Green cleaning in schools has long been championed by parents, school staff, sustainability leaders, and cleaning industry professionals, but what about by state leadership?
Since 2006, 10 states and the District of Columbia have implemented laws which address green cleaning in schools. And while there has been an increasing push for schools, school districts, and states to adopt green cleaning practices, little work has been done analyzing the successes of these laws. Which got us thinking, what has been the real effect of state-level green cleaning policies directed at schools?
For the past several months, the Center for Green Schools has reached out to various stakeholders and officials across these states to learn more about their green cleaning laws. These conversations, alongside policy analysis, research, and data from a national survey informed our most recent white paper, titled “Perspectives on Implementation and Effectiveness of School Green Cleaning Laws.”
Our research and interviews suggest that state school green cleaning laws have tremendous potential for raising awareness around and encouraging green cleaning products and practices in schools.
We found that laws perceived as effective tended to include reporting requirements and mandate, rather than encourage, implementation of green cleaning. Lack of adequate staff support at the state level, as well as lack of resources, can pose significant challenges to a law’s effectiveness. The need for school-focused education about the purpose and requirements for green cleaning was also identified as critical, including not just training but broader awareness-building about green cleaning among school boards, administration, faculty, building maintenance staff and the greater school community.
We also found that three states—Iowa, New York, and Connecticut—had quantifiable data on their laws’ successes. Overwhelmingly, this data shows that schools were compliant with the legislation, suggesting that not only are schools interested in adopting green cleaning products and practices, but want to do it well and quickly.
With the commitments of these 10 states and D.C., twenty percent of states have enacted laws addressing green cleaning products and practices in schools. It is undeniable that this is significant progress, but this still means that the majority of public schools are not required by their states to commit to cleaning products that can keep their students and staff healthy and safe.
The paper’s side-by-side comparison of the laws is a valuable way to start thinking about what effective state leadership around green cleaning in schools looks like. Whether or not they consider a law addressing school green cleaning, the remainder of the states now have the opportunity to build on these experiences to find even better, more creative ways to mobilize schools in their use of cleaning materials that will promote and enhance a healthy environment for our children.