Understanding Green Product Certifications

Green Cleaning for Office Building

Are you trying to qualify for LEED certification, meet local green cleaning laws, or are just looking for a sustainable cleaning program? Then you're probably looking into green certifications. To help, we've made a handy guide on different types of green certifications.

What are Green Cleaning Certifications?

Green cleaning product certifications are all awarded by third-party organizations whose mission is to aid buyers and purchasers in finding greener, safer products for their facilities.

What are the Benefits of Buying Green Cleaning Certified Products?

  • Less hazardous products that have less environmentally-impactful attributes like biodegradability, low toxicity, low volatile organic compound (VOC) content, reduced packaging, and low life cycle energy use can reduce exposure and minimize harmful impacts to custodial workers and building occupants.
  • They improve indoor air quality and reduce water and air pollution while also ensuring the effectiveness of cleaning in removing biological and other contaminants from the building's interior.
  • Buying cleaners in concentrates with appropriate handling safeguards, and reusable, reduced, or recyclable packaging, reduces packaging waste and transportation energy.
  • Buying less hazardous cleaners may reduce costs when it comes time to properly dispose of any leftover cleaners.1

 

What are the Different Kinds of Green Certifications?

Green Seal

  • Green Seal is frequently found in green cleaning mandates for schools and government facilities.
  • Certifies: Green Seal certifies a vast array of items, services and businesses. Anything from a coffee filter to a restaurant can be Green Seal Certified.
  • Cleaning Product Standard: GS-37.

Key Requirements:

  • Product performance testing — Products must perform as well as or better than similar nationally-recognized products.
  • Limited oral/dermal toxicity
  • Minimal VOCs
  • No carcinogens
  • Reduced carbon footprint through chemical concentration

EcoLogo Certification

  • EcoLogo is frequently found in green cleaning mandates for schools and government facilities.
  • Certifies: Building materials, cleaning products, office products and electronics. EcoLogo is a certification program within UL, which itself certifies thousands of products, both consumer and commercial.
  • Cleaning Product Standard: UL 2759.

Key Requirements:

  • Product performance testing — Products must perform as well as or better than similar nationally-recognized products.
  • Limited oral/dermal toxicity
  • Minimal VOCs
  • No carcinogens
  • Reduced carbon footprint through chemical concentration

Safer Choice

  • The EPA’s Design for the Environment/Safer Choice label is for safer chemical-based products.
  • Frequently found in federal, state or municipal green purchasing mandates.
  • Certifies: Cleaners, including carpet cleaners, laundry detergents, graffiti removers and personal care products.

Key Requirements:

  • Full Ingredient Disclosure
  • On-site audits of manufacturing facilities
  • Product performance testing
  • Meets toxicity standards for environmental and human hazards

USDA Bio-Preferred Certification

  • The USDA BioPreferred certification includes mandatory federal purchasing as well as voluntary labeling of bio-based products.
  • Certifies: Wide variety of federally-purchased goods, including cleaners, lubricants, stains, and inks.

Key Requirements

  • Minimum Biobased Content: Products must contain a certain amount of bio-based ingredients that are plant-derived or derived from renewable resources vs traditional petroleum.

It’s important to note that EPA-registered products, like disinfectants, sanitizers, and virucides, aren’t eligible for third-party green certifications. This is an EPA regulation. However, if a product is EPA-registered, the bacterial and viral kill claims, the environmental impact and toxicity have all been verified by third-party sources.


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1. EPA. (n.d.) Greening Your Purchase of Cleaning Products: A Guide For Federal Purchasers. Retrieved from www.epa.gov/greenerproducts/greening-your-purchase-cleaning-products-guide-federal-purchasers

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