header services logo masthead
The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981

A Green Refresher - Clearing up the Confusion about Green Cleaning


Green Cleaning Bubbles

While there have been numerous articles in this publication and others discussing green cleaning strategies, the reality is that many BSCs are still hesitant to go green in their operations. When asked why, many say they simply do not get enough demand from their customers. Additionally, some BSCs actually believe green cleaning solutions are made of stuff like grass and wheat germ, and feel these products do not perform as well as traditional ones. There is also a cost concern, as most non-green BSCs still believe that green cleaning solutions cost more than their traditional counterparts.

Adding to the confusion, when pressed, many BSCs admit they are not really sure why one product is labeled green and another one is not. They aren’t aware of who determines such labeling and how is it done. These and other issues all add up to reluctance among some BSCs to use green cleaning products and transfer to a green cleaning strategy.

Clearing up the Confusion
We hope to address these concerns here, beginning with the first one mentioned—a lack of customer interest. While some cleaning contractors may not get many requests from their clients for environmentally preferable cleaning products, customer demand is not the only reason for cleaning contractors to adopt a green cleaning strategy. Adopting a green cleaning strategy actually benefits your staff. While traditional cleaning products have served us well, the reality is that many of them contain very toxic ingredients, including known carcinogens. These products are potentially dangerous to one’s health, especially if used on a regular basis. Moreover, they can negatively impact indoor air quality and pollute the environment.

When it comes to the ingredients, green cleaning products are not made from grass and wheat germ; rather, they are manufactured using proven and effective ingredients that have a reduced impact on health and the environment when compared to traditional cleaning products. This reduced impact means protection for your health, that of your staff and customers, and the planet as well.

Who says it’s Green?
There are a number of respected green certification organizations that evaluate cleaning products, including Green Seal®, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Design for the Environment (DfE) program, UL/Environment, and others. While they are all independent, the standards and criteria they use to determine if a cleaning product is environmentally preferable are relatively similar. If certified, a product bears the organization’s label. In general, these standards and criteria include:

• The product is made from ingredients that are proven to have a reduced impact on the environment, as compared to traditional products used for the same or a similar purpose.
• The ingredients are biodegradable, non-toxic, and proven safer for people and other living things. • The product performs as well as (if not better than) comparable non-green products used for the same purpose.
• The product does not have, or has a significantly reduced, number of potentially harmful ingredients, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and other ingredients that can harm health.
• It is packaged in recyclable materials and the product itself may be recycled.
• The product meets all conventional and regulated safety standards.
• It is cost neutral.

Let’s clarify a few things here. First, the reputable certification organizations require that all products seeking certification be tested by an approved independent, third-party laboratory. You will also note that product performance is evaluated. In most cases, an environmentally preferable product will not be certified if its performance does not prove effective.

Also, note the words “cost neutral.” Some green cleaning solutions do cost more than traditional cleaning products. However, one thing some contractors overlook when selecting green cleaning solutions is that they tend to be very concentrated. These concentrations help make green products cost neutral and while they may cost more initially, purchasers can realize cost savings in the long term.

And just because a product is green certified today does not mean it will remain that way in the future. There is typically a time period—typically two or three years—when the product can bear the label of the green certification organization. After that, it must be recertified. In some cases, the standards and criteria may change following the original certification, which means the manufacturer will need to reformat its product to meet the new Green standards and guidelines.

How to Select Green Cleaning Products
Once a product is certified green by a respected organization, the product will bear the mark of the certification organization on its label, in its marketing materials, and so on, reminding us that it meets the required standards. However, as noted before, not all green cleaning products perform the same, and as we all know, this is true with traditional cleaning products too. This means that a cleaning contractor who wants to transfer to a green cleaning strategy will likely need to test several green solutions before finding one that satisfies the BSCs requirements for both price and performance.

In one case several years ago, the cleaning products purchaser for the State of New York had to test 23 different green floor finishes before finding the right one. Fortunately, this is rarely the case today because new technologies have helped eliminate such trial and error. Additionally, many distributors in the U.S. now have access to web-based analytical tools and dashboard systems that allow the contractor and distributor to work together to find the green solutions that best meet their specific needs.

These days, when BSCs want to evaluate the quality of their green cleaning products, they can simply enter their current products into these web-based systems, which will suggest green alternatives that are comparable using a variety of metrics, such as effectiveness, performance, cost, etc. As you would expect with any cleaning solution, some testing may still be required, but BSCs will certainly not need to evaluate 23 different products before finding the best one.

The Future
As we head into the future, it’s highly unlikely that BSCs will still be able to claim that they do not get enough client demand to switch to green cleaning. Without question, more facilities than ever are going green these days, and they’re doing it for a variety of reasons. Most tenants believe green buildings are not only healthier, but also better managed. What’s more, facilities across a wide range of industries are seeking to become LEED certified, and LEED now requires green cleaning strategies to be in place as a requirement for certification. As of January 2015, nearly four billion square feet of commercial space has been certified through LEED. With trends like this, it’s likely that adopting a green cleaning program will soon be mandatory for any successful cleaning contractor.

Michael Wilson is vice president of marketing for AFFLINK, a sales and marketing organization for professional cleaning, building, hospitality, healthcare, and government-related industries.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.