Green Cleaning Glossary: Know Your Terms

Do you ever find yourself feeling confused or overwhelmed when it comes to green cleaning?  Learn the following terms to help yourself become a green expert!

Certification: Process in which a company has a third party (usually non-profit) assess their product with specific standards in order to verify whether the tested product is green or not.

Eco-labeling: Labeling that warrants the product was evaluated for performance and environmental qualities and helps users identify green products from non-green products.

Environmental Impact: The possible adversarial effect of the release of a material into the environment as listed in MSDS info.

Environmentally Preferable Product:  Product that has a lessened impact on the health and safety of workers and the environment compared to traditional products.

EPA: Environmental Protection Agency; governmental branch whose responsibility it is to protect the environment and maintain this nation’s land, water, and air resources, and deal with environmental issues.

Green Cleaning: Cleaning to protect human health while diminishing the impact on the environment.

Green seal: Non-profit agency that works with manufacturers, industry divisions, purchasing groups and government branches to “green” the production and purchasing chain.  Their mission is to achieve a more ecological balanced world by promoting environmentally responsible production, purchasing and products. Standards are as follows:

  • GS – 37: standard for bathroom cleaners, general purpose cleaners, glass cleaners and carpet cleaners.
  • GS – 42: standard for cleaning service providers, including in-house and building contractors, to create a Green Cleaning program that protects human health and the environment.
  • GS – 41: standard for hand cleaners, industrial and institutional, for non-anti-bacterial products.  This standard does not include products used in households, food preparation operations or medical facilities.
  • GS – 40: standard for floor finishes and floor strippers.

Greenwashing: Term describing green advertising, labeling, and other sales and promotional activities that use deceptive, ambiguous, extraneous or unsubstantiated environmental claims to sell a product or service.  This is a significant problem because it adds to consumer confusion and makes it more difficult for those companies that are truly trying to do the right thing and be “green”.  Greenwashing makes it harder for consumers to trust the “green”ability of a product.

LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design; Rating system defines green buildings using a common set of standards created by USGBC.  Ratings are as follows:

  • LEED – EB: standard for existing buildings
  • LEED – NC: standard for new construction
  • LEED – CI: standard for commercial and interior projects
  • LEED – CS: standard for core and shell projects
  • LEED – H: standard for homes and home building industry
  • LEED – ND: Standard for neighborhood development.

Recovered Fiber: Post consumer content as well as manufacturing wastes from the paper-making process and re-pulped paper and paperboard from obsolete inventories.

Recycled Content:  The portion of a container that has been made from reused materials.

Recycled Materials:  materials that are reused to make other products.

Renewable Resources: any natural resource that can replenish itself naturally over time, such as wood or solar energy.

Self-Certification: process by which manufacturer relies on their own testing to declare their product is green; to avoid greenwashing, specific testing data needs to be provided to support such claims.

Sustainability: Products and procedures that will preserve human health, the environment, and facilities for future generations.  In other words, sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without harming the needs of future generations.

VOC: volatile organic compound; measure of ingredients that release into the air that can lead to poor Indoor Air Quality.

Volatile: the part of a product that evaporates during drying.

USGBC: United States Green Building Council; a nonprofit agency that addresses the significant impacts of building design and operation on human health and the natural environment.

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