If you have been in the cleaning industry for any length of time you have probably heard the term “cleaning green” roughly a billion times. Literally.
Today, the word “green” has changed colors and become little more than white noise. It seems that everyone is labeling everything they possibly can as “green” in a race to market products to the industry.
Don’t get me wrong, as a father to seven kids I am very much in favor of doing everything we can to hand off a world to our children that is in better shape than when it was passed to us. But at the same time there is a lot of marketing that takes place that is creating a “green-washing” effect in our industry. Essentially, a lot of misinformation is being propagated.
Probably the best example of this is in regards to the USGBC’s LEED Program. When people talk about a “green building” they are generally referring to a building that has already achieved certification or is going through certification for the USGBC LEED Program. While there are a variety of programs currently available through the USGBC, the most popular is the “Existing Building” or EB Program.
The program offers points in seven categories that a building can accrue to reach certification. Each category will have prerequisites that must be achieved for any points to be accrued and then credits that can be earned.
The categories are:
• Sustainable Sites: Addresses environmental concerns related to building landscape, hardscape, and exterior building management practices.
• Water Efficiency: Addresses environmental concerns related to building water usage and disposal.
• Energy and Atmosphere: Promotes the monitoring and improvement of a building’s energy performance, eliminating CFCs (chloroflourocarbons), and the use of renewable energy.
• Materials and Resources: Addresses the environmental concerns related to materials selection, sustainable purchasing, waste reduction, and waste disposal.
• Indoor Environmental Quality: Addresses environmental concerns related to indoor air quality; occupants health, safety, and comfort; air change effectiveness; energy consumption; and air containment management.
• Innovation in Operations: The purpose of this category is to recognize that improvements are occurring rapidly that affect building performance and the environment. Buildings with innovative or exemplary features are recognized here.
• Regional Priority: These credits allow for important regional issues to be addressed. In essence, additional credits are earned for specific issues being addressed. There are 110 possible credits that can be achieved by any facility.
The points breakdown is as follows:
• 100 base points
• 6 Innovation points
• 4 Regional Priority points
The Certification levels that can be achieved by acquiring points are as follows:
• Certified = 40 to 49 points
• Silver = 50 to 59 points
• Gold = 60 to 79 points
• Platinum = 80 points and above
It would seem that with 110 total credits possible equipment and janitorial supplies could play a huge role in achieving them. However, that is just not the case. In regards to cleaning equipment, there are only 2 points that can be earned - IEQ Credit 3.4 and IEQ Credit 3.5.
• IEQ Credit 3.4 = environmentally friendly equipment purchasing and maintenance of equipment. Contrary to popular notions or manufacturers literature, you do not receive 1 point for every piece of equipment that meets the criteria in this credit; you receive 1 point for the entire equipment fleet. To qualify, at least 20% of the existing equipment at the facility must meet the criteria for this standard and a policy must be implemented where all new equipment purchased will meet the criteria for this credit. Furthermore, equipment maintenance and repairs must be documented to achieve this credit.
• IEQ Credit 3.5 = use of sweepers for maintaining walkways.
As you can clearly see, equipment does not play a huge role in earning points for a facility trying to achieve LEEDS accreditation. However, equipment does play a significant role in maintaining a healthy indoor environment for the occupants of the building and should not be overlooked.
Always bear in mind that we live in two environments: the outdoor environment and the indoor environment. We spend 90% of our time indoors in an environment that the EPA has found on average to be two to five times more polluted than the outdoor environment.
The equipment that is used to clean a facility performs the vital task of removing soils and contaminates brought into a facility on a daily basis. This helps to create a safe, comfortable, and healthy environment for the people who live and work in the buildings you maintain.
A thorough knowledge of what green cleaning is, how it is achieved, and how a customer can benefit from it will always put you in position to make a difference for your customer, the environment, and most importantly the occupants of the facility.