Trends in Green

Renewable Cleaning

Creating sustainable maintenance operations in schools.

Renewable cleaning is founded largely on the medical — Hippocratic Oath — concept or axiom of “Do No Harm,” and, specifically, on the Green Hippocratic Oath concept of, “Do No Harm to the Environment.”

Renewable Cleaning is the prevention, removal, inactivation and/or proper disposal of contaminants to restore built or indoor environments to their original or desired condition, while protecting and enhancing the learning environment in schools.

Why “do no harm”?

According to the Oath Project, “Widespread recognition of major environmental problems has made it clear that the next generation of corporate leaders will be forced to grapple with a set of enormously complex and important issues. Given how business activities affect the environment, should new leaders and managers be asked to take an oath similar to the ones that doctors recite — requiring business leaders to first ‘do no harm,’ including harm to the environment?”

The nonprofit Renewable cleaning group says, most definitely, “Yes!”

Building on green — less is more, sustainability

Renewable cleaning, built on green cleaning, succeeds by emphasizing that less is more, with sustainability as the goal.

Renewable Cleaning, or true cleaning, prevents or removes soils and pollutants, does not add them to the environment, or spread them around, but promotes the following:

  • Less petro-chemistry through use of benign but effective methods. A few examples include ionized water formulas, dry or low-moisture steam vapor sanitation and sanitizers suitable for foodservice requirements.

  • Less soil infiltration through proper entrance matting, and dust containment through better vacuum cleaners and filters (e.g., those recommended by CRI’s Seal of Approval program for effective soil removal, dust capture and prevention of carpet wear), to cite a few examples.

  • Less exposure to pathogenic organisms through removal (rather than poisoning) of microbes, while reducing conditions favorable to their growth through capture and disposal of organic matter or “germ food” and moisture control.

  • Less moisture in the air and on surfaces through better drying and ventilation.

  • Less organic residue through effective cleaning — i.e., more soil removal in less time — validated by ISSA’s Clean Standard that provides target ranges for “cleaner” outcomes based on the measurement of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — an indicator of germ-promoting soil.

Doing well by doing good

Importantly, beyond just “doing no harm” — a somewhat indirect and negative statement — Renewable Cleaning seeks to proactively enhance indoor environments, do them good, and make them better for staff and students — and for learning.

How is this good for schools beyond the benefit of greener, healthier learning environments?

According to Dr. Mudarri, “Growing evidence shows businesses that are ecofriendly, ethical and honest in their operations and marketing are more successful than their traditional profitmaximizing counterparts. This is because firms are increasingly being judged not only on the quality of what they sell, but also for what they represent. Becoming known for the ethical principles that your company follows is a very successful marketing strategy.” Thus schools can tap Renewable Cleaning as a key part of their marketing strategy — doing well by doing good.

“The cleaning paradigm is to clean for the health of occupants and workers and not just for appearance, and to promote sustainability indoors and outside,” adds Mudarri.

“Doing good” will ultimately be demonstrated through better school attendance, more productivity and fewer illnesses related to school environments. Even now, we are beginning to track these metrics in charter schools.

It takes a village

One key principle underpinning the success of Renewable Cleaning, as with all ecosystem-based concepts, is that — just as it takes a village to raise a child — it takes a community to make a school healthier through Renewable Cleaning collaboration. Thus parent, teacher and staff involvement is encouraged.

Sustainable workforce

Lastly, Renewable cleaning enables sustainability by “renewing” the workforce through investments in training, professional development, and skill-acquisition such as through IEHA’s Integrated Cleaning and Measurement (ICM), ISSA’s CIMS, and other educational programs.

For more information on Renewable Cleaning or the Green Hippocratic Oath, visit

This article originally appeared in the School Planning & Management December 2013 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Author

Ruben Rives is the founder and president of the nonprofit Renewable Cleaning group. He has been in the cleaning business for 20 years, with special focus on infection control.