||New York State has two initiatives that underline the state's commitment to green cleaning. First, an Executive Order requires all state agencies to use environmentally-preferred cleaning products; second, New York passed the first legislation in the country mandating that all K-12 schools use environmentally-sensitive cleaning products. To fulfill these mandates, the Office of General Services (OGS), partnered with the Departments of Health, Education, Labor, and Environmental Conservation to develop guidelines and lists of approved cleaning products.
Green cleaning products are defined as "cleaning and maintenance products that minimize adverse impacts on children's health and the environment, while cleaning effectively." For the categories of general purpose cleaners, glass cleaners, carpet cleaners, bathroom cleaners, and hand soaps, the state guidelines require that such products be certified by one of two internationally-recognized certification organizations: Green Seal or Environmental Choice. In addition, the guidelines suggest that schools voluntarily investigate the procurement and use of sanitary paper products. The guidelines also include a section on "Best Cleaning Management Practices" that provides ideas to help schools obtain cleaner and better-maintained facilities.
The State-created guidelines set a bar for schools where none existed before and has agreed to make the standard even more health and environmentally-sensitive within the next 12 to 18 months. In keeping with this commitment, the Office of General Services has contracted with Green Seal to revise and update its nationally-recognized green cleaning products standard (GS 37), which is the Green Seal environmental standard for industrial and institutional cleaners.
Starting in January 2007 NYS OGS is funding Green Seal to revise the standard following a consensus process among manufacturers, users, and various other groups interested in green cleaning products. Green Seal is collaborating with the Canadian Environmental Choice program, which is also recognized for their environmental standard for industrial and institutional cleaners. The revised standard will address health and environmental effects, such as asthmagens, asthma triggers, endocrine disrupters, mutagens, and fragrances in an effort to better protect vulnerable or sensitive populations, such as children and janitorial workers. More than 300 stakeholder groups have indicated their interesting in participating in the revision, and Green Seal has developed an open transparent consensus-based process to ensure that the standard is scientifically sound and effective in identifying good cleaning products that minimize their adverse effect on health and the environment.
OGS recognizes that while NYS has made great strides in the area of green cleaning in schools and state agencies through the development of guidelines and lists of approved green cleaning products, there must be a focus on training. Considering that most cleaning budgets are approximately 5-10 percent product and 90-95 percent labor, one can appreciate the importance of understanding how such cleaning products should be used and ways to engage and motivate staff. Efforts are underway to develop a consistent and effective curriculum and to investigate funding opportunities to make the training practical and universally available.
New York State recognizes that green cleaning is an iterative process, and they are committed to continually reviewing and improving their program. As science and technology evolve, advancements in environmentally-sensitive cleaning products will be made, and product applications will be better understood through usage and observation. The state will amend its guidelines to reflect such changes and advancements. The OGS website will regularly report on innovative ideas that are emerging in green cleaning in New York State.