hydrogen peroxide**
  • citric acid
  • lactic acid
  • ethyl alcohol (also called ethanol or just alcohol)
  • isopropyl alcohol
  • peroxyacetic acid**
  • hypochlorous acid


**The combination of hydrogen peroxide and peroxyacetic acid can cause asthmagen, so avoid products that contain both.

Another critical piece to the puzzle is the application method of these disinfectant products. End users may be tempted to fumigate entire rooms using fogging devices, but as mentioned earlier, they should be trained to focus primarily on high-touch surfaces.

Encourage customers to use disinfectants with application methods that reduce inhalation exposure — even products with safer active ingredients can cause irritation if sprayed at extremely high levels indoors. Always check that a chemical has been approved by the EPA for use with specific technology before promoting a disinfecting system to customers.

The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be a collective challenge. Protecting schools, workplaces, and communal spaces means not only guarding against the virus, but also ensuring that protective measures are in place to avoid unintended consequences. Encouraging customers to purchase green products can help them advance their goals of protecting building occupants while minimizing the impacts of their cleaning regimens.

Taryn Tuss is Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Green Seal, a global environmental nonprofit and ecolabel for products, services and hotels. Taryn has more than 15 years of experience in environment and energy issues. Prior to joining Green Seal, she was the Communications Director for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, serving as a spokeswoman for the President, an advisor to Cabinet members, and a communications and media relations strategist for the Obama Administration.

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