The Hospitality Industry and Green Cleaning

The following are questions recently asked of Stephen Ashkin regarding Green Cleaning in hotel/hospitality facilities.

1) Is there a movement within hotels to use Green/environmentally friendly cleaning products? Why or why not?

It is a feather in its cap that the hotel/hospitality industry was one of the first industries to embrace Green cleaning and still continues in the forefront of the Green cleaning movement today. I suspect the movement started as a result of hotel housekeepers complaining of having reactions to the cleaning chemicals they use for as much as eight to ten hours every day. I am aware specifically of just such a case in a hotel property in Florida, where some housekeepers reported “runny eyes” using certain chemicals virtually every day. This stopped when environmentally preferable cleaning chemicals were introduced.

A second reason is that the hotel industry must cater to all kinds of people from all over the world. Cleaning chemicals and products used here with little reaction may cause serious reactions in people from another country. Because the goal of Green cleaning is to reduce cleaning’s impact on people and the environment, switching to Green products just makes sense.
But something that has evolved in the past few years that has really spurred hotel properties to go Green is that their corporate customers are now requesting it. Very often when corporations look for hotel accommodations for their staff, one of the prerequisites is that the hotel uses Green cleaning products. Corporate guests can be major customers for hotels, so of course hotels want to do all they can to meet these customers’ needs and expectations.

2) If so, what kinds of Green/environmentally friendly cleaning products are hotels using? What makes a Green/environmentally friendly cleaning product?

As to the first question, virtually all conventional cleaning chemicals now have Green equivalents. So, whatever has been used in the past can now be replaced with environmentally preferable products.
The second question is very important. At one time, twenty or more years ago, many manufacturers self-proclaimed their products to be Green. In some cases, this proclamation was based on the best science of the day; in other cases, the term may have been used more for marketing purposes than based in fact.

Today, a Green cleaning chemical is one that has met specific criteria and standards as to its ingredients and the way it is manufactured and has been independently tested by a third party and verified to meet those standards. Such organizations as UL/Environment, GreenSeal, and DfE (the EPA’s Designed for the Environment program) are three of the key certification organizations at this time.

3) Besides the cleaning products themselves, are there other processes or procedures housekeeping can perform/undertake that are considered Green/environmentally friendly?

What we have learned over the years is that using Green cleaning products is one thing, but to enjoy the full benefits of a Green cleaning program, they must be used according to specific procedures and methods. At least two nonprofit organizations have established Green cleaning certification programs that specifically address methodology and include such things as having a written Green cleaning plan; custodial training requirements; communication requirements with key stakeholders regarding the special needs of a facility or, in this case, hotel property; and other measures.

4) Does a hotel’s use of Green/environmentally friendly cleaning products and procedures count toward any kind of larger, overall environmental certifications like LEED?

At one time, a facility earned credits for using Green cleaning products. Now the U.S. Green Building Council views the use of Green cleaning products as so imperative that credits are no longer given; it is a now a prerequisite for LEED certification.

5) Are there any education/procedures hoteliers/GMs can put in place for their housekeeping staff to make sure they are using Green/environmentally friendly products and practices?

Earlier we mentioned that there are two nonprofit organizations that certify Green cleaning programs. They are:
• GreenSeal and its GS-42 program
• ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association, and its CIMS-GB program
These organizations would be the best options for finding guidelines to follow for a Green cleaning program.