With the private sector attempting to be more eco-friendly, we knew the public sector would not be far behind. Many states are requiring the use of environmentally friendly cleaning products in government buildings and schools. Schools in Manhattan, Illinois, and Connecticut have been cleaned with green products since 2009 and other states followed in 2010.
Schools in Manhattan are not the only educational institutions in the Empire State benefitting from the Green Clean Schools Act. All public schools in New York are subject to the act. In 2010, at least five states, including Wisconsin and California considered similar legislation. Legislators want public areas like schools to be less toxic for those who inhabit them. Some view it as the first of many steps designed to make schools greener.
Legislative guidelines differ from one state to the next. In general, schools must purchase green cleaning products for general purpose cleaning and for use in the bathroom, on carpets and hard floors, and to clean mirrors, windows, and glass. Even soaps, hand cleaners, and paper products must be eco-friendly in schools covered by the law. Some of these products come with a price tag up to 20 percent higher than the traditional versions.
Most states require that the products carry the EcoLogo of Canada, the Green Seal, or the Environmental Protection Agency Design for the Environment. Not everyone is on board with these green cleaning requirements. Those opposed believe that school purchasing policies should not be mandated by states, especially if these result in increased costs for schools already struggling to meet budget. The green school cleaning bill in Nevada was scaled back in 2009 due to concerns surrounding cost and lack of green cleaning expertise.
Nonprofit Healthy Schools Campaign announced some facts that may make detractors think again. It pointed to research showing that poor indoor air quality, sick teachers and students, and poor occupational and academic performance are linked. According to the HSC, over 14 million school days are missed by students each year because of asthma made worse by poor indoor air quality.
Manufacturers say green cleaner prices are dropping. A survey of charter, nonpublic, and public schools in New York revealed a ten percent increase in cost during the initial year of compliance with the green cleaning law. Some schools believe this is a small trade-off for healthier children and teachers who each miss fewer days of school.