children playing and coloring safely in a clean school

Four Building Blocks of Sustainable Cleaning in Educational Facilities

Raising a generation of young people that care about their impact on the planet can be influenced by the physical environment in which they learn – the schools themselves.  There are many ways schools are “going green,” including solar energy, electric buses, and native landscaping. In addition to these practices, implementing a sustainable cleaning program is an important part of reducing the carbon footprint of an educational facility.

From product composition, to durability and engineering, there are four product attributes to consider when purchasing and creating a more sustainable cleaning program for your educational facility.

Re-Evaluate Your Roster

There are likely a few products in your current cleaning toolkit that can be optimized in terms of shelf life and composition. Audit your roster and evaluate each product to see if it measures up or should be swapped out for a more sustainable option. For example, products with a longer shelf-life help reduce the waste associated with expired formulations. Additionally, it’s important to read and understand the labels and ingredients of your cleaning products to identify areas for improvement.

When looking for replacement solutions that meet your sustainability goals, there are four items to consider:

1. Durability

Schools experience heavy foot traffic, making daily floor care necessary. However, the ongoing use of floor pads can result in a large amount of waste. To increase sustainability, facility managers should utilize floor care products that endure daily wear and tear and have a high-performance rate. Many 3M™ Floor Pads are Green Seal GS-20 certified (PDF, 516.73 KB) based on a design for significantly improved performance, durability, or both, extending the useful life of the floor pad and reducing solid waste generation. Additionally, many 3M™ Floor Pads are produced in a “zero-landfill” facility, resulting in less waste in landfills.

2. Efficiency

Constant foot traffic in schools can make it nearly impossible to accomplish floor care tasks during the day, making it necessary to identify sustainable and efficient products. Fortunately, the Scotch-Brite™ Clean & Shine Pad provides both benefits as it’s designed to last longer than traditional cleaning pads and when used for daily cleaning, it gradually increases floor shine with each use. The increased shine eliminates the need to burnish and reduces product usage and labor associated with burnishing.

3. Engineering

There’s an abundance of cleaning products that are engineered with conservation in mind and selecting solutions with sustainable materials and formulations will elevate your school’s environmental strengths. From dusting to chemical management, innovative product options are available to help any school increase sustainability.

3M™ Easy Trap™ Sweep and Dust Sheets are made with at least 60 percent recycled content and collect up to eight times more debris than traditional dust mops. In addition, both sides of the sheet can be used, creating a more efficient product and less waste. Furthermore, 3M™ Chemical Management Solutions can help contribute to LEED certification and many 3M™ Chemical Cleaning Concentrates are packaged in bottles made with 25 to 35 percent post-consumer recycled content.

4. Accuracy & Safety

Accurate dilution of chemical concentrates is critical for cleaning efficiency, effectiveness, and safety as over-dilution can lead to unnecessary water usage and waste. The 3M™ Flow Control System is on average 60 percent more accurate at diluting chemical concentrates than the nearest competitive system when tested under laboratory conditions at water pressures ranging from 20 to 120 psi. Improved accuracy also helps avoid under-dilution and chemical waste.

To ensure the safety of students and staff, it’s important to use chemicals that hold a third-party certification. 3M provides a systems approach with its chemicals and carries certification through multiple programs including Green Seal®, the NSF International, USDA Certified Biobased, and The National Floor Safety Institute.

Make a Change

Today, there are more than 60 million students and faculty in the United States. With such a significant portion of our population attending educational facilities, finding cleaner products and practices for a sustainable cleaning program is crucial. Fortunately, with the building blocks outlined above, it’s also achievable.