Green cleaning means the use of those products and services that have a lesser or reduced impact on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. This definition comes from terms laid out in U.S. President Barack Obama's Executive Order No. 13514.
While simple in its approach, this definition incorporates the following three key concepts.
Human health. Of course, the principle purpose of cleaning is to protect human health so any definition of green or environmentally preferable should address human-health considerations. In the realm of green cleaning, this means we must give due deference to the health impacts cleaning has on custodial personnel and the occupants of the built environment where we are performing our cleaning activities. Special consideration should be given to more vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, and those with suppressed immune systems.
Comparative in Nature. Note that the above definition of green cleaning is comparative in nature. In other words, it does not set an absolute or final endpoint of what is environmentally preferable. Instead, it makes a comparison to competing products and services and thereby encourages continual improvement along the green spectrum.
Performance. Lastly, implicit in this definition is the concept that green products and services must perform their intended function of cleaning. It goes without saying that a cleaning product that cannot clean is a waste of resources altogether and is therefore the antithesis of environmentally preferable. More importantly, the performance of cleaning products is critical to maintaining a safe and healthy indoor environment.