A Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools

|March 21, 2017

A Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools

Green cleaning isn’t just a trend. It’s having a positive impact on health. With one in five Californians spending their day in school, which includes more than six million children, school districts are empowered to make a significant impact in the health of Californians by implementing district-wide green cleaning.

What is green cleaning? Green cleaning is cleaning that uses only green cleaning products, which contain significantly fewer chemicals than traditional cleaning products. In addition to the solutions used to clean, the practice of green cleaning extends to the cleaning equipment as well.

For example, microfiber mops and cloths are preferred as a result of their ability to attract dust and bacteria better than traditional cloths and paper towels. In general, green equipment not only uses fewer chemicals, but also requires less water and effectively removes allergens. Steam cleaning equipment is another example.

Six million kids in California spend their day in school

Working for a Healthier School

What is the impact of green cleaning on the health of students, teachers and staff in schools? We’ll look at some of the benefits of green cleaning below. All of them are a result of improved health from less exposure to chemicals in traditional cleaning products and processes. Once you read over the extensive benefits, we’re sure you’ll be convinced green cleaning is something all schools should be implementing.

But what can you — as a parent, teacher or staff member — do to find out what your school district’s cleaning habits are? And — more importantly — what can you do to change them? We’ve done our research and have compiled a list of steps you can take to make a difference in your school district by encouraging green cleaning.

There are San Francisco green cleaning companies for schools that want to be part of the solution. A green cleaning company has training, education and experience in this area and can assess the current cleaning situation and implement improvements for indoor air quality. Let’s start with the benefits of taking your cleaning green.

6 Benefits of Green Cleaning

Making an impact in the health of Californians through green cleaning reduces sick time, increases productivity, improves test scores, improves air quality and results in a better environment within the school and through the state. We’ve included research and details on each of these benefits below.

  1. Improve Air Quality

Traditional cleaning products are five times more polluting than certified green cleaning products. We need to shift our focus from thinking about the germs we’re inhaling and give some more thought to the chemicals we’re inhaling. Why contribute to so much air pollution when green cleaning products allow us to do without? All children in our schools are still developing, especially in our elementary schools ─ inhaling all of the cleaning chemicals can be detrimental to their health.

Some chemicals in traditional cleaning products may cause cancer or developmental, reproductive or neurotoxicity issues. Don’t take our word for it. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) specifically calls out cleaning methods and products as an important component of pollutant control, noting cleaning products remain in the air for a while after the cleaning is done.

Traditional cleaning products 5 times more polluting than green cleaning products

  1. Reduce Sick Time

The EPA goes on to say that chemicals found in some cleaning products can cause:

  • Eye, nose, throat and upper respiratory irritation
  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • Fatigue
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nausea and dizziness

With a list that long, it’s no surprise using green cleaning products — which contain significantly less chemicals — leads to less sick time.

While the impact on overall sick time for students, teachers and staff is important, the impact a commitment to green cleaning has on children with asthma may be the most significant. Some 12.5 percent of children in California have been diagnosed with asthma. It’s the leading cause of school absences due to chronic illness nationwide.

Chemicals linked to both asthma and cancer are commonly found in traditional cleaning products. In addition to chemicals causing asthma, there are also chemicals that can trigger asthma attacks. Certified green cleaning products do not contain chemicals that cause asthma and have strict limits on chemicals that can trigger existing asthma. It’s a no-brainer — phasing out traditional cleaners and switching to green cleaners will reduce sick time as a result of improving the health of students and teachers.

  1. Increase Productivity

When attendance improves for children and teachers, there’s more of an opportunity to get things done. Teachers aren’t having to try to figure out what they can have a substitute teach their class in their absence, and students aren’t missing essential parts of a lesson. In addition to being present, the decreased sick time means teachers and students are both more alert and focused. You’re sharper and happier when you’re healthy. All of these things come together to provide a more productive environment ─ which is especially important in the classroom.

  1. Achieve Higher Test Scores

The productivity shows in another benefit of green cleaning — higher test scores. Green schools in Washington State saw a 3 to 5 percent increase in student test scores. And Gregory Kats, author of the report “Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits,” says based on the study, a 3 to 5 percent bump in test scores is an achievable estimate. Charles Young Elementary School in Washington, D.C., implemented a green cleaning and indoor air quality program and saw a 25-percentage-point increase in math scores and a 16-percentage-point increase in reading scores.

Green cleaning results in a 3-5% increase in student test scores

  1. Save Money

Hire one of the San Francisco green cleaning companies for schools, and you could save money. It’s a common misconception that green cleaning products are more expensive. The reality is these green cleaning companies purchase concentrated green cleaners and dilution equipment to reduce the number of cleaning supplies they need — and those savings are passed along to you.

In addition to the savings you’re able to achieve with a green cleaning company, there are also big savings that come with the reduced number of absences. For asthma-related absences alone, California schools lose about $31 million in revenue each year.

  1. Be Eco-Friendly

The benefits don’t stop with people. Green cleaning products are also better for the environment. In order to be considered a certified green cleaning product, products must meet a strict list of criteria. In order to find that list of criteria, you may need to do some research on the organization that certifies them — yes, there are several.

