I have been in this business for over 30 years and have seen a lot of things come and go. Being an old timer, I thought the green movement was going to be a passing fad. The usual rebuttals end-users voiced were: “Green chemicals don’t work” and “They don’t smell strong so they can never clean the dirt in my facility.” While this movement was evolving, these were real questions I was asked: “Do I have to start switching all my products over?” “Will I ever be able to bring in specialty products for tough situations?” And, if you got into a LEED building, “Do I have to wear hemp shirts, drive plug-in cars and mow green roofs?”
What is green and green cleaning? Green is a designation given to products that are safe for people to use and safe for the environment. These products are made with little or no VOCs and with sustainability in mind. Sustainability is making products from renewable resources that can be regenerated such as soy, corn etc. Green cleaning is using these products with good cleaning practices. Cleaning for health becomes the main purpose, rather than productivity.
A big misconception in the cleaning industry is that if you are told to be green, then you have to be 100 percent green. I think this is the biggest misunderstanding. You can be green and be within your budget. You just have to decide how green you want to be. Obviously we would all love to be 100 percent green, but sometimes budgets and the type of soil we come across do not allow us to do that. But you can be green and get the job done.
Is it necessary to walk around a “Class A” building with a bottle of degreaser with a pH of 13.9 to take finger prints off of doors and walls? Or how about carrying around a bottle of hydrochloric acid bowl cleaner every day to clean the bowls? These products are not necessary on a regular basis and we have found that for daily cleaning, the lesser ph, lower VOC products do fine. When you need the heavy stuff, bring it in and get it out that same day. Just by doing this, you have lowered the exposure of VOC’s and damaging products greatly and guess what? You are greener than you where before you did this.
Now was that painful? No! Any improvement for green cleaning is an improvement for the environment. We have to crawl before we walk. I believe there still is resistance because some people feel they have to have a 100 percent conversion and this is not the case. Buildings still have to be cleaned and green products are improving every day. You still can be green by occasionally using the products for restorative means.
When putting together a green program, you should bundle paper, plastic, hand soap, and equipment utilizing the newest dispensing units available. This also reduces costs down the road. A dual motor vacuum or a Hepa type filter vacuum with good CFM can reduce dust and pick up more dirt, thus reducing dusting and extracting while providing cleaner air for workers and building occupants. I recommend using the LEED template as your guide when setting up the program.
Shared responsibility with vendor, customer and manufacturer is key for it to succeed. Green programs can also save you green. It has been proven that a green cleaning program, along with the proper cleaning practices, can actually reduce cleaning costs. Also in some cases, insurance rates were reduced because safer chemicals are being used. Remember the days when you spilled acid bowl cleaner on a carpet or when bleach from a bowl swab dripped on a carpet?
Green is not going away. It can work and, with every little move we make to become greener, we are helping ourselves, our workers and our environment become a safer and healthier place for future generations. Many of us in the industry have seen the light, but there are still a lot a BSCs that refuse to listen. As you can see, it is not hard and is very painless. So let’s go back to our janitor’s closet and see how we can be a little greener than we were yesterday.