Federal buildings Green cleaning

Green cleaning: The journey from niche to mainstreamBy the end of the decade, young people around the world took up the cause for "ecology, " as it was then called. This led to the first Earth Day in 1970, an event reflecting the much greater environmental consciousness that was spreading throughout the world.

Not long afterward, the first green cleaning products made their way onto the shelves of health food stores as the green cleaning movement began. Today, green cleaning is no longer niche, with an increasing number of certifications and other tools that have pushed it into the mainstream.

Green cleaning goes mainstream with certification

More than 20 years passed before green cleaning could make much progress in the professional cleaning industry. One key reason was a lack of standards that clearly defined what a green cleaning product is — and what it is not. Building owners and managers never were sure if the products they used were truly healthier and safer for the environment.

This began to change in 1993, when then-President Clinton signed Executive Order 12873 directing federal agencies to develop plans to purchase environmentally preferable products, which it defined as "products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose."

Importantly, the definition explained that the improvements could be made throughout the product's life cycle, stating that the "comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, product, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance or disposal of the product or service."

Throughout the 1990s, federal agencies, state and local governments led the green cleaning movement with the belief that it was their duty to use these affirmative procurement strategies to protect human health and the environment. But as they moved forward, they also became confronted with the sheer complexity of the issues because cleaning requires myriad products, including disinfectants, floor and carpet care products, heavy-duty degreasers and graffiti removers.

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