Earth Day Offers a Unique Opportunity to Create Excitement About the Positive Impact of Green Cleaning

By David Holly, The Ashkin Group

Green Cleaning

Image source: Microsoft Office Images

Several years ago, back when Green Cleaning was still a relatively novel idea, there was speculation that contractors who offered a Green Cleaning program might be able to charge a premium for that service. At that time, many contractors started marketing a Green Cleaning division or specialty service and trying to gain a few extra cents per square foot for these “specialty services”.

Of course, a few forward looking contractors realized that offering a special Green service wasn’t a sustainable long-term strategy. They also realized that stressing the health and environmental benefits of such a service would naturally lead to clients and prospects asking them why they still offered traditional services at all. These contractors realigned their operations to clean green on a daily basis.

Over the past few years, this second group was proven correct – the average facility owner or manager, if they were concerned at all with green or sustainability – did not expect to pay more for Green Cleaning. They simply wanted to work with service providers who “got it”.

No, Green Cleaning did not usher in a new era of higher priced services. And, green products have become competitive in performance and cost with traditional products used for the same purposes. While price per gallon may vary from product to product, typically the all in cost – the cost of getting the job done proves to be at worst competitive and often the green product proves superior. This shouldn’t be surprising; manufacturers have put the bulk of their R&D dollars and resources against this challenge. The newest products, the newest technologies are largely in the green arena.

So while Green Cleaning did not lead to increased prices, it has spurred a great deal of effort, energy and resourcefulness into product development. This has led to a renaissance of sorts for the janitorial product landscape. For too many years we’ve not really seen any significant innovation in this marketplace, now we see new technologies on a regular basis. I’ve written previously about cleaning with water. This is just one area of new technology that was inspired by the concept of Green Cleaning.

But products aren’t the focus in this month’s article. I want to go back to my first passion – service. No, Green Cleaning didn’t lead to new, higher priced services. But, since the focus on Green Cleaning has intensified, so have questions about and interest in topics such as measuring clean, defining cleaning standards, training, performance based contracts, the whole issue of specifications and focusing on results. Lynn Krafft has been talking about the Universal Clean Surface Criterion for years – now his ideas are gaining more attention.

Ironically, it was the Green naysayers who really generated the interest in looking at results. Those who tried to debunk Green Cleaning as a fad started asking for proof that the products, procedures and processes really worked. Suddenly, there was a lot of interest in “proving” that Green cleaned – and by extension that any system cleaned. Now we have Integrated Cleaning and Measurement, Cleaning Sciences, ATP testing, and several product standards testing protocols and programs. Just as the interest in Green Cleaning spurred innovation in the product market, it is spurring innovation in measuring service – or more accurately – results.

And the same contractors who “got it” when Green Cleaning was introduced are “getting it” when we start talking about results focused service or performance based contracting. And just as these contractors benefited from developing relationships with facility mangers who wanted to work with service providers who understood green and sustainability, they will find the same benefits as facility managers look to rely on contractors that deliver results.

As Earth Day (April 22) approaches, contractors have an opportunity to talk about results not only with the facility manager, but potentially with building occupants as well. Of course, these conversations aren’t limited to Earth Day, but it does offer a unique opportunity to create excitement around cleaning. Many facilities are organizing Earth Day events as a chance to demonstrate the engineering and architectural features of the way they are greening the building. Often they will bring in recycling experts to encourage and reinforce the recycling programs within the facility. Now is your chance to talk with occupants about the impacts of cleaning.

It is unfortunate but true, that while evidence shows the positive impact Green Cleaning has on health and productivity, most people will not realize that connection themselves. By participating in the Earth Day activities at your facility, you have an opportunity to talk about how the way you clean and the products and tools you use are making a positive difference in the building. Bring a vacuum cleaner with a micro-filter bag to describe how you are taking the fine particles out of the air. Demonstrate the way a micro fiber cloth picks up dust rather than spreading it back into the air. Make a simple chart that shows the number of trees saved by using recycled content in paper products and so on.

Studies show that the average consumer is becoming much more aware of sustainability issues and chooses green products for use at home. These same consumers are the occupants of the buildings you maintain. Chances are excellent that they will respond positively to your message and feel better about where they work because of how you are cleaning the building. And, as every successful contractor knows, satisfied occupants are a significant part of long-term customer retention.