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Comparative life cycle assessment of conventional and Green Seal-compliant industrial and institutional cleaning products



The goal of this study was to use life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology to assess the environmental impacts of industrial and institutional cleaning products that are compliant with the Green Seal Standard for Cleaning Products for Industrial and Institutional Use, GS-37, and conventional products (non-GS-37-compliant) products.


The scope of the study was “cradle-to-grave,” to encompass the energy and material resources required for the production of raw material and packaging components to use and final disposal of the cleaning product. The generic functional unit for this study was annual cleaning of 100,000 ft2 of office space. The ReCiPe 2008 Midpoint (hierarchist perspective) impact assessment methodology was used including the following impact categories: climate change, ozone depletion, photochemical oxidant formation, particulate matter formation, human toxicity, terrestrial acidification, freshwater eutrophication, freshwater ecotoxicity, agricultural land occupation, natural land transformation, water depletion, and fossil depletion. General-purpose, glass, and restroom cleaning products were included in the study. Model products of GS-37-compliant, conventional concentrate, and conventional ready-to-use versions of each cleaning product were evaluated in the study.

Results and discussion

The conventional ready-to-use industrial and institutional cleaning product had the highest environmental impact in all product types and for the most impact categories analyzed. The GS-37-compliant products were lower than the conventional products in most impact categories studied. Furthermore, normalization of the results showed that the impact categories of marine ecotoxicity, human toxicity, and freshwater ecotoxicity were dominant, and the conventional products led these impact categories. The packaging and distribution stages were dominant for the conventional products, whereas the product formula (i.e., chemicals used in the product) contributed significantly to overall impacts for GS-37-compliant products. This is because the GS-37 standard addresses packaging and distribution, but could potentially further address the formula considerations.


The comparative life cycle assessment performed in this study showed that the Green Seal Standard for Cleaning Products for Industrial and Institutional Use, GS-37, identifies products with notably lower environmental impact compared to typical alternatives in the market. This reduced impact was a result of the requirements in the Green Seal standard that addressed the leading sources of the impacts (namely packaging, transportation) and is not included in any other standard or recognition program in North America.

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  1. Also referred to as compliant product

  2. (Accessed January 25, 2011)

  3. Weight = 120 g

  4. Weight = 65 g


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cheryl Baldwin.

Additional information

Responsible editor: Gerald Rebitzer

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Online Resource 1

LCI dataset for each chemical ingredient (DOC 39 kb)

Online Resource 2

Drivers for environmental impacts (DOC 173 kb)

Online Resource 3

Results for glass cleaners (DOC 166 kb)

Online Resource 4

Results for restroom cleaners (DOC 33.5 kb)

Online Resource 5

Cumulative energy demand results for all cleaners (DOC 14.9 kb)

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Kapur, A., Baldwin, C., Swanson, M. et al. Comparative life cycle assessment of conventional and Green Seal-compliant industrial and institutional cleaning products. Int J Life Cycle Assess 17, 377–387 (2012).

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  • Cleaning products
  • Ecolabel
  • Environmentally preferable
  • Environmental impact
  • Green
  • Green seal
  • GS-37
  • Institutional
  • LCA
  • Standard