Message from Steve Ashkin

April 2014 – Happy Earth Day!

We just want to take a moment to thank you for all of the work you do to make a difference. Whether you are focused on Green Cleaning or sustainability, your efforts are important.

One of my favorite quotes is from Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtfully committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

As I think about the significance of Earth Day, and the way it raises awareness and attention to the impacts we have on our environment, I found several additional quotations that I think you may appreciate.  

Until a man duplicates a blade of grass, Nature can laugh at his so-called scientific knowledge. Remedies from chemicals will never stand in favorable comparison with the products of Nature, the living cell of a plant, the final result of the rays of the sun, the mother of all life.

— Thomas Alva Edison

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.

— William Shakespeare

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.

— John Muir

The proper use of science is not to conquer nature but to live in it.

— Barry Commoner

 And one I know you all have heard, but still bears repeating:

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

— Native American Proverb

We hope you have a wonderful day, and take the time to think about why Ear

Thank you for all that you do! 
th Day was initiated and how we all can continue to create positive impacts on our environment.


Steve and David

January 2014 – We are doing well, but we can do better!

Steve Ashkin

I don’t know if you’ve seen the new APIC Report on Long Term Care Facilities, but it is upsetting and unsettling to me. Click HERE for article.  APIC found that an estimated 1.5 million infections occur annually in our long term care facilities, resulting in 350,000 to 400,000 deaths.  350,000 to 400,000 DEATHS!  What troubles me beyond just the numbers is that we actually know how to prevent them and can’t seem to get it done.

We have the cleaners, sanitizers, disinfectants, sterilants, mops, buckets and other materials that we know work well.  We have the procedures, processes and training protocols.  We have the QC systems. Our people are willing to do the job and they care.  And yet 350,000 to 400,000 people die every year and this is on top of the 70,000 to 100,000 that die each year in our acute care facilities from hospital acquired infections.  Shameful!

So who’s to blame?  I believe we have no one to blame but ourselves.  We are all responsible for this mostly because we refuse to pay for better outcomes.  While no one wants to waste money or pay even a single dollar more than necessary, but we are complicit because collectively we refuse to pay for greater staffing levels.

The long term care facilities and hospitals don’t want to pay for more staffing out of their profits; nor do the insurance companies — and I understand because they each work very hard and their margins are often tight.

Individuals don’t want to pay higher insurance premiums, higher fees for hospital stays or long term care to increase staffing — and I don’t blame them either as many individuals struggle just to pay the rent, put food on the table and provide other basic necessities.

Our elected officials don’t want to authorize higher fees paid by Medicare and other government funded programs to increase staffing — and I understand this as well especially considering the huge budget deficit our government has.

In the end, I am suggesting that the root cause of the problem is money!  Money buys resources, time and specifically enough people to make sure rooms are clean.  It buys enough time for people to wash their hands and change their floor mops.  Unless we are willing to make this a budget priority, people will continue to die unnecessarily.

So in 2014 I hope we can make this a greater priority.  A link to the APIC report is available here and together as facility management and cleaning professionals, we should be advocating for our profession and for the people in the facilities that depend on our work.  And this goes beyond just our health care facilities to include buildings for vulnerable populations like schools and day care centers; as well as our offices, homes and other buildings.  Increased funding for more staffing, training and cleaning products will positively affect occupants’ health, productivity, performance, quality and other measures making this an outstanding investment that would save lives and save money.

From an environmental perspective, the year started off with a major chemical spill in West Virginia.  Please know that having spent 30+ years in the chemical industry I am not a chemophobe nor a chemical industry hater.  In fact I am very proud of the contribution our industry has made improving the quality of life and creating great jobs.  But this spill is a clear indication that our system is broken.

For example, we know almost nothing about the chemical that was released because testing is minimal at best.  This is a clear call to action regarding transparency, disclosure and accountability — and hopefully the public will demand meaningful reform this year of the 1970s era Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

But not all is negative.  As a matter of fact I think there are a lot of positive signs for us including the expectation for industry growth in 2014.  For example, the USGBC announced the certification of their 20,000th building and check out some of my “Top 10” events affecting the Green Cleaning Movement.  And recently Joel Makower and the folks at GreenBiz published their 7th annual State of Green Business report which is filled with lots of important takeaways.

I was especially interested to see the progress being made “greening the supply chain” — which of course includes us!  While not all is rosey, we nonetheless are making progress even if it seems like one step forward and two steps backward.

All the best,

Steve Ashkin