LEED Ups Green Cleaning Standards

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods. The goal—to help building owners and operators be environmentally responsible.

The LEED standards, originally developed in 1998, recently got a facelift and the LEED EBOM v4 has increased the green cleaning requirements in a truly positive way. What does this mean for you? If you work in or frequent a building, commercial center, or office that adheres to LEED standards, you may just start to breathe a whole lot easier this year as more green cleaning products and practices are put into play.

According to Steve Ashkin, president of the green cleaning consulting company The Ashkin Group who was also involved with the LEED standards revisions, the changes include a notable increase in the required purchases of “green” chemicals, paper, and plastic liners from 30 percent to 75 percent—they also doubled the required purchases of “green” equipment.

“We also added new compliance options such as including EPA’s Design for the Environment Program (DfE) and Ecoform’s Transpare program, which creates more flexibility for both manufacturers and purchasers,” says Ashkin. “We also created options for new, innovative technologies such as devices that create cleaning solutions from water. One of the things I am most proud is that V4 expands the scope of responsibility for cleaning personnel to consider how they affect the building’s energy and water consumption.”

Here, we check in with Ashkin to learn more about the LEED changes and how they affect consumers and cleaning professionals alike.

GreenCleaningMagazine: How are the LEED green cleaning requirement changes a positive move for consumers and cleaning professionals alike?
Steve Ashkin: The main lesson to be learned from the U.S. Green Building Council and their LEED Rating System is how the marketplace (manufacturers and consumers) can work together to transform the products they make and use. In the case of cleaning products and services, LEED has made it easier for manufacturers to understand what “green” consumers are asking for, while at the same time making it easy for consumers to actually buy those products without having a Ph.D. in chemistry, toxicology, or environmental science. This marriage enables the market to work more efficiently, resulting in the development of chemical cleaning products, sanitary paper products, vacuums, and other tools and equipment that work effectively and are cost competitive, while reducing negative impacts on human health and the environment.

GCM: What are the most significant LEED green cleaning changes?
Ashkin: Version 4 (released in November 2013) offers new options for product certifications that makes it easier and more cost competitive to meet the requirements. For example, in addition to using third-party certifications from Green Seal and EcoLogo, Version 4 includes additional options including EPA’s Design for the Environment Program (DfE) and ISSA’s (International Sanitary Supply Association) Cleaning Industry Management Standard. It also encourages innovations such as the use of devices that convert water into an effective cleaning solution and sanitary paper products made from agricultural waste or rapidly renewable tree fibers. And, finally, it significantly increases the percentage of “green” purchases that will further grow demand for these products, which in turn will encourage manufacturers to invest more into the development of innovative green solutions.

GCM: Why has LEED made these changes now?
Ashkin: The U.S. Green Building Council updates its LEED Rating Systems every three to five years to make sure that LEED is state-of-the-art. This is important as the issue of Green Buildings and Green Cleaning are accelerating quickly, because we are learning so much more about how our buildings and products are affecting human health and the environment both in the short and long term. It also aims to incorporate new tools and technologies so that we can better inform the decisions and tradeoffs being made. The staff and members of the USGBC take their mission very seriously and are working hard to make sure that LEED can be a tool of market transformation and contribute to a green, safer, and healthier environment for now and the future.

Erinn Morgan


After a 10-year career as an award-winning New York City-based editor launching and redesigning urban, style-driven magazines, Erinn Morgan left downtown Manhattan after September 11th, 2001, in search of a less encumbered, freelance lifestyle. A two-year-long trek around the country eventually landed her in Durango, Colo., which she now calls home.

Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, Bike, Skiing, Delicious Living, American Cowboy, and on away.com.

Erinn is also the author of the eco-focused book, Picture Yourself Going Green, Step-by-Step Instruction for Living a Budget-Conscious, Earth-Friendly Lifestyle in Eight Weeks or Less.

She was previously the editor-in-chief of 20/20 magazine, a special projects editor at Playboy (overseeing the launch of a new, custom magazine), and the founding editor/editor-in-chief of SoHo Style, a much-lauded, avant-garde magazine that covered the culture and style of downtown New York and its reach around the world.

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