Zero Waste Alliance


Unified Green Cleaning Alliance (UGCA)





There is a need in the Pacific Northwest for credible and reliable criteria to distinguish cleaning product formulations that perform and are preferable with respect to human and environmental health. We refer to those products as sustainable or “eco-effective"1. In addition, there is a need for affordable, effective and reliable marketing means to promote and encourage the use of these sustainable cleaning products.   

The Unified Green Cleaning Alliance (UGCA) has been formed to support the development and dissemination of sustainable cleaning formulations into industry and the marketplace, to generate awareness and demand, and to make the criteria accessible to a broad audience. 

The UGCA is founded on the belief that sustainability means maintaining or improving the health of the built, natural, social and economic environment, without interfering with the ability of future generations to do the same. A sustainable community will use its resources to meet current needs while ensuring that adequate resources are available for future generations. In order to ensure a sustainable community we must seek to improve public health and a better quality of life by preventing pollution, limiting waste, promoting efficiency and maximizing conservation.

Commercial cleaning products used by cleaning professionals provide four primary benefits. They improve the health of the building, maintain safety for workers and building occupants, preserve capital and assets for the building owners and enhance the overall aesthetics. At the same time that we acknowledge these benefits, certain ingredients and formulations result in unintended negative consequences to human health and/or the environment due in part to the fact that cleaning is a ubiquitous activity, that it involves close or direct exposure to cleaning products by cleaning workers and that many cleaning products and the byproducts of the cleaning process are released to the waste stream, sewer or to the air either during or after use.

In order to retain the beneficial service of cleaning products while eliminating the negative side-effects, it is necessary to identify those products, components, and formulations with the least negative impact to human health and the environment and to encourage innovation in developing new green chemistries where needed.

Proposed Activities

The Unified Green Cleaning Alliance has been established to:

  • identify a set of criteria that can be used to distinguish environmentally preferable or eco-effective cleaning products;
  • determine how these products will be verified, evaluated and identified with respect to the criteria, and
  • determine how this program will be disseminated and maintained.

Ingredients, packaging, life-cycle assessment and life-cycle cost are all important components of an effective commitment to eco-effective and sustainable cleaning products. Thus, cleaning products must be manufactured, transported, stored, used and disposed of in ways that will protect our environment and use resources to meet current needs while ensuring that adequate resources are available for future generations. The formation of the UGCA is designed to help meet this objective.

Funders and Conveners

This project is funded in part by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment (DfE) Program - a voluntary pollution prevention, partnership that works with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help and encourage them to integrate health and environmental considerations in business decisions and practices.  Working with formulator companies and other interested parties to improve the human health and environmental profile of commercial cleaning formulations is an integral part of the Design for Environment Program’s strategy to institute environmental-based decision-making and reduce pollution. 

The Zero Waste Alliance (ZWA), based in Portland, Oregon, is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing sustainable community development through zerowaste strategies and green chemistry. ZWA has identified a number of stakeholders– formulator companies, businesses and organizations that purchase and use cleaning products, educational institutions and government entities– interested in forming a network and developing a unified approach to designing cleaning products that are consistent with the goals of sustainable community development, providing recognition for those products, and informing purchasers’ buying decisions. ZWA will facilitate discussion of the chemistry, health and environmental science, and related issues of green formula design using technical experts as needed to enhance the discussion and resolution of key issues. Because the science that underlies the identification of impacts of cleaning chemicals to human health and the environment is complex and involves differing degrees of uncertainty, it is important to pull together credible and defensible scientific information that can both educate buyers and clarify the advantages and disadvantages of individual products.  ZWA will also manage and report on the consensus-building and decision-making process.

1 McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry,

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UGCA Final Report

Click here to view the UGCA Final Report.

Meetings and Documents

Meeting I
October 3, 2002
Portland General Electric
Earth Advantage™ National Center
Portland, OR

Meeting II
November 19, 2002
Nike, Inc.
Tiger Woods Center

Beaverton, OR
Meeting III
December 10, 2002
U.S. General Services Administration
Auburn, WA
Meeting IV
January 14, 2003
State Capitol Building (Meeting)
Willamette University (Lunch)

Salem, OR
Meeting V
February 20, 2003
Evergreen State College
Olympia, WA
Meeting VI
March 18, 2003
Portland General Electric
Earth Advantage™ National Center
Portland, OR

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Green Cleaning Product Resources

Since the above project was completed much work has been done on rating and certification of green cleaning products. See the following links for more information:


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