IREM Blogs

Make the Switch to Healthier, More Environmentally Friendly Maintenance and Cleaning Products

April 19, 2019 | Todd Feist

Real estate owners and occupants are paying more attention than ever to the impacts of indoor environments on human health and wellness. Research by Harvard University and other organizations points to the positive effects of healthy, sustainable interiors on human cognition, productivity and sleep, among other functions. At the same time, many of the products used in property operations, such as cleaners, detergents and finishes, emit chemicals that may be harmful to human health.

Safer, more environmentally friendly products are available—but how do you identify them? How do you make the switch to less harmful products? Continue reading—and download this Green Purchasing Fact Sheet for quick reference.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Safer Choice Program
With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) Safer Choice program, the first question is easily answered with a simple check for a label on a product’s packaging. Every ingredient in a Safer Choice-certified product has been rigorously reviewed using the Safer Choice program’s stringent criteria. You can be confident that the formula is safer for human health and the environment based on the best available science and protective standards. Additionally, the Safer Choice program requires verification that a product performs. The label ensures that the products Americans are using in their homes, office spaces and schools are as safe as possible and that they work.

About 2,000 products qualify to carry the Safer Choice label, which includes a wide range of products, including all-purpose cleaners, laundry products, bathroom cleaners, floor cleaners and hand soaps. Safer Choice-certified products are available for residential, commercial, industrial and institutional applications. A complete list of products and product categories is on the USEPA's website.

The Safer Choice program is among several certification programs for green cleaning and maintenance products (others include Green Seal and EcoLogo). Certified green products can be incorporated into your property’s sustainability goals through the implementation and practice of sustainable procurement. Sustainable procurement is a strategy used to ensure products and services used at your property have minimal impacts on the occupants and the surrounding environment. They are designed to preserve human health and environmental quality while maintaining performance.

Applying sustainability practices and adopting products made with safer chemicals that earn the Safer Choice label not only meet customers’ demands, but also enhance the bottom line and improve health and the environment.

Safer Choice and the IREM Certified Sustainable Property (CSP) Program
IREM recognizes the importance of certified products and materials through the IREM Certified Sustainable Property (CSP) program.

Under the program, you can use products with the Safer Choice label at the property to qualify for points toward certification in the Health and Purchasing categories. Incorporating these healthier, more environmentally friendly products into your sustainability program will help to achieve property goals and earn certification.

Making the Switch
You can begin to integrate sustainable procurement into a property’s or portfolio’s sustainability program by considering the following steps:

  1. Evaluate current baseline products and identify where changes can be made.
    • What are you currently using and at what volumes? This will be key for reporting success.
    • Are your products already certified? Look for the Safer Choice, Green Seal, or EcoLogo label, among others.
    • If not, is there a certain product line you could address first? Surface cleaners? Floor cleaning products? This helps make change more manageable – and ultimately successful!
  2. Evaluate capacity to change.
    • Communicate with senior management to ensure that this aligns with sustainability goals. Success is dependent upon buy-in at all levels of operation.
    • Communicate with the purchasing department to understand purchasing practices. Does your property use a contract with a local distributor? Is a national purchasing platform used? 
  3. Develop a sustainability procurement statement.
    • Make a commitment to sustainable procurement and include language in contracts to ensure, when possible, certified green products take preference.
    • The IREM CSP program includes a template to establish a sustainable procurement/purchasing policy.
  4. Track success and make adjustments.
    • Identify what is working—and what isn’t. Where can additional changes be made to optimize your progress?
  5. Market sustainability successes!
    • The most difficult part of working the sustainability field is advertising your successes to those most impacted. Make sure to share your progress. Whether it is through a newsletter, social media, or announcement, it is important to get the word out!

About the Author
Todd Feist is sustainability program manager at IREM Headquarters in Chicago.

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