NATIONAL CRITERIA FOR
"GREEN" CLEANING PRODUCTS
Who says we can't all get along? That's the question agroup of state and local government purchasers from across the country areasking, after working together to endorse a single national standard forenvironmentally friendly cleaning products. Controlling more than $15 million in annual cleaning product purchases, these state and local governments are using their purchasing power to protect the environmentand their employees while saving taxpayers money.
**"Green" Cleaning Products Better for Environment, Health**
By purchasing and using "green" cleaners, state and local governments arecleaning up the environment one dirty surface at a time. Traditionalcleaning products present a variety of human health and environmentalconcerns, and can contain chemicals associated with cancer, reproductivedisorders, respiratory ailments, eye or skin irritation, and other humanhealth issues. Switching from traditional cleaning products tobiodegradable, low toxicity, or otherwise less harmful products candrastically improve the environmental profile of routine cleaningactivities without sacrificing cleaning effectiveness. As many users havediscovered, using green cleaners can also reduce costs and improveemployee productivity.
**A True Team Effort**
The group of government purchasers, organized by the Center for a New American Dream and funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, includes all of the government purchasing pioneers who first attempted to define and purchase effective, safer, and moreenvironmentally preferable cleaning products -- Massachusetts; SantaMonica, California; King County, Washington; Minnesota; Seattle,Washington; and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory -- among severalothers.
Massachusetts is the first of the work group members to issue a requestfor proposal (RFP) using the agreed upon criteria. The environmentalcriteria are based on Green Seal's Industrial and Institutional CleanersStandard (GS-37). While products do not have to be certified by GreenSeal, they must meet its GS-37 standard and a few additional criteriaagreed upon by the work group.
"This was the perfect team to work with," said Betsy Taylor, Center for aNew American Dream president. "These pioneering governments have long recognized the importance of buying safer products, and they're nowworking together to increase their impact. The results of thiscollaborative effort will pave the way for additional governments andinstitutional purchasers to embrace the strict national environmentalcriteria and begin buying safer cleaning products."
**Massachusetts Now Accepting Bids for Cleaning Products**
Massachusetts officials expect to spend at least $500,000 over the nextfour years purchasing safer, more environmentally preferable cleaningproducts. Some industry experts anticipate the commonwealth will actuallypurchase several million dollars worth as word spreads throughout thestate's user community.
Massachusetts purchasing officials are currently accepting bids fromcleaning product companies. All products must meet the criteriaestablished by Green Seal, a nonprofit environmental standardsorganization, and additional criteria established by the multi-state,multi-municipality purchasing group. "While governments spend millions ofdollars on environmental products every year," explained Marcia Deegler,Environmental Purchasing Manager for the Commonwealth's OperationalServices Division, "this is the first time we have worked so closely withso many other government purchasers to change the markets on such a broadscale." Deegler later added, "In addition to the enormous environmentaland human health benefits, this collaborative effort will help cleaningproduct purchasers across the country. It makes it easier to shareenvironmental, health, and product performance information, whichmakes the process more efficient, more cost-effective, and more beneficialfor us all."
**The Need for Consensus**
Before this effort, according to Steve Ashkin, an industry expert, therewere numerous competing definitions of what constitutes a green product."Industry couldn't respond," Ashkin remarked, "because of what it saw as aconstantly moving target. Very few companies invested in reformulatingproducts because no standard had gained national credibility or createdenough marketplace demand to make it a profitable investment. Theincredible momentum behind the new criteria will make it much more likelyfor the entire industry to respond."
A report on the industry, "Cleaning for Health," released today by INFORM,a national nonprofit research organization, reached a similar conclusion."The wide variety of conflicting environmental standards," observed AliciaCulver, Director of INFORM's Chemical Hazards Prevention Program andco-author of the study, "has really hurt the ability of purchasers to findsafer products. That's why we strongly recommend that purchasers buyproducts meeting the new consensus criteria."
The initial focus of the Center's purchasing work group was to compare thenumerous competing definitions and specifications for safer cleaning products. After extensive analysis and discussion, the group realized thestandards were describing remarkably similar products using very differentapproaches. Some standards, for example, relied on extensive lists of prohibited chemicals while others prohibited the same chemicals by referencing a specific toxicity test. This recognition allowed the groupto begin searching for a single standard they could all endorse.
**Green Seal Standards Adopted**
After months of analysis, the group concluded the Green Seal standard metor exceeded its needs. The standard was developed in an open,consensus-based process that included environmentalists, governmentofficials, end-user, and industry participation. It was already the basisof several successful purchases. In addition, several months after thefirst work group meeting, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencyencouraged purchasers to use the Green Seal standard when buying cleaningproducts.
While Massachusetts is the first of the work group members to use the standard, others are not far behind. The City of Santa Monica, forexample, is preparing to reissue its cleaning contract, and plans to usethe same environmental criteria Massachusetts used. Other work groupmembers are discussing similar and more ambitious plans. Now thatpurchasers are working together to promote a common standard, saferproducts will be more widely available, more affordable, and easier tolocate.
Written by: New Dream
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