Implementing Sustainability

ENV 499: Contemporary Developments in Business: Implementing Sustainability

This hybrid business-sustainability class focused on several projects including bicycle safety and waste-free Skydome events. My groups’ project researched the use and overall campus awareness of green cleaning products.

As it turned out, the university uses 99% green cleaning products for all its cleaning needs and as a result, shifted the main objective of the project to raising awareness of the importance of using these chemicals over harsher options. Our goal helped to satisfy the AASHE STARS rating system requirement in regards to procurement. This action got the university one step closer to achieving a higher recognition of its sustainability initiatives.

This class project lead to my internship opportunity with the Office of Sustainability at Northern Arizona University. The internship allowed the project to take a step further and investigate the various methods in which to educate the student body over the importance of using green cleaning products. Please see the Undergraduate Research and Capstone Project pages for more details.

Green Cleaning Research and Scan Report

A formal scan of green cleaning chemicals, and how they are used or not used at other universities and corporations including Northern Arizona University.

Joseph Hill


Most higher education institutions and many businesses across the country have recently been converting their cleaning supply to one that values green chemicals. This is due to the fact that many generic cleaning chemicals contain hazardous substances that include:

  •       Volatile Organic Compounds
  •       Corrosive Chemicals
  •       Strong Irritants
  •       Carcinogens

This is part of social responsibility for institutions to be mindful of the environment that the students, faculty, staff and custodians are working in everyday as well as an effort to remove toxic chemicals from the local environment. Most standards for green cleaning chemicals involve a certification from either Green Seal or EcoLogo, and they are preferred in usage by an organization and even in the household. Additionally, it is recommended that institutions create a policy that mandates the use of green cleaning supplies in an effort to solidify this social responsibility. (



*Percentages calculated by dividing the total expenditures on cleaning products by the total expenditures on Green Seal and EcoLogo cleaning products. Data provided by the AASHE website. *NAU percentage determined by Paul Capps, Custodial Director.

Arizona State University

  • Currently gained a 2.0 out of 2.0 on the STARS report
  • Displays that the total amount of money purchased on cleaning products was for green cleaning products
  • A formal policy exists online that incorporates a number of environmental actions that the university should take.
  • Among Toxins, the policy states that a preference for purchasing Green Seal, biodegradable, and phosphate free products.

Colorado State University

  • Has legislation in place that states the preference for products with the green seal
  • They give out tips to their students on how to use household items as cleaning products (Colorado State University (1), 2011)
  • Use biodegradable cleaning products in their Aspen Grill which is their sustainability cafe (Colorado State University (2), 2011)
    • Overall this college could be doing more to inform their students and staff on the importance of using green products

Harvard University

  • Harvard University has put in place a policy for environmentally preferable products with many admirable features.
  • Beyond identification of various certifications (Green Seal, DFE, EcoLogo,, and Ecolabel), the policy also identifies preferences for treated water-based cleaners, biodegradable cleaners, and discourages disinfectants.
  • Beyond the materials, their policy recommends behavior change around heated water use. Harvard’s policy also makes note of strategies for cleaning hard surface floors, using mops, disposables (hand soap, paper, and bags), floor mats, and snow removal.
  • This policy was put in place as a cooperative effort between Green Seal, cleaning services, and with an aim for addressing cleaning product-related health issues.
  • Harvard has a few aspects that make this more appropriate than Northern Arizona University.
    • First, Harvard has access to capital that NAU doesn’t.
    • Second, they may have been able to access student, faculty, and staff expertise beyond NAU’s capabilities.
    • NAU and Harvard are both capable of working out synergies between health services, cleaning, education, and student services.
    • A Green Cleaning Program, such as Harvard’s, can act as a watchdog to keep NAU’s purchasing strategy aimed at GCPs, acting in lieu of a potentially problematic policy change.

University of Arizona

  • As of August 17th, 2010 uses 75% green products for their cleaning needs.
  • They currently do not have a purchasing policy or formal policy referencing the use of green cleaning chemicals that are used on campus.
    • The facilities management group at the college is responsible for this initiative.
    • The AASHE website does not have any further information relating to a STARS report by this university, and no visible progress incorporating green cleaning is found since August of 2010.

