The importance of sustainable facilities management products in schools

Why is it important to make green choices about the facilities management products in schools?

Schools use enormous amounts of facilities management (FM) products every day, so it can be of great benefit to the environment if they source sustainable products wherever possible. There are a multitude of reasons to switch to greener versions of the things your school uses every day; in this instance, we’ll mostly focus on cleaning products and paper wastage. Let’s consider the impact these have on the environment.

What do we mean by facilities management? FM products include:

  • Cleaning fluids and tools.
  • Catering supplies.
  • Medical products.
  • Property services.
  • Toilet paper.
  • Paper towels.

Chemicals

Many cleaning products, in particular – which are used all over the school, in the kitchens and toilets – contain chemicals which can be harmful. According greenchoices.org, this can be a huge problem due to a lack of understanding regarding what these chemicals might do in the long-term. ‘There are thousands of chemicals in common use, and many have not been tested for safety, though the effects of many are known,’ the site says. ‘They may pollute streams and rivers and may take a long time to degrade into harmless products. Some may not break down at all, but may persist in the environment. These may enter the food chain, being eaten by aquatic creatures and, perhaps, eventually by us. When consumed or absorbed through the skin, they may have harmful effects, be toxic, cause cancer or cause birth defects.’

Packaging

The effects of packaging have opened the eyes of many due to phenomena such as the ‘Blue Planet effect’, so it’s time to be far more mindful about waste. ‘Many products used to come in aerosol cans, containing a propellant gas, often chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which, although non-toxic and chemically inert, were proven to damage the ozone layer’, greenchoices.org continues. There has been a shift away from this type of aerosol can, but they still contain a high proportion of packaging-to-contents and can be difficult to recycle. ‘Many products come in plastic containers which are light and durable, and can be recycled in some areas, but otherwise are very slow to biodegrade. You may be able to buy refills, and buying concentrated products or in bulk also reduces the amount of packaging.’

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Making these changes can begin small, and spread out across the school, if there’s a stable green strategy in place – like the one featured in a recent issue of EdExec, where one school became the first to go entirely plastic-free. Here are some benefits of and tips for going green in your school.

A healthier school

Quite simply, the school will be healthier place if you switch to chemical-free, sustainable cleaning products. According to care.com, studies have shown that using a household cleaning spray, even as little as once a week, raises the risk of developing asthma – a risk to children and staff alike.

Improved safety

Removing harsh chemicals from school improves safety, both for those using them and those at risk of getting the residue in their mouths, noses or eyes.

Environmental impact

As discussed above, many chemicals can have a devastating impact on the environment – not to mention the packaging they come with. Cutting down on waste by using natural products, refill services and recycled paper, for example, can make a huge difference.

Save money

You may think that greener products are more expensive; this is sometimes the case, but it doesn’t have to be. Find a supplier that will refill your cleaning product bottles for you, something which reduces waste while, often, lowering the price tag. Things like recycled toilet paper and paper towels will also save you money, when bought in bulk.

To quote care.com, ‘As concerns for health become more prevalent, and people become more aware of the harsh effects cleaning chemicals are having, they’re going back to basics and looking for greener ways to clean.’

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