A general term for drugs, chemicals, or other substances that either kill or slow the growth of microbes. In most green cleaning situations, a particular chemical called triclosan is to be avoided. Triclosan, used for its antibacterial properties, is an ingredient in many detergents, dish-washing liquids, and soaps, and an additive in various plastics and textiles. However, the safety of triclosan has been questioned. While the companies that manufacture products containing this chemical claim that it is safe, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered it as a pesticide. The EPA gives triclosan high scores both as a human health risk and as an environmental risk.
Employing a strong antibiotic agent such as triclosan for everyday use is of questionable value, as it takes a shotgun approach to killing all microscopic organisms while also destroying the beneficial bacteria in the environment and in our bodies. These friendly bacteria cause no harm, and often produce beneficial effects, such as aiding metabolism and inhibiting the invasion of the harmful pathogens.
The spreading of bacteria among people, food, surfaces, and/or equipment. Proper cleaning processes can prevent this.
Daylighting uses natural light to illuminate buildings. Rather than relying on banks of fluorescent lights, daylighting brings indirect sunlight deep into a building, connecting people to the rhythms of nature while providing pleasing illumination at a fraction of the cost of even the most efficient electric lights.
Daylighting is the most economical and environmentally responsible lighting technique available today. It:
- Saves money on energy bills
- Makes a statement — that you care about the environment
- Helps people and organizations succeed:
- Shoppers linger longer and buy more
- Students do better on tests
- Office workers are absent less often
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Its mission is to protect human health and the environment.
Cleaning to protect health without harming the environment
The Carpet and Rug Institute’s certification program for vacuum cleaners.
To qualify for the Green Label, vacuums must go through a stringent testing process that measures three key performance factors:
- Soil Removal - The vacuum must remove a set quantity of soil from carpet in four passes.
- Dust Containment - The vacuum must not release more than 100 micrograms of dust particles per cubic meter of air. This protocol evaluates the total amount of dust particles released by the brush rolls, through the filtration bag and via any air leaks from the system, and is more stringent than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
- Carpet Appearance Retention - The vacuum should not affect the appearance of the carpet more than a one-step change based on one year of normal vacuum use.
High performance vacuum cleaners have a significant impact on improved indoor air quality (IAQ). At the same time, vacuums that effectively remove and contain soil while keeping the carpet looking good will help carpets last longer. Ultimately, better performing vacuums provide a greater return on investment and ensure a healthier indoor environment.
Source: The Carpet and Rug Institute, http://www.carpet-rug.com/
A widely recognized green product certification. The Green Seal organization is “an independent, non-profit organization that strives to achieve a healthier and cleaner environment by identifying and promoting products and services that cause a less toxic pollution and waste, conserve resources and habitats, and minimize global warming and ozone depletion. Green Seal has no financial interest in the products that it certifies or recommends nor in any manufacturer or company.”
Green seal certified products
The Green Seal is awarded to products that have less impact on the environment and work well. To earn the Green Seal a product must meet the Green Seal environmental standard for the category as demonstrated by rigorous evaluation, testing and a plant visit.
Green seal recommended products
Green Seal publishes reports of product recommendations to provide guidance for institutional purchasers. The recommendations are based on a careful environmental screening of available information on products currently on the market. The recommended products appear to meet the prerequisites for being environmentally responsible based on data provided by their manufacturers. Recommended products have not gone through Green Seal’s formal certification process.
Greenhouse gas emissions
Greenhouse gasses are primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, which are naturally occurring. However, through population growth, fossil fuel burning, and deforestation, people and businesses are affecting the mixture of gases in the atmosphere. Plus, a variety of industrial processes now emit very powerful greenhouse gases that are not naturally occurring — these include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). According to the EPA, the heat-trapping property of greenhouse gases is undisputed although uncertainties exist about exactly how the earth’s climate responds to them. There is new and stronger evidence that most of the global warming over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.
