Environmentally Preferred Purchasing &
Green Cleaning

Content provided by:  Cassandra Contreras, LEED A.P.,
Regional Sales Manager, CleanSource                

Purchasing environmentally preferable maintenance products is a great place to start improving your site's impact on the environment.  Some of the places you can apply this policy include janitorial cleaning and paper products, receptacle liners, hand soaps, office paper products, business and marketing materials, paints, building maintenance products (caulk, adhesives, etc…) and construction materials.  The guidelines below will help you establish your office's environmentally preferable purchasing policy, then wherever possible also recommend that tenants do the same.

Low VOC paints and Eco-friendly flooring options for build outs:  
Require that construction in your building uses only low VOC paints, low or no formaldehyde, non-aerosol, and with recyclable packaging when painting an office.  In addition, eco-friendly flooring option such as recycled ceramic tiles, reclaimed wood, or wood certified by Forest Stewardship Council harvested wood and eco-friendly furniture can be recommended. 

Eco-friendly Building Maintenance Products:
Require engineering and maintenance staff use caulks, adhesives, paints, etc. that have low or no VOC's and are considered eco-friendly (such as those listed on www.builditgreen.org).

Purchase EPEAT computers, notebooks and monitors.
Require that the management office purchases Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) certified desktop computers, notebooks & monitors. EPEAT certified products are energy efficient and use lesser quantities of hazardous constituents.  Recommend the same policy to tenants.

Green Cleaning and Equipment Information:
Green cleaning practices will help maintain good indoor air quality, increase occupant health and comfort, assure a clean building, and provide a healthy environment for the janitorial crew.  When implemented, a green cleaning policy will minimize the property's impact on the local environment by utilizing environmentally safe, low-impact cleaning chemicals and practices in the building.  Green cleaning will improve indoor air quality and create a healthier facility for occupants and visitors.

Use of daily green cleaning products: 
The Majority of the cleaning products used should be third party certified either by Green Seal, UL-EcoLogo or EPA's Design for the Environment.  When third party certified products are not available, cleaning products must comply with California Code of Regulation maximum allowable VOC levels.  If third party certified products is not available, work with the janitorial provider or staff to research and use a more environmentally friendly product than the conventional version of the cleaning agent.  These products should be pH neutral and should be concentrates if at all possible, and avoid aerosols and powders.

Daily cleaning products should meet one or more of the following standards:

  • Green Seal GS-37, for general-purpose, bathroom, glass and carpet cleaners used for industrial and institutional purposes;
  • UL EcoLogo 2792, for cleaning and degreasing compounds;
  • UL EcoLogo 2759, for hard-surface cleaners;
  • UL EcoLogo 2795, for carpet and upholstery care;
  • Green Seal GS-40, for industrial and institutional floor care products;
  • UL EcoLogo 2777, for hard-floor care;
  • EPA Design for the Environment Program's Standard for Safer Cleaning Products; and/or
  • Cleaning devices that use only ionized water or electrolyzed water and have third-party-verified performance data equivalent to the other standards mentioned above (if the device is marketed for antimicrobial cleaning, performance data must demonstrate antimicrobial performance comparable to EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics and Design for the Environment requirements, as appropriate for use patterns and marketing claims).

Disinfectants, metal polish, or other products not addressed by the above standards should meet one or more of the following standards:

  •    UL EcoLogo 2798, for digestion additives for cleaning and odor control;
  •    UL EcoLogo 2791, for drain or grease trap additives;
  •    UL EcoLogo 2796, for odor control additives;
  •     Green Seal GS-52/53, for specialty cleaning products;
  •     California Code of Regulations maximum allowable VOC levels for the specific product category;
  •    EPA Design for the Environment Program's standard for safer cleaning products; and/or

Disposable janitorial paper products and trash bags should meet the minimum requirements of one or more of the following programs:

  •    EPA comprehensive procurement guidelines, for janitorial paper;
  •    Green Seal GS-01, for tissue paper, paper towels and napkins;
  •    UL EcoLogo 175, for toilet tissue;
  •    UL EcoLogo 175, for hand towels;
  •     Janitorial paper products derived from rapidly renewable resources or made from tree-free fibers;
  •    FSC certification, for fiber procurement;
  •    EPA comprehensive procurement guidelines, for plastic trash can liners; and/or
  •     California integrated waste management requirements, for plastic trash can liners (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Chapter 4, Article 5, or SABRC 42290-42297 Recycled Content Plastic Trash Bag Program).

