Protecting School Health with Green Practices


About 56 million students and six million staff attend our nation’s schools each school day. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports half of them are exposed to polluted indoor air, lead, chemical fumes, pesticides, molds and other toxins — conditions that we would never tolerate in our homes. Then, there’s often overcrowding, inadequate sanitation and the health issues that follow.

Maintenance staffs are especially affected. In fact, six out of every 100 custodians are injured on the job each year by unsafe chemicals and equipment. Choosing safer products and training staff in proper usage can help reduce the number of health issues caused by caustic chemicals, respiratory irritation and inappropriate or dangerous equipment.

An unhealthy school environment undermines efforts to keep students and staff healthy and give children a quality education, especially those with health conditions. After all, how can a school function at its best if students and staff are sick because the building environment is unhealthy?

One of HSC’s main initiatives to improve school environmental health is our green cleaning program. We also support:

  • Building state and federal capacity to support environmental health in schools.
  • Establishing metrics to better measure and report environmental conditions in schools.
  • Offering opportunities for professional development programs on environmental health school leaders and staff.

What is HSC Doing?


When HSC began in 2002, school and environmental health were the focus. Today, they still are. Our scope has grown from local projects to national leadership and advocacy.

Since 2006, HSC has published a comprehensive guide to help schools and community groups transform their cleaning program to be healthier and more environmentally friendly. The Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools explains a five-step process to planning a green cleaning program and implementing it with the right products, equipment and procedures. The guide also lists independent green cleaning standards that schools can follow to make sure they making informed decisions. The guide is available to the public and there are currently about 125,000 in print!

Throughout the year, HSC hosts a series of webinars to dive into specific topics around green cleaning. These webinars feature our partners, who are experts in the field, such as The Ashkin group and Envirox. In 2012, HSC hosted five webinars and attracted an average of 66 attendees each time. Topics included infection control, new green cleaning technology and making the financial case for green cleaning. Check out the most recent webinar on the State of Green Cleaning.

HSC coordinates the annual Green Clean Schools National Summit and subsequent state meetings for policy makers, education leaders and product manufacturers. These summits have led to strategic alliances between state policy leaders and school health advocates that have successfully introduced state-level green cleaning laws.

Each year, HSC presents the Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities in collaboration with American School & University magazine and the Green Cleaning Network. The award honors schools and their partners that embrace green principles and practices. The judging criteria for the award are based on the Five Simple Steps to Green Cleaning outlined in HSC's Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools.

HSC has also served as a consultant or key advocate on state green cleaning laws, EPA state guidelines, product and equipment certification programs, and most importantly, schools. HSC has also been a long-time supporter of the Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools programs, which honors school that make progress towards being more environmentally friendly. HSC also sits on the U.S. EPA’s Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee, and the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Coalition for Green Schools.

HSC has been a long-time partner and promoter of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program. LEED certification gives newly constructed or renovated existing school buildings an independent stamp of approval that they are doing all they can to conserve energy, protect the environment and promote student health. Some of the criteria include:
• Indoor air quality and monitoring
• Controllability of lighting, sound and temperature
• Water use reduction and efficiency
• Mold prevention
• Materials reuse and recycling

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