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DOI/JWOD Green Cleaning Partnership Received 2003 Closing the Circle Award

Forces for Nature Aligned: NISH Disabled Workcenters Now Cleaning Federal Buildings with Certified Environmentally Preferable Chemicals, Packaged by NIB Blind Employees

An Awesome Partnership, Phenomenal Outcomes!

During 2001 and 2002, a NISH-affiliated community rehabilitation program, Chimes, Inc., began to use environmentally preferable cleaning products in over 20 million square feet of federal office space, improving indoor air quality for as many as 90,000 federal employees in the Washington DC area. Thirteen hundred Chimes employees, no less than 75% of which have mental or other disabilities, now have a safer workplace due to the lessened health hazards associated with these products. Many other federal, state, local and private entities are following suit.

This transition is the culmination of efforts involving as many as ten organizations that have worked cooperatively to make these products readily available in the federal marketplace, and that have ensured that the products meet newly-adopted, stringent criteria for environmentally preferable cleaning products.

This nomination seeks to recognize a partnership that successfully involved non-profit agencies affiliated with the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act as a critical link in bringing environmentally preferable cleaners into federal buildings. All of these organizations have not only played an important part in this achievement, but they continue to work aggressively to expand the application of these environmentally preferable product and pollution prevention strategies.

Partnership Organizations:

  • The Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled

  • The National Industries for the Blind (NIB)

  • NISH, a non-profit agency creating employment opportunities for persons with severe disabilities

  • Green Seal, a non-profit organization

  • Rochester-Midland, Inc., a chemical cleaning product manufacturer

  • St. Louis Lighthouse for the Blind, a NIB-affiliated non-profit agencies who employs blind persons making products for federal agencies

  • Eagle Maintenance Supply, a JWOD-authorized distributor of Skilcraft/Rochester-Midland products

  • Chimes, Inc., a NISH-affiliated community rehabilitation program performing janitorial and other services, for federal and other client properties employing persons with severe disabilities

  • U.S. Department of the Interior

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Why Are These Cleaners Better? - 2 examples.

The significance of this partnership can best be gauged by two examples of the many advantages of cleaning products that have been formulated to be safer for the environment, safer for workers, and safer for building tenants.

Glass cleaners and all-purpose cleaners: Butoxy ethanol is a typical ingredient in glass cleaner, general purpose cleaners, and carpet spotters. Butoxy ethanol can be absorbed through your skin and lungs. Exposure can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. Higher exposures may cause dizziness. Contact can burn the eyes. High or repeated exposure can cause anemia. It can also damage the liver and kidneys. Prolonged exposure can cause a build-up of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) (EPA Region 9 Janitorial Pollution Prevention Project). Rochester-Midland has formulated an effective glass cleaner and all-purpose cleaner without these hazards.

Floor finish and floor finish remover: Since switching to the Enviro Care floor finish system at the Main Interior Complex, DOI has eliminated approximately 500 pounds of zinc from being discharged into the sewer annually. Zinc, an ingredient in traditional floor finishes, is highly toxic to aquatic species. At the treatment plant, most of the zinc precipitates out with sewage sludge, which is then either landfilled or used as fertilizer. Because heavy metals can be adsorbed by the plant life, there is a potential route of exposure to humans and animals. Zinc that is not precipitated out may be discharged to local receiving waters, in this case the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Interior is proud of its "fish-friendly floors." In addition, the caustic nature of the Enviro Case stripper used (pH 10) is less than typical stripers (pH 12 - 13), making the floor finishing process less hazardous for workers.

For a comprehensive summary of attributes associated with green cleaners, see the attached Green Seal Standard and information from the EPA Region 9 Janitorial Pollution Prevention Project, the DOI Green Cleaning guidance, and the Rochester-Midland product literature.

The Partners: The contributions of the organizations nominated to share this award are described below. The order of description is not in the order of importance, but rather in a somewhat chronological ordering, resembling the development of this partnership.

The Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled

In 1999, the Committee decided to place greater emphasis on environmentally preferable product and service development. Responding to Executive Order 13101, the Committee brought on environmental staff to assist their affiliated national non-profit agencies, NIB and NISH, with the task of finding opportunities to create products and services that were more environmentally friendly. The Committee began to have regular representation on an interagency committee sponsored by the White House Task Force on Recycling ("the EOIAG"). Through these contacts, the Committee developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These entities agreed to work together to realize these opportunities that the Committee had envisioned. A copy of this MOU is attached.

