Green Cleaning: The Challenges

Green Cleaning: the Challenges is pulled from an interview with Stephen Ashkin for the National Safety Council:

What are the top three challenges organizations face when deciding to go Green and what solutions can you offer?

Over the past two decades, I have worked with several facilities to help them go Green. In my experience, the first challenge is the decision itself to begin operating a facility in an environmentally preferable manner. This is a top-down decision. By this I mean if the top management of an organization is not behind the process, the final Green outcome is put in doubt.

Assuming top management has made the decision to go Green, the next issues involve how to implement the program. What this usually entails is the creation of a “Green Team,” which decides such things as: What makes a product Green? Must all future purchases for the organization be certified by an honored certification organization or meet specific Green criteria? Will going Green reference just cleaning or will it involve the entire building envelope, including reducing waste, reducing fuel, water, and energy use, etc.?

It should be noted that the success of the Green Team is very dependent on how well they communicate their progress and any changes that will be made with the organizations staff. Keeping staff posted on what changes are coming and why they are being implemented–usually to help protect health and the environment–lowers resistance and improves acceptance.

Finally, the Green Team may find there are many areas that need to be addressed in the Greening of an organization. To help organize the process, some facilities take what I call a three-bucket approach. In the first bucket are items that can be changed now at relatively little costs. The second bucket includes items that may result in some initial costs but can be incorporated over the next six months to a year. The final bucket includes more expensive changes that may take more time to implement. For instance, a facility may find it needs to update its HVAC systems. These are expensive mechanicals. Setting a goal of installing more energy-efficient systems within two to five years is not unreasonable.

What is your “Best Practice”  Advice?

Selecting Green cleaning products: This is easy. Simply select cleaning products that are certified or meet the same Green criteria developed by EcoLogo, Green Seal, DfE (Designed for the Environment), or other honored organizations.

Training workers on correct usage: I cannot stress enough the importance of working with a janitorial distributor well-versed and trained on Green Cleaning products. They will not only be able to instruct personnel on how to use the products properly, but will also have a fairly good idea which Green products will work best on specific surfaces and in specific situations.

When deciding to contract out janitorial services: Certification programs for contract cleaners are now evolving, and invariably they involve how to implement and manage a Green Cleaning program. Such programs as CIMS (Cleaning Industry Management Standards) developed by ISSA, the worldwide cleaning organization, is an example. Ask contract cleaners if they are familiar with and have had training in Green Cleaning methods, as well as where they received this training.