High Efficiency Particulate Air filters used in HVAC systems, vacuum cleaners, etc. A HEPA filter removes a minimum of 99.97% of contaminants at 0.3 microns in size. In comparison, a human hair is about 60-75 microns in diameter. Particles less than 35 microns can’t be seen with the naked eye. Pollen is in the 10-100 micron range, with dust in the .5-5 micron range. Particles under 5 microns can to penetrate deep into the lungs
Indoor Air Quality. An important environmental consideration, because people spend approximately 90 percent of our time indoors. Common factors that affect IAQ are:
- People (exhalation, body odors, diseases)
- Activities (work such as cleaning, using correction fluids, carbonless paper, pest control products, and personal activities such as wearing fragrances and smoking)
- Technology (photocopiers and laser printers)
- Furnishings (furniture, draperies, floor coverings)
- Finishes (paint, varnish, vinyl wall coverings)
- Building materials (caulking compounds, adhesives, wood laminates)
- Outdoor air quality
- Inadequate or contaminated air handling units
- Inadequate cleaning practices
Source: The Carpet and Rug Institute, http://www.carpet-rug.com/
Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. Using efficient systems and keeping them maintained are important to a green program.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System® created by the USGBC (United States Green Building Council). LEED was created to:
- Define “green building” by establishing a common standard of measurement
- Promote integrated, whole-building design practices
- Recognize environmental leadership in the building industry
- Stimulate green competition
- Raise consumer awareness of green building benefits
- Transform the building market.
LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations. LEED-NC was launched in 2002. LEED-NC is a green rating system for new and existing commercial and institutional buildings.
LEED for Existing Buildings. In 2004, the USGBC first introduced LEED certification for Existing Build ings, now LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. The LEED for Existing Buildings Rating System helps building owners measure improvements and maintenance on a consistent scale, with the goal of maximizing operational efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts. LEED for Existing Buildings addresses whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues (including chemical use), recycling programs, exterior maintenance programs, and systems upgrades. Since September 1, 2008, all projects registering for LEED for Existing Buildings must do so under the new LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance version.
LEED for Commercial Interiors is the green benchmark for the tenant improvement market. Launched in 2005, LEED-CI is the recognized standard for certifying high-performance green interiors that are healthy, productive places to work, are less costly to operate and maintain, and reduce environmental footprint.
LEED for Core and Shell Development. LEED-CS is currently a pilot program for designers, builders, developers and new building owners who address sustainable design for new core and shell construction. Broadly defined, core and shell construction covers base building elements, such as the structure, envelope and building-level systems, such as central HVAC, etc. The CS product recognizes that the division between owner and tenant responsibility for certain elements of the building varies between markets.
Textiles developed through new technology making them even finer than silk. The material used in cleaning products, such as mops and dust cloths, is a blend of microscopic polyester and polyamide fibers, split to create microscopic “hooks.” These hooks act as claws, scraping up and holding dust, dirt, and grime. Microfiber is very effective for cleaning, because the fibers quickly and easily capture dirt rather than just moving it around. Microfiber, which can absorb up to 7 times its weight in water, is sometimes described as having a magnetic attraction to dirt and dust. Cleaning with microfiber products is environmentally friendly because chemical use can be minimized. Microfiber products are extremely soft, they do not scratch surfaces, but at the same time they are sturdy and tough on dirt
Material Safety Data Sheet Written information on a product that reflects the hazards of working with the material in an occupational fashion. An MSDS is designed to provide both workers and emergency personnel with the proper procedures for handling or working with a particular substance. The sheet includes information such as physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point etc.), toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill/leak procedures.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its regulations requiring employers to protect the health and safety of their employees through training, use of certain procedures (including personal protection), development of emergency plans, and more.
The destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer, which shields the earth from harmful amounts of ultraviolet radiation. Ozone depletion is caused by the breakdown of certain chlorine- and/or bromine-containing compounds (chloroflurocarbons, or CFCs, and halons) when they reach the stratosphere and quickly destroy ozone molecules.
Materials that have served their intended use as a consumer item and have been diverted or recovered from waste destined for disposal. Used in recycling and part of the broader category of “recovered materials.”
Materials that have been recovered or diverted from solid waste to be recycled for other use.
The amount or percent of recovered materials that a finished product contains.
The United States Green Building Council is “a coalition of leaders from across the building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work.” To do this, the USGBC developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System®.
Volatile Organic Compounds contained in some cleaning products. VOCs can escape during product use and have been linked to smog formation. Green cleaning process help minimize VOCs in the environment.