As part of its work, Committee staff routinely represents the "greening" work of NIB and NISH at conferences, product shows, at meetings and on its e-commerce web-site.

U.S. Department of the Interior

Interior was interested in pilot testing environmentally preferable cleaning products. In 1998, the cleaning services contract at the Main Interior Building was due to be re-bid. Building management, working with environmental policy staff, rewrote specifications to identify preferable attributes for the cleaners to be used; source selection criteria emphasized the environmental aspects of the contract. This competitive procurement resulted in the selection of a contractor using Rochester-Midland products. Interior has shared copies of this contract with many federal agencies, including GSA, DOD, SSA, Coast Guard, TVA, DOJ, USDA, among others.

Realizing the potential benefits of broader use of these products to the environment, Interior worked with NISH national headquarters staff to develop training for NISH work centers on green cleaning. In preparing this guidance, Interior staff worked with contractors previously involved with the EPA Region 9 Janitorial Pollution Prevention Project, augmenting the material to focus on: environmental risks of cleaners, the newly-minted Green Seal standard for cleaners and on the American Society for Testing and Materials Standard for Stewardship in the Cleaning of Commercial and Institutional Space. Interior provided three training sessions for NISH and GSA staff in 2001. Training materials are attached.

In 2001, DOI contracted with Chimes, Inc. (a NISH work program) on the condition that they use the same cleaners or comparably environmentally preferable products. After learning about the worker safety benefits of the products, Chimes, Inc. has enthusiastically pursued using these products at all of its operations.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Prior to the MOU, EPA pursued a cleaning pilot project in conjunction with GSA, defining different attributes of environmentally preferable products. This work was relied upon heavily by DOI in drafting its custodial contract. Environmental Preferable Products Program staff then participated in the Technical Evaluation Panel convened to review offers received in response to this solicitation. EPA Region 9's Janitorial Pollution Prevention Project and its contractor created very creative training materials which were adapted to create the NISH training.

EPA also worked with the Committee, NIB and NISH to create "Greening Your Products" guidance to help affiliated non-profit agencies find and pursue opportunities for making their products and services more environmentally preferable. Training was also provided.

The National Industries for the Blind (NIB)

Personnel at the National Industries for the Blind worked to review current cleaning chemicals manufactured under the Skilcraft Brand and to identify manufacturers who were making green cleaners with they could potentially partner. NIB, and the Committee, worked to have four products certified by Green Seal, one of which was a cleaning product. That product eventually did not meet the standard. NIB evaluated four potential partner companies who were producing environmentally friendly products, testing the products at their Technical Service Center in St. Louis , MO. Finding a relationship with Rochester-Midland to be possible, NIB supported the St. Louis Lighthouse for the Blind in their negotiations to serve as a packaging agent for Enviro Care products sold to the federal government.

St. Louis Lighthouse for the Blind

Since reaching an agreement in May 2002 with Rochester-Midland, St. Louis LHB has filled 5,750 gallons of the 9 Enviro Care products. Doing this employed blind persons for approximately 150 blind hours. Photos attached show bottles of product being filled at the St. LHB plant. The bottles are co-branded "Skilcraft/Rochester-Midland." St. Louis LHB has identified certain distributors with prior relationships with Rochester-Midland as authorized JWOD distributors, including Eagle Maintenance Supply. It took almost six months to negotiate the various aspects of this relationship.


NISH has carried forward the "Green Cleaning" training, adapting the program developed by DOI. NISH staff have performed 5 training events in 2002 events. Including the DOI events, this training has now been offered to as many as 150 NISH and GSA staff in the following areas: Portland, Chicago, Sacramento, Cleveland, Phoenix, DC, and San Francisco. In addition, NISH has featured green cleaning at technical sessions at NISH national and regional conferences. A copy of the January 2003 Workplace magazine (attached). NISH President Bob Chamberlin has committed his organization to being the industry leader in green cleaning. As many as 10 top producing work centers six are using green cleaners. A big part of this effort is to get NISH contractors to use products produced by NIB work centers.

Chimes, Inc.

Chimes, Inc. has converted janitorial operations at all their contract sites in the Baltimore and D.C. area to the use Skilcraft/Rochester-Midland products. This includes facilities such as the Library of Congress, the Pentagon, and the Baltimore/Washington Airport. Attached is a list of the facilities served, representing a total of almost 20 million square feet.