University of British Columbia

  • Sustainable purchasing guide
    • Cradle to Cradle
    • A way of designing their products so that the waste from the cleaning products becomes something else that they can use (i.e. recycled plastic)
    • Supplier Code of Conduct
    • Ensures that all suppliers must share the same goals as UBC in sustainability
    • UBC believes that buying sustainable office and cleaning supplies could potentially help the University have a more sustainable purchasing agreement for everything else
    • They even go as far as to ensure that people that cater their events use green friendly cleaning products (Sustainability Office & Supply Management, 2011)
  • Green Housekeeping Program
    • Policy in place that states the preference to buy EcoLogo products
    • The plan to start using green cleaning products started in 2005 well before NAU’s which started 3 years ago
    • Also allows for input by their janitorial staff on the efficiency of their products
    • 78% of their buildings are equipped with portion controlled which ensures the proper amount of green chemicals are being used
    • In the process of looking at auto-scrubbers to clean the carpets that will use 70% less water and 90% less detergent (University of British Columbia, 2011)

University of California Irvine

  • University of California Irvine has been involved in the UC System’s adoption of green initiatives including green procurement.
  • Beyond equipment and lighting changes, they have worked on the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Practices for the entire UC System.
  • UC Irvine has taken an approach that includes internships and student participation, allowing for GCP adoption and transition to be an educational project as well as an administrative one.
  • UC Irvine has included flexible language to meet budgetary constraints and market fluctuations.
  • NAU has also taken up sustainability as an educational opportunity and given the current economic climate, long-term commitments will attain greater support through amenable language such as “whenever cost-effective.”

University of California San Diego

  • Over 90% of custodial cleaning products are certified “green”
  • Their purchasing policy requires all cleaning products to be certified “Green Seal” and disposable janitorial paper products must meet EPA and Green Seal standards.  New sustainable cleaning practices continue to be researched
  • Students moving into apartments receive a basket of certified green cleaning supplies, including a multi-purpose cleaner and instructions on how to use it
  • Green cleaning tips and advertisements are posted all around in-campus housing as well as online to promote sustainability
  • The UCSD STARS report rated cleaning products purchasing a 1.51 out of 2 stars

University of Colorado Boulder

  • Has a firm purchasing policy in place, which is their Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP)
  • All the cleaning products used on the University properties are certified by Green Seal
  • They make all their cleaning products being used campus wide available online for everyone to see, as well as resources available online for purchasing green cleaning products
  • The Environmentally Responsible Purchasing (ERP) taskforce identified University of Colorado’s cleaning products among the top categories for best practices
  • They offer resources that teach students how to create homemade disinfectants that are cost-effective and eco-friendly

Non-University Institutions

Green Force

  • This is a cleaning company that uses all natural products for residential homes and window cleaning
  • They service the San Francisco area and are a carbon neutral company
    • They offset any carbon emissions by donating money to carbon-offset companies
    • All of their cleaning products are non-toxic and biodegradable
    • All of their products are available online through their website with ratings of each cleaning products effectiveness
    • In 2005, the City of New York implemented a Green Cleaning Law for city services.
    • This law was implemented to protect custodial services, city employees, and community health.
    • This law was formed due to the high frequency of hazardous chemicals—about one in three conventional products—that have deleterious effects. “In California, it was estimated that cleaning products contribute approximately 8% of total non-vehicular emissions of volatile organic compounds” (3).
    • VOCs and other emissions from cleaning products negatively impact indoor environmental quality, which has further impacts on productivity, such as sick days.
    • Even in 2005, the City of New York was able to identify “environmentally preferable alternatives” within the city’s budget.
    • New York City makes a clear and documented case for GCPs based on human and environmental health.
    • This ought to be a lesson for NAU as it assesses its own ability to implement what may be perceived as an extra expense.
    • Even in the case of more expensive green cleaning products, they achieve returns on occupant productivity and reduced employee sick days.
    • The council also determined that green-cleaning products could be defined as those, which include a Green Seal or EcoLogo certification

City of New York Cleaning Law

Seventh Generation

  • 68% of their cleaning products come from plants not petroleum
  • 80% recycled plastic in their bottles
  • As well as using all of their cleaning products to clean their headquarters in Burlington, Vermont they practice community involvement to inform members in their community of the harmful effects of using traditional cleaning products
  • Their website provides ways to clean green for each season
  • Transparency of their company
    • They discuss the need to be transparent for their costumers, which is something that many universities need to improve on. They also are open and discuss what they are working on and what their downfalls consist of (Seventh Generation, 2011)

WAXIE Sanitation Supply

  • This company specializes not only in providing business and government entities with effective cleaning solutions but also partners with them to develop a safe and hazard free environment.
  • This company currently supplies Northern Arizona University with green cleaning products
  • All chemicals used in cleaning supplies are approved by Green Seal and EcoLogo certifications. Additionally, they have LEED accredited professional staff that can assist an institution on making considerable efforts to practice sustainable methods
  • Paper products are made of 65% post consumer product and 35% post industrial product


This scan presents the fact that many universities nation and continent wide have already begun the switch to using green cleaning chemicals. Many have just begun this process, and many have come a long way and have begun to beat the path for many universities and other institutions to follow. A common theme among the universities is that they have already been buying green cleaning products but have yet to create any formal policy mandating the use and purchase of a green cleaning standard. However, Harvard University seemed most impressive with a formal policy on the matter as well as the amount of green cleaning supplies they purchase. In addition to their milestones they have also teamed up with to create an overview of their program.

