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Know the Difference Between Green and Sustainable

Written by  Shannon J. Winslow-Claunch

green and sustainablegreen sustainable

How does your organization stack up?

There’s no doubt that green practices save money, are better for workers and the employees who work in the buildings. Embracing green is better for environment, improves waste streams, prevents air pollution, and reduces carbon output. That’s why so many commercial cleaning companies have already embraced green cleaning strategies. But what’s next in the green evolution? Surely we can all do better. Arthur Weissman, Green Seal President says, going green is just not enough in 2016. “In the coming decades, factors tied to sustainability will disrupt virtually every sector, at times reshaping the competitive drivers of an entire industry.” What’s more is that Weismann believes companies can do better financially if they pay attention to meeting their clients’ demands for sustainability.

Let’s face it. We are all concerned about what the future holds for the next generation and beyond due to problems facing our culture today such as climate change and resource scarcity. Psychologist Tim Kasser of the Center for a New American Dream, says we have gotten to where we are at because Americans are in love with their stuff. “Today’s consumer culture presents us with seemingly endless choices of clothes to wear, foods to eat, and products to buy—and we do, by the cartload. Unfortunately, we also discard and replace our stuff at an alarming rate, creating tremendous amounts of waste. Our constant accumulation of stuff has significant consequences for the environment, for communities around the world, and even for our own health and happiness,” says Kasser.

The culture of consumerism and greed and doing things the way they have always been done undermines sustainable practices in our personal and our business decisions. And while making changes personally toward more sustainable practices is important, embracing sustainability at a corporate level can have a much larger impact on the environment.

A recent report from the Conference Board, shows that the best companies in the US doing just that. They are generating as much as twenty percent of income from portfolios with sustainable business. Organizations like BMW, DSM, DuPont, Marks and Spencer, Desso, and Michelin are cannibalizing their old economy businesses to create tomorrow’s growth businesses. Given the right strategic underpinnings, sustainability can provide a significant edge for launching or transforming any business model.

Companies want to meet their own sustainable goals and the public wants solutions. For commercial cleaning companies that means paying attention to the industry standards is paramount to not just staying competitive, but staying relevant in the industry. So the question becomes, ‘How can changing a cleaning program to more eco-friendly practices create a healthier workplace and better world?’ After all, commercial cleaning contractors are not only defined as sustainable by the types of cleaning compounds they use—although that is important—but beyond ecofriendly cleaning formulas, the big picture processes that you set and enforce will define your clients’ and your own organization’s sustainability profile.

Founded in 1907, the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International is an international federation of over one hundred local associations and affiliated organizations. The eighteen thousand members of BOMA International own or manage more than nine billion square feet of commercial properties in North America and abroad. BOMA’s mission is to enhance the human, intellectual and physical assets of the commercial real estate industry through advocacy, education, research, standards and information.

The standards set by BOMA for green cleaning and sustainability have been established because the nature of work and types of products used has the potential to negatively impact the environment and public health. The following practices in BOMA’s Green Janitorial Checklist have been established for businesses seeking green compliance, moving toward adopting a culture of sustainability.

• Training

° Tenant education policy

° Significant maintenance staff training

° ESL maintenance staff training

• Cleaning Products

° Controlled mixing station

° Eco labeled cleaning products

° Minimized number of products used

° Minimized aerosol products used

° Cold water used

• Cleaning Tools

° Use of recycled or microfiber mops

° Use of recycled or microfiber wipers

° Use of recycled wood for mop handles

• Vacuum and Carpet Care

° Use of CRI certified, HEPA, or other high-filtration vacuums

° Use of low-moisture carpet cleaning systems

° Regular inspection of filters and equipment

° Use of more environmentally-friendly equipment batteries

• Hard Floor Care

° If needed, eco labeled floor finisher

° If needed, eco labeled floor stripper

° Cold water used

° Low water or electrolyzed water use scrubbers

° Reduced floor stripping operations

• Restroom Care

° Recycled or biodegradable plastic bags used

° Use of eco labeled paper products

° Use of waste-minimization dispensing systems

° Eco labeled hand soap used

° Limited use of automatic deodorizers

° Limited use of urinal blocks

• Entrance Care

° Recycled fiber entrance matting system

° Frequent vacuuming of entrance areas

Green Seal, a Washington, D.C. based nonprofit organization that develops environmental standards and certifies green cleaning products, has established a standard for green cleaning practices. The Green Seal™ Environmental Standard for Cleaning Services (GS-42) identifies the necessary components that should be incorporated in a commercial cleaning company’s operations, communication, purchasing, training and labeling. The standard also includes an emphasis on environmental improvements that reduce toxicity, waste, and exposure to both building occupants and custodial staff. The standard can serve as a tool to help companies begin to take action to improve their cleaning service and develop a long term commitment to sustainable business practices.

Beyond going green to protect the environment, and fulfill customer expectations, going sustainable requires a heightened awareness that we are each part of the big picture and what we do as a company affects the planet. In Weiseman’s book, “In the Light of Humane Nature,” he discusses the environmental movement, its successes and downfalls and how the motives of going green have changed over the years. He says, “Despite many environmental laws, regulations, and incentive programs and the growth of the green economy in recent years, most of our vital indicators continue to spiral downward.” He sums it up by saying that only by getting in touch with the human values we treasure and that define humanity, can we become more humane and move beyond green to sustainable business.

Sources: http://www.greenseal.org, http://www.newdream.org, http://business.edf.org, https://www.sustainabilityconsortium.org, https://youtu.be/9Qlx99oSAn8, https://www.boma.org


1 comment

  • Comment Link Jake Wednesday, 25 May 2016 13:56 posted by Jake

    Very insightful!

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