Rochester-Midland, Inc.

Rochester-Midland, Inc. was the first company to have products certified to the new Green Seal standard. These include:

  • Enviro Care Tough Job Cleaner

  • Enviro Care Low Foam All Purpose Cleaner

  • Enviro Care Glass Cleaner

  • Enviro Care Washroom Cleaner

The Green Seal certification is the culmination of a two-decade focus Rochester-Midland has held to create a complete chemical product line that focused on lowering the impact of chemical use on human health, validating with independent lab data the beneficial attributes of these products. Rochester-Midland complements the Enviro Care line, which includes a total of 13 Institutional cleaning products with customer service training, planning and education, to help their customers look at how end users maintain their buildings so they can create healthier buildings. Innovative "portioner" equipment developed for these products perform automated mixing of ready-to-use solutions from product concentrate, minimizing worker contact with the high concentrate.

Green Seal

In October 2000, Green Seal finalized their Environmental Standard for Industrial and Institutional Cleaners (GS-37). This is a consensus, life cycle environmental standard that is now being used by a wide range of both purchasers and manufacturers. Green Seal's Environmental Standards for Industrial and Institutional Cleaners (GS-37) was developed over the course of a year, in accordance with internationally-recognized procedures for setting environmental standards. The standard was created through an open and transparent process, involved a balanced stakeholder committee, made available for public comment. The stakeholder committee for the I&I standard included representatives from nineteen organizations, including chemical cleaning manufacturers, academic institutions, federal agencies, a county employee union, cities, states, and environmental groups. Aberdeen Proving Ground (US Army) funded the development of GS-37.

Adoption and use of the Green Seal's cleaning standard has been rapid. Interior used it as the basis for green cleaning training developed with NISH. EPA's Environmentally Preferable Product goals for 2005 and 2010 include "greening" all significant EPA janitorial and maintenance services contracts by 2010. Massachusetts was the first to make use of the standard in a statewide procurement action. Minnesota; Missouri; Washington; King County, Washington; Phoenix, Arizona; Santa Monica, California; Seattle, Washington; and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have all agreed to use the requirements of GS-37 in their next contracting cycle. The US Green Building Council's LEED Rating System for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) gives a credit in the Green Housekeeping Section for using Green Seal Standard GS-37 approved cleaning products. The average number of hits on the standard page over the last four months (Sep-Dec 2002) is 250 per month.

Eagle Maintenance Supply

Eagle Maintenance Supply of Pennsauken, New Jersey, is a supplier of janitorial products in the Mid-Atlantic area, and is the supplier/distributor to Chimes, Inc. In 2001, they became involved with green cleaners when asked to supply the Rochester-Midland Enviro Care products for Chimes, Inc.'s new contract site at the Main Interior Building. Since this time, Eagle Maintenance Supply has made it part of their corporate mission to educate and inform our customers and prospective customers on the benefits and rewards of using environmentally preferable cleaners to maintain a healthy environment for everyone. Sales staff spend the majority of their time in the implementation and ongoing support of the "Green Housekeeping" program. Over the last two years, they succeeded in getting as many as 47 locations to adopt the use of these cleaners because of the benefits (summary attached). As part of the "Green Housekeeping" program, Brad tours each site with the facility manager to discuss all aspects of the cleaning program using DOI's stewardship program as a model. Once chemical dispensing units are installed, Eagle Maintenance Supply offers hands-on training, often in a classroom setting. Numerous follow-up visits are made to ensure customer satisfaction, and ensure successful implementation. Sales staff have established an informal network of "green" facility managers and often puts them in contact with each other so that they can share ideas and experience.

Although the efficacy of environmentally preferable products is often a concern, after trial use, not one customer has discontinued the use of the environmentally friendly. Pennsylvania State University, a customer, is sponsoring a product evaluation among some of the largest chemical manufacturers in the country. So far, the Rochester-Midland Green Seal-Certified products have the highest product performance ratings of all products being tested by its janitorial staff.

In support of the St. Louis Lighthouse for the Blind, Eagle has converted all of its Rochester Midland Envirocare Chemizer products to the Skilcraft product and supports the NIB products exclusively. This partnership with NIB & NISH agencies will grow as we add other environmentally preferable NIB or NISH products to our sales offerings.