Demystifying Sustainability Buzzwords
Navigating environmental sustainability lingo for commercial buildings.
Establishing sustainability programs have become a key factor for many businesses, as they respond to increased awareness about the environmental impact on public health, as well as growing consumer and employee expectations for corporate accountability. The sustainability industry, however, can be mired with ineffective practices and unclear jargon — confusing for those looking to develop meaningful eco-friendly initiatives for their company.
Sustainability is too important an issue to be lost in a quagmire. With this in mind, we break down three common buzzwords around environmental sustainability for commercial buildings, and what you need to know to establish your own green initiatives.
There is perhaps no greater obstacle in launching an eco-friendly program than having to navigate through the plethora of “greenwashing.” The term refers to products and services that claim to be helpful to the environment, but have no scientific basis. Insubstantial and misleading, they are “green” in name only. Examples include cleaning products that labeled “all-natural” or “chemical-free,” but hide behind terms not formally regulated, and may even conceal actively harmful ingredients. Another example includes single-use products made with recycled materials, but in turn cannot be recycled again, thus producing more waste.
If greenwashing remains so prevalent in the sustainability sector, how does one find the right way forward? This is why third-party certifications are so essential. These are organizations that set clear industry-wide sustainability standards, and assess products and services on whether they meet these requirements. Specific organizations serve different fields. In commercial real estate for example, the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program established globally-recognized criteria for both building and maintaining effective green buildings. Their guidelines cover every facet, including energy efficiency, construction materials, and maintenance/cleaning protocols.
At SparkleTeam, we service several LEED-Certified buildings in Broward and Palm Beach, providing cleaning services that follow LEED requirements. We also use eco-compliant products approved by other reputable third-party organizations like Green Seal, EcoLogo, Safer Choice and GREENGUARD.
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
Air pollution remains a major environmental issue. However, following the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, awareness grew regarding concerns about indoor air quality in particular. Often shortened to IAQ, indoor air quality refers to the air quality within buildings, particularly exposure to pathogens and pollutants. Preparing offices for COVID-19 safety protocols highlighted how many buildings lacked optimal ventilation and air filtration. These conditions only exacerbate the vulnerability of occupants to major health concerns. This includes diseases like the flu or COVID-19, or from environmental pollutants.
Sustainability practices are key to improving indoor air quality. Such practices include reducing VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), which are a group of harmful chemicals that release as gas from common interior building materials and cleaning products. Using green-certified cleaning products and materials will significantly reduce risk of exposure. This also applies to disinfectants used against COVID-19.