The word “Green” is not the omni-term for anything environmental although there is the tendency to substitute the word “Green” for “Environmental.” Environmentalism is to grand topic that has several subdivisions. Under this grand topic o environmentalism, we will find Green, Sustainable, Pollution, and Conservation. Each one of these subdivisions are immense subject on their own.
In the mash-up of words and concepts, we have lost the fundamental meaning of Green. Environmental, Green, or Sustainable now blur into that ugly green color that we made in kindergarten when we slurred all the colors into one big blob. We cannot progress when confusion reigns, and every science starts out with a definition of terms.
The best definition of Green refers to the health impact of what we do on living things. So Green is primarily a health-related issue. This is seen in the fact that cleaning products were the early Green issues. In fact, indoor air quality is a big factor in Green buildings. Sick building syndrome was the result of poor indoor air quality, which is the antithesis of Green.
Sustainability is also badly morphed into many applications, but essentially deals with the management of our resources. This is a complimentary issue to Green, so it a Green and Sustainable business means that the company considers the health of the workplace as well as the material demands of the business.
The health of the workplace can be impacted by cleaning products, building materials, furniture, as well as paint and carpeting. “Outgassing” is a well documented concern. The installation of new carpet, new furniture, new paint, and new wood leave residual fumes as these items continue to dry out. Your senses will betray you because we think that anything new is clean and healthy, but that is a huge mistake. The varnishes and additives to paint, carpet glue, and wood fall under the category of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that are not good for you. If your health is comprised, these fumes can worsen your condition and hasten disease. If you are healthy, the long term exposure will wear you down in time.
Think of the dust that is recirculated that contains bacteria, virus, dust mite feces and scales, carbon from the copies, and so much more. It is a wonder that we aren’t sick all the time except that we are generally healthy and able to live in hostile environments for a long time.
The people who are supposed to help clean our facilities and protect our health through sanitizing processes are the janitors, but clean does not mean healthy. The ammonia in the window spray is harmful, the zinc in the floor finish is bad for humans, the numerous chemicals in the cleansers add to a worsening situation.
Mold is a persistent problem for many buildings. The mold spores are never good for the workers, and can become a crisis concern if untreated. Latent issues remain the in the HVAC system as well. It is fair to say that the air of any building is a kind of “Ground Zero” for any office or business. If the employees are negatively impacted, productivity will fall. Afternoon headache, occasional nausea, and lethargy can be signs of an unhealthy indoor air quality. So, while your building may be energy efficient, and you may be conserving water as well as recycling your trash (sustainability issues), the building may be very un-Green because it is unhealthy.
The Green Business League believes that a Green office starts with an understanding of the healthy office and a serious look at the components that compromise indoor air quality. Consider using a Green certified janitorial service that also uses Green cleaning products, microfiber cloths, and HEPA vacuums. Do not let mold go untreated. Be mindful of all paint, carpet, and furniture used in the facility because they introduce a large volume of gases into the air.
Green is a primarily a health-related issue that blends into the other topics of sustainability, pollution control, and conservation. By dividing out the topics properly, the plan of attack seem much more clear. To attack the issue in a methodic manner, businesses should considering “Going Green” first then moving into the sustainable issues. The early disdain for the word Green comes from the anti-business attitudes of ultra-conservationists that needed a target for their vitriol. Green is not an anti-business concept when properly understood. A Green business is one that is a good place for living things in the workplace, in the community, and in the world.