Green Cleaning Interview with Steve Ashkin

 

WHAT’S NEW IN GREEN CLEANING PRODUCTS AND TECHNIQUES FOR 2011 AND INTO 2012?

In the realm of Green Cleaning, we are seeing an expansion of chemical-free cleaning, and we expect this trend to continue. This is the use of systems, equipment, and cleaning processes that are proving effective at removing soils from surfaces without the use of chemicals, Green or otherwise.

Without question, as equipment costs decline and performance levels continue to improve, chemical-free cleaning will play a key role in the professional cleaning industry.

We can also expect more testing of cleaning performance. Some referto this as bringing more science into cleaning. The bottom line is that the methods used for cleaning will be analyzed and must prove their effectiveness.

As to cleaning products specifically, I believe we are finally starting to see some quality Green floorcare chemicals, finishes, and glosses on the market. These products meet the performance levels of conventional products and are cost effective as well. Along these lines, we can expect tosee more hard-surface floor coverings that do not need to be stripped and refinished or that can be cleaned using chemical-free cleaning systems. All of these measures will help Green floorcare.

In addition, I believe in the near future we will see a greater emphasis on training for cleaning professionals. However, this is not necessarily teaching procedures, as we normally think of training. Instead, this training will focus on how cleaning professionals can help building owners/managers reduce waste, energy use, and water consumption, etc. In other words, clients will call upon cleaning professionals to help them become more sustainable and reduce their building operating costs.

WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN GREEN CLEANING PRODUCTS AND TECHNIQUES OVER THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS?

Please let me be among the first to compliment manufacturers in the professional cleaning industry. Many of the Green Cleaning chemicals and products used today are excellent—light-years more advanced than products introduced even a few years ago. They perform as well as, if not better than, many conventional products; they are more cost effective; they are made from more sustainable ingredients; and they have helped protect the health of thousands of cleaning workers and building occupants. My hat goes off to them.

And, I am happy to say, I expect this trend to continue into the future.

HAVE YOU NOTICED AN INCREASE IN CLIENT DEMAND FOR GREEN CLEANING PRODUCTS OR SERVICES?

Yes. For instance, I am currently working with two major real estate organizations, some of the largest property owners, developers, and management firms in the country. They now view Green Cleaning productsand services as comparable to traditional cleaning ones but—and this is really exciting—they now view Green Cleaning as a “best practice.” This means they believe that dollar for dollar, measure for measure, it is the best way to operate a facility. This is making Green Cleaning the norm, especially in this country’s largest facilities.

There are a lot of reasons demand for Green Cleaning has been increasing. Of course protecting health and the environment have alwaysbeen key concerns.
But more recent driving forces have been the desireof many facilities to be LEED certified as well as the fact that major labor unions and children’s health groups are now actively behind the Green Cleaning movement.

ARE THERE ANY NEW GREEN CLEANING REGULATIONS THAT BUILDING SERVICE CONTRACTORS SHOULD BE AWARE OF?

We are going to continue to see more and more states pass regulations requiring Green Cleaning in schools and in public facilities they either own and operate or publicly fund. In addition, many organizations and facilities will soon require chemical manufacturers to fully disclose what ingredients are in their products. This demand for greater ingredient transparency isimpacting many industries, not just ours. Consumers and end customers not only want Green Cleaning products used in their facilities, but they also want to know what exactly is in those products. Some may be Green but may contain an ingredient that could be potentially harmful to children, for instance. School administrators want to know whether this ingredient is present before making a selection.

HOW IMPORTANT WILL THE GREEN CLEANING INDUSTRY CONTINUE TO BE? WHERE DO YOU SEE GREEN CLEANING GOING IN THE NEXT THREE YEARS?

We may not be talking about Green Cleaning as much three years from now as we are today. But the concept of Green Cleaning is now with us forever.

To understand this, imagine an office in the late 1970s. Secretaries are thrilled with their new typewriters, and someone even has a new fangled handheld adding machine. Fast-forward about 15 years, and those same people are now working at computers and using spreadsheets rather than adding machines.
This scenario is designed to show that we are not going back to typewriters and adding machines. In the same way, we are not going back to chemicals made with known carcinogens, ingredients that we know trigger asthma in children, or products that cause skin irritations or worse. Those days are over; powerful, harmful chemicals, although they may have served us well for years, have been replaced with chemicals that are safer, healthier, effective, cost competitive, and more environmentally responsible.

Therefore, Green Cleaning and the Green Cleaning industry are vital now and will be in future years.

ANY LAST COMMENTS?

One of my closest and most respected friends is Scot Case withEcoLogo™. Scot knows probably more about Green purchasing than anyone I know. Scot says that companies want to buy Green products and services from companies that are themselves Green. For instance, clients may think twice about purchasing Green Cleaning products and services from a facility service provider whose workers are driving around in old gas-guzzlers rather than fuel-efficient vehicles.

And this is not just a matter of “political correctness.” Major companies in all types of industries now know that in order to keep their costs down,they have to operate in a Greener and more sustainable manner…and so must their vendors. This development is going to impact our industry tremendously in the future.