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CHAPTER 4: Green Cleaning Management Approach

What Is the Process for Transitioning to Green Cleaning?

The process for setting up a green cleaning program should include a number of important steps, which are briefly described in this chapter. This process can be used whether you are a building occupant, facility manager, or janitorial manager. DOI recommends the following:

  • Refer to ASTM's "Standard Guide for Stewardship for the Cleaning of Commercial and Institutional Buildings" (attached).

  • Learn from other agencies and municipalities who have transitioned to green cleaning (see Chapter 5 for information on federal, state, and local approaches).

  • Review Appendix C of this report, which provides a checklist of items to remember when developing a stewardship plan.


Before the program even begins, facility management must accept the leadership and stewardship role required of them to ensure a successful program. Unlike traditional janitorial programs, in which facility management's only responsibility is to ensure that the cleaning crew fulfills contractual obligations, facility management must actively participate in a green cleaning program. In fact, their lack of participation can prevent success.

Facility management commitment must not only include staff time and resources, but a commitment to invest funding, purchase new equipment and ensure its maintenance, deliver training programs, and facilitate ongoing communications with cleaning personnel. Facility management must also commit to enforcing occupant responsibilities, such as occupants abiding by policies relating to recycling, locked offices, eating, or smoking.

An initial meeting between facility management and the janitorial service providers should convey the value of green cleaning services in protecting health and safety, protecting the environment, saving money due to sick time, improving productivity, and other benefits to help facilitate buy-in for the program.

Team and Plan Development

Developing a stewardship task force is essential to the process. The task force should consist of representatives from all stakeholder groups, including the janitorial contractor and staff, facility management, environmental management personnel (if available), product suppliers, and building occupants. Its primary role is to serve as the focal point for all greening activities, to conduct program communications, and to guide the transition.

The task force should oversee the development of a written stewardship plan, which should be reviewed and augmented throughout the process as new information, goals, priorities, and opportunities become evident.

Baseline Measures

The stewardship task force should conduct a facility survey to identify the existence of, or potential for, indoor environmental problems that are caused by or can be corrected by janitorial activities and to consider the preferability of cleaning products currently in use. This survey will set up a baseline that facility management can use to measure positive change toward the goals of improving the environment and worker and occupant health and safety.

This evaluation should review existing records such as documentation of indoor air quality complaints, Material Safety Data Sheets, safety records, heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) maintenance records, and more. It can also document cleaning needs/issues using a video camera. It should identify occupants with special needs who are affected by janitorial services, and it should investigate existing health and safety complaints or problems for both janitorial staff and occupants. It should evaluate how the building is used or should be used, and it also should include a thorough review of existing cleaning products, supplies, procedures, and equipment currently in use for their impacts on human health and the environment.

Using the information found by conducting the benchmarking study, facility managers can identify areas needing improvement or change. The stewardship plan should summarize the results of the benchmarking study.

An excellent tool to conduct this baseline study is the Indoor Air Quality Building Education and Assessment Model (I-BEAM), developed by EPA's Indoor Environments Division. This tool not only identifies issues related to janitorial services, but also provides information on the broader indoor air quality issue. Attached in Appendix C is a checklist

Find more information on EPA's Indoor Environmental Division, visit

Data Analysis

Analyzing the data collected by the stewardship task force is another key step in the process. This involves assessing health, safety, and environmental risks found by the survey, as well as cleanliness needs/problems, and building use issues.

The task force should develop a list of improvements or goals for future actions, and consider prioritizing these needs and opportunities. Options should be ranked using criteria such as: worker safety, tenant and occupant requirements, costs, liability, regulatory compliance, implementation feasibility, time and staff limitations, appearance and performance requirements, environmental impacts, and staff experience.

Facility management should consider focusing on any findings that have an immediate threat to human health or the environment, and these issues should be addressed immediately. In addition, to encourage program buy-in from building occupants, the task force should identify some quick fixes. Occupants and visitors can readily observe these improvements and begin to appreciate the benefits of a green cleaning program.

Product Selection/Testing

The stewardship task force must evaluate products that meet the criteria, needs, and priorities outlined in the stewardship plan. By working with an existing supplier/contractor or by requesting bids or information from new suppliers/contractors, the team should consider a variety of products. The team should give special consideration or preference to products meeting Green Seal's certification standards (see Chapter 1 for more information). The task force might even want to implement a pilot study to allow the janitors to test certain products for performance. A pilot test can provide an opportunity for janitors, janitorial managers, and occupants to provide feedback. Involve the product manufacturer in these pilot tests to ensure products are being used for appropriate applications and are applied properly.


Based on the specific information gathered during the survey process, building management should work with janitorial management to review and modify cleaning procedures to protect the health and safety of janitors, building occupants, and the environment. Building management also should train cleaning personnel on the proper use of the alternative products.

OSHA requires employers to provide employees with information and training on how to manage the hazardous chemicals they are using at the time of their initial assignment and whenever a new physical or health hazard is introduced into their work area. Training should emphasize the need to always follow the product manufacturer's or supplier's recommendations for use, storage, disposal, safety precautions, and first aid. (For more information on relevant OSHA standards, see Chapter 3.)


Effective communications are key to the success of a green cleaning program. Consistent, clear, persuasive messages must be directed to all stakeholders, especially during program launch. Building occupants, in particular, must be educated about their role in ensuring a green indoor environment. They must be convinced that cleaning has a higher value beyond that of simply removing the daily trash.

Communications plans should provide opportunity for feedback, and building management should keep a log in which building occupants and cleaning personnel can register suggestions and track responses to problems and complaints. Building management also must keep occupants and cleaning personnel informed as to how they are addressing these complaints, and what role they may have in solving any problems.

Contracting for Green Cleaning

Based on the health, safety, and environmental conditions in the building or its local area, local or state requirements or priorities, cost considerations, performance considerations, or broader ideals, facility managers should be able to develop a list of attributes for cleaning products and processes. (See Chapter 2 on green cleaning products and ingredients to avoid.)

With a plan in place to transition to green cleaning, the stewardship task force should work with its contacts staff to incorporate green cleaning requirements into existing contracts or new solicitations and contracts. Building management should review and revise the existing janitorial contract to address the new environmental, health, and safety requirements identified in the stewardship plan. Building management, with the stewardship task force, will need to rework and redefine the statement of work, technical evaluation criteria, and independent government cost estimates. Because a new green cleaning contract will include new requirements, a pre-solicitation notice might be necessary to identify potential bidders with appropriate experience and expertise.

Several federal, state, and local government agencies, including DOI, the City of Santa Monica, California, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, have successfully awarded contracts for green cleaning. Information about how these agencies evaluated products and processes and developed a green cleaning or environmentally preferable purchasing program are outlined in Chapter 5, "Federal, State, and Local Approaches."

Tips for Transitioning to Green Cleaning

  • Identify a time frame for the process of transitioning to green cleaning, usually up to 1 year.

  • Do not do it all at once; consider selecting/testing a few products at a time.

  • Solicit feedback from all people involved, including janitors and occupants.

  • Recognize successes, including people, products, and processes.

  • Consider using incentives to encourage success, for employees and/or occupants.

  • Do not wait until the end of a contract to make changes-make ongoing changes throughout the life of a contract. Work with your existing contractor.

  • Do not forget about recycling goal; set targets for solid waste diversion and report on results.

  • Make sure janitors are using products correctly. Just because cleaning chemicals are green does not mean that they do not pose some risks.

  • Write out your plan with brief and clear narrative that outlines exactly what you are doing, how it will be done, by whom, and by when (or how frequently).