Green Cleaning, Schools, and Carpet and Rug Institute Seal of Approval: CRI Government Director Jennifer Mendez Speaks to Green Clean Schools National Summit in DCOn Monday mornings I can generally be found roughing DC traffic to get from my home in Alexandria, Virginia to my office in Arlington, Virginia. It’s not a bad commute really, because I don’t have to cross the Potomac. This past Monday, however, I was forced to make a trek across the Potomac’s Memorial Bridge, where I passed the Lincoln Memorial (always an awesome sight that makes me proud to live where I do), and weathered the traffic heading into downtown DC. My destination was the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) headquarters, to attend the Green Clean Schools National Summit.
Green Clean Schools is a national partnership that promotes green cleaning in schools. The initiative brings together the cleaning industry, educational leaders, parents and advocates to support schools in adopting environmentally friendly policies, practices and products. The meeting was organized by the Healthy Schools Campaign and was being held at the SEIU building, which is LEED Gold certified.
The Green Clean Schools National Summit was a bit different from the usual conferences in that I wasn’t just going to attend, I had been asked to participate in a panel discussion on behalf of CRI and our SOA program. (I was a bit surprised to be asked to participate in a panel, because I had only registered to attend the week before!) Nevertheless, I welcomed the opportunity. The meeting was attended by a small diverse group of individuals that included representatives from both major teachers unions, a stay-at-home mom, members of the commercial cleaning industry and the EPA.
The keynote speaker for the all-day event was Peter Grevatt, PhD, and Director of the Office of Children’s Health Protection, for the United State’s Environmental Protection Agency. Dr Gravett is also the Senior Advisor to the EPA Administrator on Children’s Health. His speech centered on the importance of children’s health and the role schools play in keeping kids healthy, including nutrition, exercise and school building maintenance.
For my part of the program, I shared the stage with three other speakers. Our topic: “EcoLabel Updates – GS, EL, DfE, CRI – What Changes are Happening?” My co-presenters included Arthur Weissman from Green Seal, who spoke about his organization’s new GS52 program that will address specialty cleaning products. Clive Davies with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment (DfE) spoke about his program’s goals for safer products. Stephen Ashkin spoke about Eco Logo, which is a Canadian environmental certification. Ashkin cautioned the group to be aware of the implications that exist as a result of Underwriters Laboratories purchasing Terra Choice, the company that owns EcoLogo.
I wrapped up the panel by talking about CRI’s Seal of Approval program, specifically the categories for vacuum cleaners and extractors. I had limited time to speak, but I also mentioned SOA spot removers and CRI’s Green Label Plus Indoor Air Quality certification. My information was well-received, which was gratifying.
After the panel discussion, I spent the rest of the day attending presentations on regulatory updates, new trends in training and employee education and updates on what other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like Green Clean Schools were doing. The session I found particularly interesting, probably because I’m the Director of Government Relations for CRI, was the update on state policy and case studies. This session addressed what Green Clean Schools has been doing to promote its program in different states, what has worked, plus what hasn’t worked and why.
Clearly, the Healthy Schools Campaign (which references CRI’s programs in their “Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools”) is facing some of the challenges CRI faces as we promote the SOA program. It’s unclear who in the states has jurisdiction for these types of programs. Is it Department of Education, EPA, General Services Administration or Health and Human Services? It’s very confusing, and I sometimes feel like I’m looking for a needle in a haystack.
As a result of my day spent at the Green Clean Schools Summit, I believe there are synergies we share with this group. These synergies offer us opportunities; opportunities which we shouldn’t let pass us by….