An Evolving Marketplace: Certifications for new Technologies

The marketplace is evolving. That’s the refrain we hear again and again in green cleaning. It’s tough enough to keep up with the latest technologies, but add to that the task of deciphering whether or not their “green claims” really are worth their merit, and it can become overwhelming. That’s why we’re pleased to learn that some respected third party certifications are evolving too. For example, Green Seal is now certifying cleaning solutions that are created by systems that generate solutions on-site, including those that disinfect.

What are these systems?
Most of these new systems work by passing electricity through water with a stabilizer or some type of salt to create a cleaning solution. There are a number of different kinds on the market already, and they are gaining traction. We’re not only seeing them in more and more schools, but now third party certification programs are recognizing them, too.

There are currently several site-generated cleaning solutions certified by Green Seal under the GS-37 and/or GS-53 standards. Although the equipment had to undergo evaluation, Green Seal’s certification is for the cleaning solution itself, not the equipment.

“Certification of these new technologies ties in with what we were founded on 25 years ago,” says Mark Petruzzi, senior vice president of outreach and strategic relations at Green Seal. “It helps people make greener, healthier decisions. We want to be able to provide third-party assurance that the cleaning solutions generated by these technologies can clean and have environmental and health benefits. It’s a little bit new and different but at the same time it’s not so new and different. At the end of the day, these cleaning solutions  clean–and even sanitize.”

Why is this a big deal?
The fact that Green Seal is issuing standards for products that have disinfecting properties is a really big step for green cleaning; sanitizers and disinfectants are included in the GS-53 standard for specialty cleaning products. Disinfectants are specifically formulated to kill living organisms such as viruses or the flu, they are often highly caustic, toxic in nature and may decrease the quality of indoor air. For this reason, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not explicitly allow registered disinfectants to bear environmental labels issued by third-party environmental certification programs. However, an EPA pilot program on environmental labels and antimicrobial products that began in 2008 is scheduled to wrap up in May 2015, so this stance may be changing in response to purchaser demand.

At Healthy Schools Campaign, we’ve always recommended walking the fine line between minimizing potential exposure to disinfectants while also reducing the risk associated with the spread of infectious diseases. Until now, the only options schools had for weighing the health risks of disinfectants was information from vendors, the EPA and material safety data sheets for specific products. Green Seal’s decision to certify solutions that sanitize or disinfect  can give end users another benchmark to refer to when making decisions.

And for the record, Green Seal’s standards don’t measure the disinfecting claims of these solutions (evaluating those “kill claims” is still 100% EPA territory), but they do look at a range of human health and environmental attributes

What does this mean for the marketplace?
By joining the conversation, Green Seal is a strong voice in how the cleaning industry talks about new technology. It shows that there is a shift in the discourse, and we’re hopeful that this means even more environmental authorities will start addressing not only new technologies, but safer disinfectants too. And that means schools will be able to make better informed decisions, making green cleaning an easier choice for us all.