Bring Green Cleaning to Your State: Build a Coalition!

  • April 24, 2013
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If you are interested in bringing new green cleaning laws to your state, it’s possible!

Changing policy is one thing, but compelling lawmakers to do a complete 180-degree turn is another. It’s not always easy, but with commitment and a good team behind you, it can be done. Before we began our work on changing green cleaning policies in Illinois, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) had policies in place that, in effect, actively banned the use of green cleaning products.

HSC worked to bring together local stakeholders, including building engineers, parent groups, labor unions and environmental groups, to reverse the CPS policy and fight for the health of our students. Once the new policy was in place at CPS, the next task was to take it down to Springfield. In mobilizing support for the Green Cleaning Schools Act, we were able to garner committed participation and feedback from a variety of stakeholders, from environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Seven Generations Ahead to respected health professionals groups like the Illinois chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics to teachers’ unions and school districts to green cleaning companies. The result was a bill that passed with overwhelming support (a 52-5 vote in the Senate), making Illinois the second state to pass a green cleaning law. Quite the turnaround from a ban on green products!

Now, only a few years later, we have seen many states, as well as individual school districts and cities, from Oregon to Maryland, make incredible strides.

If you are interested in bringing new green cleaning laws to your state, it’s possible.

To make it happen, you need a coalition of strong, committed stakeholders who understand the importance of the issue and can connect you to resources. By working together with a group that shares the same goals, you can show your elected officials how important those goals are to their constituents. The more like-minded constituents that a policymaker hears from, the more influence those constituents will have.

It is a good idea to consider working with people who approach green cleaning from diverse perspectives. Parents, health professionals, businesspeople, labor union representatives, educators, environmentalists and religious leaders are just some of the people in your community who may be affected by green cleaning policy changes and may be interested in joining a coalition to promote green cleaning in schools. Elected officials will be more responsive when they recognize that you represent a cross-section of their constituencies.

Taken as a whole, a diverse group represents a community movement and cannot be dismissed as an isolated viewpoint. Particularly on an issue such as green cleaning, bringing together a coalition that includes the education, public health, and business communities as well as environmentalists is a powerful strategy to advocate for change.

Coalitions are particularly useful when they:

  • Bring together different constituencies with a common goal.

  • Build support and legitimacy for the issue.

  • Raise the profile of your issue or group.

  • Show that a number of people have shared goals.

  • Bring people together to share the work.

  • Rally resources for supporting the cause.

We have found that leading state stakeholder groups often have an interest in promoting green cleaning policy and have resources or expertise that they are able to put toward the effort. There are many excellent groups to reach out to for coalition building. Such organizations could include state chapters of:

  • Labor unions

  • Public health organizations

  • Educational health organizations

  • Professional associations

  • Parent organizations

  • Environmental organizations

Establishing a network of advocates doesn’t stop when members are identified. To build a strong coalition, you will need to develop effective means of communication.

The first step is to gather accurate contact information and identify individuals within each organization who will be point people for communications. With each new contact, keep a record of addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and any other information you think will be useful.

Each group has its own unique communication needs. Depending on the size and formality of your network, you will want to consider developing newsletters, fact sheets, a website, a social media presence and other vehicles for sharing information among members. You may want to meet in person on a regular basis, meet by conference call, or simply keep each other up-to-date by email or regular engagement through social media. Regardless of the method you choose for communication, remember that keeping your allies active and involved depends on keeping them well-informed.

HSC offers many resources through our Quick + Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools. With a solid understanding of green cleaning and a network of allies, you’re ready to set goals for your advocacy efforts.