Cleaning is an important part of everyday life, whether you’re running a small household or a large office building. Cleaning helps prevent the spread of germs, eliminates unsightly dirt and dust buildup and provides an overall sense of wellness. But in recent years, more individuals and facility managers have grown concerned about standard cleaning practices and how they can damage the environment and human health.
For years, we’ve been led to believe that the only way to get rid of germs and bacteria was to nuke them with harsh chemicals and toxins. Unfortunately, we now know these practices are not only ineffective but also harmful to our planet and our own health.
The History of Green Cleaning
The very first known cleaning product was a form of soap dating back to 2800 BC, and it was as green as green can be. Ancient cleaning products were developed long before the advent of synthetic chemicals and toxins. Soap products didn’t have chemical-induced scents like lavender and ocean breeze. But eventually, common belief was that by killing germs with harsh toxic chemicals, we would be protecting our health and our environment from these illness-causing microorganisms.
In the early 1960s, however, questions started to arise about the safety of these chemicals. Scientists began to question how these toxins may be affecting our environment and our human health. By the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency began waging war against specific chemicals. Exposure to environmental toxins was being linked to all kinds of health conditions, including certain types of cancers.
By the 1980s and 1990s the general public was becoming more aware of the chemicals used in their everyday cleaning products. This awareness also happened to coincide with the discovery of “sick building syndrome.”
Sick Building Syndrome
Sick building syndrome is a condition where the occupants or workers in a building suffer from a range of symptoms that are believed to be attributed to the indoor conditions of the building. In other words, the building itself makes the occupants sick.
Occupants found to be suffering from sick building syndrome experienced symptoms like eye, nose and throat sensitivity, skin irritation, fatigue, headaches, dizziness and an inability to concentrate. In 1983, the World Health Organization declared that sick building syndrome was a global health threat. This was due to poor indoor air quality inside buildings resulting from chemical off-gassing and toxic pollutants, including those emitted by harmful cleaning agents.
Green Buildings and Green Cleaning
In reaction to the disturbing findings of sick building syndrome, environmentalism, human health protection and construction merged to create a new field: green building. Green buildings are constructed with the goal of addressing the building’s entire impact and how it can be more environmentally-friendly and healthy for humans.
Green building standards began including requirements like toxic-free materials such as low- and non-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, glues and other substances. Green builders also looked at ways to improve indoor air quality scores to prevent respiratory ailments and other health conditions.
The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) was formed and became the early pioneers in environmental construction, setting the highest level of standards for green building using their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
With the increasing interest in green building, business and facility managers began to look at environmental design and performance from a holistic perspective. This means they started taking into consideration not just the building itself, but its complete impact, including how it is cleaned and maintained.
This is where green cleaning on a commercial level began to take off. Once building managers began to look at their facility in its entirety, they noticed how something seemingly as simple as cleaning was threatening their vision for sustainability. From the types of products being used to how service providers managed and disposed of waste, they realized there was huge opportunity for environmentally-friendly and health-conscious cleaning practices that could match the high-level goals of green buildings and offices.
In conclusion, Green Cleaning isn’t only for helping the environment, its universally beneficial. Ask us to set up a green cleaning appointment for you today, or set up an appointment using our smart chat system.