Environmentally friendly or ‘green’ cleaning is not new, but client demand for this type of service is increasing every year. Studies show that worker productivity and morale improves in offices where green cleaning initiatives have been implemented, and absenteeism and sick days are reduced. Building managers are using green cleaning programs as a competitive advantage when marketing their space. Even consumers themselves use green cleaning products at home and expect the same level of commitment from their work environments.
For commercial cleaning companies, green cleaning has become a profit center, often demanding a premium due to the products, equipment and level of specialized services required. And those certified through the CIMS-GB program are reaping the rewards of their certification investment.
But what about clients who are environmentally minded but don’t have the budget for a specialized, premium green cleaning program?
The answer lies in client-by-client needs evaluation and by evolving what green cleaning truly means.
What is Green Cleaning?
Green cleaning is defined as cleaning in a way that protects human health while minimizing the impact on the environment. Green cleaning includes not only the cleaning products used, but processes that promote safety, health and socially conscious behavior such as recycling. It also includes minimizing the use of products and materials that require disposal to landfills. Improving air quality is also a goal of green cleaning, as health problems can result from allergens and the presence of contaminants such as mold and bacteria.
Sustainability is also a component of green cleaning, but it’s not the same as green cleaning. Unfortunately, many companies confuse the two. Sustainability is not about the products, equipment and methods used to clean. It’s about how the organization itself operates. According to Steve Ashkin, sustainability is defined as a process that “meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainability minimizes cleaning’s impact on people and the environment, but more importantly, it is a process, not a product.
Ashkin gives the following example of a manufacturer that uses sustainability as the foundation for the company’s concern for the environment. The company is a green certified paper towel manufacturer. The product they make consists of recycled fibers from previously cut-down trees. The manufacturer plants a new tree for each that is used in the development of that paper towel, replenishing forests for future generations.
A successful green cleaning program is one that not only provides a safe and healthy work environment, but one that incorporates sustainability practices throughout the organization.
Cost Considerations for Your Green Cleaning Program
Incorporating a green cleaning program can be expensive. It requires specialized equipment and products that are sometimes priced higher than their traditional counterparts. These include:
- Recycled paper towels, which are often more expensive than traditional towels
- Emission friendly vacuums
- Entry way mats made of natural fibers, which are sometimes not as durable as man-made materials and need to be replaced more often
- Cleaning solutions made with natural ingredients, which may have a shorter shelf life
Also, additional training is often required, particularly for those employees who will be working in buildings where the client is pursuing LEED® certification. This requires documentation in order to be awarded points for green cleaning practices as well as a very specific list of how to clean each area of a building.
However, there are ways to make green cleaning cost-effective – and sometimes even less expensive than a more elaborate green cleaning program or traditional cleaning service packages. The answer lies in evaluating each client’s specific needs and then considering the materials and products used to meet those needs.
Five Ways to Reduce Green Cleaning Costs
- Evaluate the frequency of cleaning various areas of a client’s space. Can some low traffic areas be cleaned less often? Reducing the total number of cleanings saves on cost – and may also reduce the impact on the environment.
- Help your client implement a recycling program. Recycling light bulbs and paper as an added service helps the environment and is also proven to increase employee morale in your client’s offices. Your company can be part of a client’s positive change!
- Develop green cleaning as a specialty. As you increase your client base of green cleaning clients, you can purchase supplies in larger quantities and reduce the amount of traditional chemical cleaning agents you purchase.
- Invest in sustainable equipment to replace your traditional vacuums and floor machines. The next time a machine needs replacing, look into environmentally friendly equipment that uses fewer chemicals.
- Buy equipment less often. Avoid filling landfills with old cleaning equipment by purchasing the best quality equipment you can afford, built to last many years.
Green cleaning is not a passing trend – it is here to stay. Commercial cleaning clients at every level are likely to ask you for a recommendation in this area, so it’s best to be prepared to offer several levels of service. By using creativity and a personalized approach, you can offer the right green cleaning package to meet any client’s needs and budget.
by Jean Hanson
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