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Cleaning Product Safety & Environmental Solutions

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gifts that matter to the earth
  • According to the Western Regional Pollution Prevention Network, nearly one-third of all janitorial cleaning products have ingredients that can cause harm.

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks indoor air quality among the top five environmental risks and links it, in part, to cleaning product exposure. The average janitor uses an estimated 28 gallons of chemicals per year.

  • The cleaning industry uses an estimated 5 billion pounds of chemicals each year and many of these cleaning products have significant adverse impacts on indoor air quality, human health, and the environment.

  • U.S. institutions spend more than $75 million a year on medical expenses and lost time wages for janitors due to chemical-related injuries.

The Green Solutions

Many organizations have taken the lead in developing consensus-based standards or in certifying products as "green." Options are available to purchase environmentally preferable cleaning products.

Certified Green Cleaning Products

Buy Certified or Low-Risk Products.

Green Seal is a national non-profit that sets standards and performs third-party certification of products and services that cause less toxic pollution and waste, conserve resources and habitats, and minimize global warming and ozone depletion. Green Seal has certified cleaning products in several categories meeting their Industrial and Institutional Cleaners Standard (GS- 37) and Industrial and Institutional Floor-Care Products Standard (GS-40).

For a list of cleaning products that meet these standards, visit

Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), has certified cleaning products for biodegradability.

Visit SCS on-line at

National Consensus-Based Standard was developed by a work group of experts coordinated by the Center for a New American Dream. Massachusetts extensively tested all of the cleaners at an independent laboratory at the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts Lowell using three different surfaces and soils.

Find more information about their program at

The City of Santa Monica used the same criteria as Massachusetts in their “green” cleaning products bid in 2004 and found similar results. The city estimates its cleaning product purchases have eliminated 3,200 pounds of hazardous materials annually and saved approximately 5% on cleaning expenses.


For a list of cleaning products approved by Massachusetts and Santa Monica in the bidding process, refer to

Janitorial Cleaning Services Using Green Products

Many janitorial cleaning service companies in the San Francisco Bay Area are using certified green cleaning products o clean buildings. By switching, these companies have achieved cost savings, especially from worker's compensation claims. Their employees appreciate the reduced hazards, and customers report cleaning quality continues to meet their high standards.

National Consensus-Based Standard

A national, multi-agency work group of purchasers from local, county and state agencies that pioneered “green” cleaning products sought to identify common environmental criteria for what defines an environmentally preferable cleaning product.

Following a year of study, the work group, organized by a non-profit organization, the Center for a New American Dream, agreed that Green Seal’s Institutional and Industrial Cleaning Standard, GS-37, was an acceptable standard meeting each of their needs.

Their specifications and approved cleaning products are available from the Center for a New American Dream's website,

This national consensus-based criterion also adds more cleaning product categories to its criteria than Green Seal's standard.

Green Seal's GS-37 covers four product categories: bathroom cleaners, glass cleaners, all-purpose cleaners, and carpet cleaners.

The National Consensus-Based Standard now includes 15 product categories.

  • All Purpose Cleaners
  • Window Cleaners
  • Bathroom Cleaners
  • Floor Care Products
  • Carpet Cleaners
  • Hand Soaps
  • Disinfectants
  • Glass Cleaners
  • Soaps

StopWaste.Org offers technical assistance for applicable recycled content and environmentally preferable product purchasing. Check out "Environmentally Preferable Purchasing” at the Agency's website (

If you have questions about the environmental attributes of a product, contact the buyer or contract manager as listed on the face of the contract, or check with an Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Task Force representative.

Contact information for individuals who serve as points of contact for environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP) issues for the State of California:

California Department of General Services

  • EPP Procurement Engineer
    (916) 375-4336
  • Dan Burgoyne, Sustainability Manager
    (916) 376-5010

California State Law Requires Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP)

California law requires State government to practice Environmentally Preferable Purchasing. See Public Contract Code, sections 12400-12404 for more information.

EPP Best Practices Manual


The EPP Best Practices Manual is available to assist in finding and selecting environmentally preferable products.

  • Write environmental specifications into your bid solicitations.
  • Tap into Web sites and other resources related to EPP.
  • Choose more environmentally preferable products and services in numerous categories.
  • Become educated on the environmental impacts associated with the manufacture and purchase of numerous products and services.
  • Identify ways you can reduce waste in your office, shop, or facility.
  • Locate surplus and reuse programs to obtain low-cost or used equipment and supplies.
SOURCE: We value the feedback of those we serve. Please contact us with your questions or comments via e-mail at:

The California EPP Law

SECTION 12400-12404

12400. For purposes of this chapter, "environmentally preferable purchasing" means the procurement or acquisition of goods and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing goods or services that serve the same purpose. This comparison shall take into consideration, to the extent feasible, raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, disposal, energy efficiency, product performance, durability, safety, the needs of the purchaser, and cost.

12401. The Department of General Services, in consultation with the California Environmental Protection Agency, members of the public, industry, and public health and environmental organizations, shall provide state agencies with information and assistance regarding environmentally preferable purchasing including, but not limited to, the following:

(a) The promotion of environmentally preferable purchasing.

(b) The development and implementation of a strategy to increase environmentally preferable purchasing. This may include the development of statewide policies, guidelines, programs, and regulations.

(c) The coordination with other state and federal agencies, task forces, workgroups, regulatory efforts, research and data collection efforts, and other programs and services relating to environmentally preferable purchasing.

(d) The development and implementation, to the extent fiscally feasible, of training programs designed to instill the importance and value of environmentally preferable purchasing.

(e) The development, to the extent fiscally feasible, of an environmentally preferable purchasing best practices manual for state purchasing employees.

12401.5. Within existing resources, the Department of General Services shall designate a single point of contact for state agencies, suppliers, and other interested parties to contact regarding environmentally preferable purchasing issues.

12402. Nothing contained in this chapter shall prohibit, limit, or supersede recycled content requirements pursuant to any other provision of law.

12403. Nothing contained in any policy regarding environmentally preferable purchasing may be construed as requiring the acquisition of goods or services that do not perform adequately for their intended use, exclude adequate competition, or are not available at a reasonable price in a reasonable period of time.

12404. Manufacturers, vendors, or other nongovernmental entities contracting with the Department of General Services shall certify in writing that any environmental attribute claims they make concerning their products and services are consistent with the Federal Trade Commission's Guidelines for the Use of Environmental Marketing Terms.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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