It can be confusing, but if you do your research and find the qualifications the third party requires to be certified, you will know just how much the certification means. Oftentimes you’ll find very strict chemical guidelines, as well as criteria related to decreased water use — and the criteria even extend to the packaging, which almost always must be recyclable, yet another benefit to the environment.


How to Commit to Green Cleaning

Each of the benefits we’ve listed above are important. Regardless of what position you hold ─ whether it’s in government, school administration, or as a teacher, parent or concerned Californian — there are ways you can get involved in encouraging our schools to commit to green cleaning. Depending on your position, you could:

  • Get a team together within your school to raise awareness with key decision-makers
  • Conduct an audit of cleaning products and supplies used in your school
  • Write a letter to your community schools to express your support for green cleaning

The Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP) has a more detailed guide available online that you can use as a resource as you follow the steps we’ve outlined below.

  1. Do Your Research

Do you know what the cleaning practices are in your school? Chances are you don’t, so the first step is to inquire and learn more about the cleaning practices:

  • Does the school have custodians on staff to clean? Or does a third-party company do the cleaning?
  • Do teachers do some of their own cleaning in their classroom?
  • Does the school currently use any certified green cleaning products?
  • Does the school district follow any sort of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) program?

These are some of the questions you should be asking as you gather information and learn more about the current cleaning habits in your school district. Green Schools Initiative has a green cleaning survey for schools that may come in handy ─ remember, use the resources available to you. There are a lot of places implementing green cleaning across the country, so you can recycle a list of questions.

  1. Learn the Facts

If you’re going to have any chance at being successful in getting your school to commit to green cleaning, you have to know the facts. We’ve done some of this work for you in the section we included on benefits. Expand your research to include case studies on other schools that have implemented green cleaning products and practices and have yielded impressive results.

The facts and case studies make a powerful team in your case against traditional cleaning products. Also make sure you take time to get to know certified green cleaning products you would recommend. As we mentioned previously, certification can be tricky as there are several third-party organizations that provide certifications — some stricter than others. The EPA has issued a Safer Choice Standard that might be a good place to start.

It’s also a good idea to research green cleaning companies for schools in San Francisco and the surrounding areas. While they can be a wealth of information, they could also be a solution to getting your school district to commit to green cleaning.

Green cleaning companies are trained in green cleaning and bring a level of expertise that isn’t common among janitorial companies. Researching their costs, shorter contract terms ideal for schools that could be switching cleaning service companies, and customer service can help you get a feel for what they might have to offer your school.

Facts about Green Cleaning

  1. Gather a Team

Regardless of who you are and what position you hold, you aren’t going to be able to do this alone. You need a green clean team. Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel — who are the people within your school district who are health-oriented? Perhaps you know of health advocates, like a school nurse or local non-profit, who could help you make the case and spread the word about the benefits of green cleaning. You’ll likely also find teammates in parents, teachers, staff and school board members.

This is third on the list because you need to make sure you know the current state of cleaning in your school district and the benefits of green cleaning before you start making a case to people to join your cause. In recruiting people to work with you, you will also be raising awareness for green cleaning, which is equally important.

Once you have a team of people, come up with a strategy. What’s your end goal? Goals may not be the same across the board. For a school district that doesn’t currently use a green cleaning company, or any green cleaning products or processes, making a goal of a full district-wide commitment to green cleaning in the near future might be unrealistic. Perhaps a timeline of small changes over time toward that commitment would work better.

  1. Talk to Decision-Makers

Ideally, you have a few key decision-makers on your team, but you might not. Either way, you want to focus on the steps needed to achieve the goals you set with your team and get moving:

  • Is the first step trying to get a meeting with the superintendent?
  • Or perhaps to show a PowerPoint at the next school board meeting?

Make a plan for raising awareness among decision-makers and know what actions you’ll request from them. Oftentimes schools make the transition to certified green cleaning in phases. District-wide change is never easy to implement, so you may want to make a short-term goal to get certified green cleaning in a couple of schools to test. You can be confident the results will speak for themselves, so recommending testing a few schools could be the final proof you need to move the needle among administration.

Use No More Dirt as Your Green Cleaning Experts

Taking advantage of one of the green cleaning companies for schools, like No More Dirt, could help you seal the deal. With month-to-month contracts and certified green cleaning practices, we can help show the benefits of this approach. That could be just what you need to get the district-wide commitment to green cleaning you’ve been searching for.

No More Dirt is one of the San Francisco region’s green cleaning companies for schools. We are committed to green cleaning for the sake of our staff members’ health as well as the health of your children, teachers and staff. Many of the benefits of green cleaning for schools are also benefits for us as a company — we want healthy, happy workers, just like you want health, happy students and employees.

We are not a big, impersonal franchise. We started right here in the Bay area, and we focus not only on green cleaning but also on customer satisfaction. We only offer month-to-month contracts — it’s our way of earning your business each month and not pressuring you into a long-term contract. Our Diamond Certification from the American Ratings Corporation is proof our customer-focused structure and green cleaning are very successful.


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