Transpare: A New One-Stop Shop for Green Cleaning Purchasing

May 15, 2013

Just launched: Transpare, a free product registry that communicates information on the key environmental, health, and safety attributes of commercial cleaning products.

Over the past several years, we have seen incredible strides in the field of green cleaning. Eco-friendly labels like GreenSeal and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment (DfE) have helped set quality standards for green cleaning products, and many educational institutions are using environmentally responsible products and are instituting green cleaning programs. As the market for green cleaning products grows, more tools need to be available to educate and empower purchasers to make the decisions that will best benefit the health of the people using their facilities and the environment.

ISSA, the worldwide association for the commercial cleaning industry, and Ecoform have just launched Transpare, a free product registry that communicates information on the key environmental, health, and safety attributes of commercial cleaning products. Transpare provides purchasers with a way to easily select cleaning products that are appropriate for their facility occupants and that meet the environmental goals of their organizations. It provides purchasers with customizable searches, filters, and product comparisons to easily distinguish between green cleaning products and ensure that their purchases are supporting the overall sustainability of the organization.

Transpare launched with a product guide to chemical cleaning products, including specific searches available for all-purpose cleaners, restroom cleaners, carpet cleaners, dishwashing liquid, glass cleaner, machine dish detergent and floor cleaner. More is in progress.

We applaud ISSA on the launch of this fantastic resource.

David Schweizer, the Account Executive of Environmental Services for ISSA, says that several years ago, ISSA began to see a move toward purchasers not only seeking out green products, but looking for more information. Specifically, purchasers were looking for information on one or two attributes of a product, and there was no way to convey that information easily. In addition, on the regulatory side, there was more of a call for manufacturers to post information about chemicals. ISSA began working with partners on a system that could easily communicate all this information.

The process began with a core committee, including manufacturers, purchasers, user organizations and environmental non-governmental organizations. Healthy Schools Campaign was a part of that committee, along with a variety of stakeholders including Ecolab, Procter & Gamble, the Environmental Defense Fund, the American Federation of Teachers, Wal-Mart, The Ashkin Group, Kaiser Permanente and the states of Illinois and California. Specific committees are working together on developing specific product categories, determining metrics and how they will be reported in Transpare, verification and other key areas.

Already, the team is planning the next round of updates and expansions to this resource. They have already started working on a guide to cleaning equipment, including vacuum cleaners and floor scrubbers, and plan to introduce a guide to paper products as well.

For each product, Transpare uses the GHS standard (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals) as a model to rate toxicity, with products labeled on a 1-6 scale for harm via oral, inhalation or dermal contact. Other key items presented include the amount of VOCs in each product, use of artificial colors and fragrances as well as if the product is Green Seal, DfE or EcoLogo-certified. The site has a side-by-side comparison feature for purchasers deciding between two products.

“You need to know this kind of information [for schools] because these products are going to impact your students, your teachers, your custodial staff,” Schweizer says. “They’re breathing this stuff in, they’re coming into contact with them. You want to know how they’ll affect the health of people who use the facility.”

Schweizer says one of the concerns that surfaced in building Transpare was that facilities managers, engineers and other people making those purchasing decisions about cleaners would not find it useful because they wouldn’t be familiar with some of the scientific terminology. To ensure purchasers clearly understood the impact of these chemicals and how they were assessed, the site contains built-in pop-up windows over each statistic or definition. The user scrolls over them and the box explains how to use that particular data. The team also developed a glossary explaining everything in simpler terms and produced a first-timer’s guide to Transpare.

“The impact is going to be a more informed purchaser,” Schweizer says. “It’s no longer, ‘We need something to clean a bathroom; go find a bottle.’ It’s about the overall health and sustainability objectives of the organization.”

The website may be up and running, but the Transpare team is just getting started. The guide is a work in progress, and as previously mentioned, guides for cleaning equipment and paper products are in the works, as well as the next round of updates to the Transpare website. Schweizer is also planning a series of webinars on how to effectively use Transpare, and more information about those will be available soon. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Transpare and green cleaning!