Locally, Arizona State University has also made some progressive strides in purchasing green cleaning products and setting an official policy that mandates the purchasing preference of the university. There have not been as many leaders in the private industry related to the purchase and use of green cleaning products, which is why this report focuses on the companies that supply these items. The study of these companies is important because it is essential to understand where and how these chemicals are produced and how they are implemented in institutions as well as how these companies help institutions to create awareness in practicing sustainable methods.

Additionally it is important to note that several Universities have begun to implement programs that allow students to learn about and use green cleaning chemicals for themselves. As it is outlined in the introduction and especially in the New York Cleaning Law “VOCs and other emissions from cleaning products negatively impact indoor environmental quality, which has further impacts on productivity, such as sick days.” Thus it is important for any institution to influence it constituents to use and appreciate the importance of green cleaning chemicals.


Northern Arizona University currently uses green cleaning chemicals campus wide for most of its cleaning needs. While these figures still must be identified, it is essential that NAU begin to create more awareness of the use of green chemicals and why it is important to use these cleaning methods over traditional ones. Furthermore it is also essential that NAU learn from these examples and begin to integrate student involvement with the program and make this program more transparent to the public. Finally, NAU should seek to create its own policy that mandates the purchase and use of green cleaning products and seek out assistance from other universities and colleges throughout the state to create a consensus and policy that green cleaning chemicals and their sustainable use is necessary for the health and well being of the people who interact with these institutions.

Annotated Bibliography (Scan and Research)

Arizona State University, 2011, ASU Purchasing Manuals,
  , (October 2011)
  • This website is the official purchasing policy of Arizona State University for the purchase of green cleaning products including additional mandates on sustainable practices within the university.
Colorado State University (1), 2011, Environmentally Preferable Purchasing at
            Colorado State University,, (October 2011).
  • The purchasing legislation provided by this institution. Discusses their preference for buying green chemicals.
Colorado State University (2), 2011, The Green Campus Walking Tour, http://  , (October 2011).
  • Provides an overview of what the campus is doing in smaller projects to become a more sustainable campus.
Harvard University, 2011, Harvard Campus Services Green Cleaning,
  , (October)
  • This website Lays out all of the important aspects of green cleaning that Harvard is committed to. This site also lists companies that other institutions or even students can purchase green cleaning products.
New York City, 2011, New York Green Cleaning Programs,, (October 2011)
  • The New York Green Cleaning Program website provides links to state and local policies, what best practices are, and why green cleaning products are better for human health than traditional cleaning products are. This is a great example of what an institution can do to utilize green cleaning products.
Seventh Generation, 2011, Seventh Generation,
  , (October 2011).
  • Discusses their personal mission as well as their products and pitfalls as a company.
Sustainability Office & Supply Management, 2011, The UBC Sustainable
Purchasing Guide,, (October 2011)
  • This document provides guidelines for the University of British Columbia on their sustainable purchasing. It discusses everything from clean energy to green cleaning.
University of Arizona Green Report Card, 2011, Green Report Card Campus Survey, (October 2011)
  • The campus survey green report card is extremely useful in finding information about a particular university in terms of how sustainable it is. This survey takes into account just about every kind of green report it can think of; facility maintenance is one of them.
University of British Columbia, 2011, Custodial Initiatives,, (October 2011)
  • This website discusses the initiatives that have been taken to clean more sustainably as well as what they plan to do in the future.
University of California, Irvine, 2011, UCI Green Campus Program,, (October 2011)
  • The green campus program website at University of California Irvine provides a plethora of information regarding what the campus has done and is doing to become a green university as well as information on what initiates the university has related to sustainability practices.
University of California San Diego, 2011, About UCSD and Sustainability, (October 2011)
  • This website shows the different sustainable practices at University California San Diego.  Different policies campus wide are available through this website.
University of California San Diego, 2011, Promoting Sustainability at UCSD, (October 2011)
  • This is a resource to help promote different sustainability practices.  It breaks down the sustainability practices by category
University of Colorado Boulder, 2011, Environmentally Responsible Purchasing,, (October 2011)
  • This website shows the purchasing policies in place at University of Colorado Boulder.  It also offers resources to more information about green products.
WAXIE Sanitation Supply, 2011, WAXIE Green,,
(October 2011)
  • WAXIE’s green website is an interactive site that allows businesses and institutions to realize how WAXIE can assist them in sustainability initiatives. The companies green website also lists the products and services that it can provide and the reasons why they are Green Seal certified.