Creating a Green Office and Making It Work: 5 Practices and 8 Steps to Healthy (and Clean) Building

Cleaning green in your office building is key to ensuring your building occupants are working at their highest productivity level.

Currently 1 out of 13 people have asthma, and the rate continues to increase. This is partly because indoor air contaminants can reach levels as high as 100 times higher than what is acceptable for outdoor air! Compound this with the fact that today we spend nearly 90 percent of our time indoors. This combination leads to a costly absenteeism rate in our work places. The estimated productivity loss and health care costs associated with our indoor air quality is about $100 billion annually.

After construction is complete and a building comes to equilibrium, the HVAC system has been balanced, and materials from construction have off-gassed, the single greatest and most easily controllable action for a the healthy and safe building environment is housekeeping and maintenance.

With today's focus on sustainability and reducing costs, our buildings, including our homes, have become more energy-efficient (a.k.a., air tight). This results in a higher concentration of chemicals that become trapped in our working and living spaces. How we clean and with what we clean has a direct impact on our indoor environmental conditions.

There are many reasons to be concerned with worker hazards and the negative impact on people who are around these harsh cleaning chemicals. Traditional petrochemical based cleaning products can be dangerous to use and can greatly affect our indoor air quality with harsh alkalis and acids, particulates, glycol ethers, carcinogens, and petroleum distillates. These irritating and toxic fumes extend to our employees, customers, guests, and building occupants. Furthermore there are additional costs associated with using these products such as the disposal of hazardous waste, worker liability, and regulatory reporting.

Green cleaning is a combination of planning and using contemporary cleaning methods. Understanding how green cleaning is different and implementing the appropriate cleaning techniques goes a long way in achieving the desired result.

The top five green cleaning practices to implement to ensure a healthier indoor environment are:

Using color coded microfiber cloths help to improve health and safety of building occupants by preventing cross-contamination. When handled properly these can be used for a very long time. Hence these cloths ultimately reduces waste.
Selecting green janitorial chemicals that are leveraging the latest in cleaning technology. Such as establishing by a "spray and rotate" technique for enzymatic cleaners rather than using the traditional "spray and wipe" approach. Also taking advantage of products that are rinse free will enable you to benefit from the reduced labor costs. Selecting third-party certified products is an important piece of an effective green housekeeping program.
Taking full advantage of chemical management systems with green janitorial chemicals will go a long way to eliminate exposure to harsh chemicals, reduce costs through inventory optimization, and minimize waste.
Implementing an infection control plan. Disinfectants are not, and cannot be, environmentally friendly because they are designed to "kill" everything, similar to RoundUp weed control. There are ways, however, to minimize the impact. For example, selecting a pH neutral, EPA registered disinfectant product combined with targeting it only for bacterial hot zones will leave the smallest possible impact on the environment while still protecting the health of building occupants.
Developing and implementing an indoor air quality prevention plan.

A key aspect to a successful green cleaning program is to have an indoor air quality prevention plan. This is also a key aspect in preparing for LEED certification. Even if you are not seeking certification, these practices prove to be valuable for enhancing building operations. There are eight steps to planning and implementing an effective indoor air quality prevention plan. Implementing these eight steps will make the difference in ensuring the health and safety of your staff.

Set building policy and goalsEnsure management commitment to the pollution prevention planComplete a baseline study to record your current practicesIdentify your opportunities and optionsRank the optionsEstablish a green cleaning training programImplement and evaluateStart over and set new goals

With proper planning, critical thinking, product testing, and problem solving there are solutions that can be found to ensure you have and maintain a safe, healthy and clean workspace. So consider: What do you clean? How can you make it greener than your current practices?

Rae Ann Dougherty, President of Green Cleaning Products LLC, invites you to learn the why and how of greening your office, commercial, industrial, and institutional facilities At the same time, get your free gift by subscribing to the information packed Green Living News at

(c) Copyright - Rae Ann Dougherty. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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