The requirements for janitorial paper products and trash can liners that meet the minimum requirement by the Environmental Protection Agency for recycled content are:

Recycled Content
Post-consumer Waste
Recycled Content
Bathroom Tissue 20-60% 20-100%
Paper Towels 40-60% 40-100%
Paper Napkins 30-60% 30-100%
Facial Tissue 10-15% 10-100%
General Purpose Wipers 40% 40-100%
Plastic Trash Bags 10-100% N/A

Hand soaps and hand sanitizers should meet one or more of the following standards:

  •     No antimicrobial agents (other than as a preservative) except where required by health codes and other regulations (e.g., food service and health care requirements);
  •    Green Seal GS-41, for industrial and institutional hand cleaners;
  •    UL EcoLogo 2784, for hand cleaners and hand soaps;
  •    UL EcoLogo 2783, for hand sanitizers;

Use of chemical concentrates and appropriate dilution systems:   
Use a chemical proportioning system to accurately mix the concentrated cleaning reagents.  The systems are user friendly and require no manual measurement. Features include:

  • Closed dilution system.
  • Portion controlled/locked in system.  You cannot tamper with or change dilution rate.
  • System attaches directly to the faucet.
  • Easy slide bottle feature allows for quick product changes.
  • Instantly primes.  When disengaged, product instantly drains back into the container.  No cross contamination.
  • Each product is numbered and color coded for simplified use (the concentrated bottles and spray bottles are both color coded).
  • Educator system is more accurate over varying water pressure than gravity drip systems.
  • Upright bottle design will not leak or drip!

Floor Finishes
Require that only Green Seal or UL-EcoLogo certified floor finishes and strippers to be used where possible.  This product is zinc-free and provides great performance.

Low Environmental Impact Cleaning Equipment and Tools:
Utilize equipment that reduces impacts on indoor air quality.  Initiate the following requirements for all new cleaning equipment purchased for use in the building.  If you are using an out of house janitorial company mention that they must follow the policy and if vendors change certify that all of the cleaning equipment meets the specifications below.

  • Vacuum cleaners that meet CRI (Carpet and Rug Institute)Seal of Approval/Green Label Vacuum program with sound levels less than or equal to 70dBA.
  • All powered maintenance equipment including floors buffers, burnishers and automatic scrubbers must be equipped with vacuums, guards, and/or other devices for capturing fine particulates and sound levels less than or equal to 70dBA.
  • All carpet extractors for deep cleaning of carpets must be capable of removing sufficient moisture such that carpets dry in less than 24 hours, and be certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute's Seal of Approval Deep Cleaning Extractors and Seal of Approval Deep Cleaning Systems program.
  • Whenever possible, all cleaning equipment should be ergonomically designed to minimize vibration, noise, and user fatigue.
  • Battery operated machines should use environmentally preferable batteries.
  • Propane-powered floor equipment must have high-efficiency, low-emissions engines and sound levels less than or equal to 90 dBA.
  • Automatic scrubbing machines are equipped with variable-speed feed pumps to optimize the use of cleaning fluids.
  • Where appropriate, active microfiber technology should be used to reduce cleaning chemical consumption and prolong life of disposable cleaning pads.
  • Equipment should have rubber bumpers to reduce potential damage to building surfaces.
  • A log will be kept for all powered cleaning equipment to document the date of purchase and all repair and maintenance activities and includes vendor cut sheets for each type of equipment in the log book.

Proper training of maintenance personnel in the hazards, use, maintenance and disposal of cleaning chemicals, dispensing equipment, and packaging:
Require that the janitorial vendor provide initial and ongoing training for their employees at a minimum in the following areas:

  • Safe Handling and Disposal of Cleaning Materials
  • Ergonomic training Including Safe Lifting Practices and Proper Equipment Handling
  • Effective Recycling: proper handling, sorting, and disposal of recycling, compost and trash.
  • Proper mixing/dilution of Concentrated Chemicals
  • All janitors must be trained in how to read an MSDS (soon to be called SDS)sheet and their location
  • Hazardous communications and blood borne pathogens (required annually by OSHA)

The guidelines outlined above will help you establish your office's environmentally preferable purchasing policy and create a green cleaning policy that will increase indoor air quality for your tenants and their guests, enhance your buildings image, and improve the overall environment at your site.

Definitions and Resources

Processed Chlorine Free (PCF) always contains feedstock fibers which meet EPA guidelines for post-consumer content. While the recycled-content portion may contain fibers that have been conventionally bleached, the balance of the paper pulp is bleached without using any chlorine containing compounds.

Information on third party certification standards for green cleaning products, janitorial paper/liners, green floor finish and strippers, hand soaps, and disinfectants/specialty products refer to LEEDv4, Building Operation and Maintenance-O+M

Information on Vegetable Based Inks for Printers:
Printer's National Environmental Information Center

Commercial Printing Companies:

Environmentally responsible Printing:

Forest Stewardship Council harvested wood and other products:
FSC certification is a voluntary, market-based tool that supports responsible forest management worldwide. FSC certified forest products are verified from the forest of origin through the supply chain. The FSC label ensures that the forest products used are from responsibly harvested and verified sources.

Eco-friendly flooring options: www.builditgreen.org

Stop Waste Green Maintenance Guide: www.stopwaste.org/docs/gbmg-dec-20-07ltr.pdf

EPEAT® is the definitive global registry for greener electronics, covering the most products from the broadest range of manufacturers. Only EPEAT combines comprehensive, objective criteria for design, production, energy and materials use and recycling with ongoing independent verification of manufacturer claims after registration. With more than 3,200 products from 45 manufacturers registered in 41 countries, EPEAT has rapidly become the most comprehensive green electronics registry in existence.

To find out if your computers and monitors are EPEAT Registered and Energy Star Qualified visit www.epeat.net


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