When the concept of green cleaning was first introduced we had not even seen the first hybrid vehicle. There were no Prius or plug-in electric vehicles of any kind. Very few communities had individual trash cans to separate waste. Green cleaning was outside the box. Now green cleaning is a powerful marketing tool cemented in deception and ignorance.
So, what is green cleaning? Conceptually green cleaning is a “process” that.
- reduces the time it takes to clean
- reduces the amount of water and electricity being used in a facility
- initiates recycling programs within facilities
- reuses materials such as petroleum based trash liners where possible
- uses cleaning products that meet the EPA guidelines for reduced environmental impact
- reduces environmental stress
In the early 90’s, when I was first introduced to Green Cleaning, it was in its infancy and the “products” we were introduced to were “green” . . . quite literally. They were so rudimentary that they only barely met or exceeded the (already lax) EPA guidelines but took twice as long to work compared to conventional products. It took a long time for these products to get better.
The good news? Green cleaning is, and always has been, rooted in changing the cleaning process itself, not just the products employed. Team Cleaning, for example, is a method that can have a major impact on efficiency and effectiveness. It allows cleaning teams to work in sync with each other so that they enter and exit sections of a building together, significantly reducing the use of electricity and increasing productivity.
Recycling programs are another green measure that can be implemented upon customer approval of any additional costs (being environmentally conscious is not always cheap). Recycling programs can have financial advantages however. Most communities have trash collection services that will pick up recycled waste at no charge. So, if a team is properly trained to separate waste, you can count on one less trash collection day per week.
Introducing waterless urinal systems into larger facilities is another way to be green and can save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per year in water costs. Proper disposal of hazardous materials, such as batteries and fluorescent lights, will also reduce your footprint. In addition, today, unlike in the past, many “green” products work just as well as a conventional ones, and are comparably priced and widely-distributed.
Still, even with all these benefits, we find ourselves struggling to get support for green cleaning.
Here are four reasons why green cleaning is still lagging:
- Company culture is hard to change. Making a change like this is not easy - culturally or financially. It requires a belief that cleaning green is the right thing to do and it requires on-going training that can be costly.
- Customer expense. Tighter and tighter budgets make it difficult for customers to swallow the additional costs associated with cleaning green and being environmentally responsible so many turn a blind eye while practices remain outdated.
- Marketing rules the world. The world has been brainwashed by marketers to believe that green cleaning is a product and not a process. This makes it easy for janitorial companies to enter the market as "green cleaners" further confusing the customer and the reality of its costs.
- Lack of knowledge. Customers and owners of janitorial companies are not in the know about the latest advancements in the green cleaning world making it easy to be fooled. There are many easy-to-read books on the market that can help you understand the scope and breadth of green cleaning. Green Cleaning for Dummies and "Stress Free Home" article is a great read.
Being a steward of the environment is everyone’s responsibility. Customers and janitorial companies working hand-in-hand towards a more sustainable indoor environment will create long-term cost savings and profitability. A true green cleaning program reduces electricity and water usage and allows facility owners to tout a more holistic green cleaning approach to their customers, tenants, and employees. Being responsible is not just cheaper, it's better. We have the choice to make a stand for our future. What will you do?