Time to Close the Green Gaps in Green Cleaning

 

By Steve Ashkin of The Ashkin Group

While North America is excitedly preparing for a long-deserved warm summer, Australia and other countries in the Southern Hemisphere are planning for winter.  The changing of the seasons, no matter which continent you live on, is also a good time to evaluate your Green cleaning programs and look for, what I call, gaps.

Discovering where gaps exist requires doing a “Green gap audit.”  This is simpler than it may sound.  It involves comparing Green cleaning products that are being now used in your facilities to those recommended by such organizations as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED-EBOM) Rating System.  This program, which is both followed and honored around the globe, identifies Green requirements for cleaning chemicals, paper products, powered cleaning equipment, plastic liners, and other cleaning-related tools and supplies.

Using this product information, facility managers as well as facility service providers can compare their current Green products and equipment and revise if and where necessary.  In most cases, this is a relatively easy process and an astute jansan distributor can make the process even easier and quicker.  The goal, of course, is to identify areas where improvements can be made—where new Green products, chemicals, and even cleaning practices and technologies can be instituted to ensure facilities are Greener, healthier, and more sustainable.

Three key things to include in the gap audit are the following:

  • Compare costs:  Green cleaning products, in general, have become much more cost effective.  And, there may be new Green products introduced in the past couple of years that may be even more cost competitive when compared to older Green cleaning products.  Why?  Many manufacturers had start-up costs and had to invest heavily into research and development to formulate early Green cleaning products and equipment.  In order to profit from their endeavors, these costs were added to the final price tag.  These extra costs may no longer be an issue for many manufacturers, which means the manufacturer’s savings can be passed on to the end-customer.
  • Compare performance:  At one time, managers and facility service providers had limited Green product options for performing certain cleaning tasks.  A perfect example of this is applying floor finish.  Because there were few Green floor finishes, many locations had to accept a “one size fits all” strategy.  That is no longer the case in many product categories, including floor finishes.  To close the Green gap, start testing some of the new environmentally preferable products to see if they perform better, or are more durable in the case of finishes, and are easier to use.  In some cases, there have been significant improvements.
  • Experiment with new technologies:  Consider testing some new cleaning technologies and equipment that have either recently been introduced or were in their early stages of development a few years back.  For instance, some “chemical-free” cleaning tools are proving to be very effective.  Recent tests with ATP metering devices have shown that certain no-touch cleaning equipment can also be effective at eliminating contaminants with little or no chemicals.  Further, more low-moisture carpet extractors and floor machines are now available from several manufacturers.  Not only do these systems use less water—a critical concern in parts of Australia—but less chemical as well.  Whenever less chemical is used, Green or conventional, it is usually better for the environment.

A Fresh Pair of Eyes

When we show out of town guests our small town in the heart of the U.S., invariably I discover parts of the city I either have not seen before or have not seen in several years.  It’s like I am visiting the town for the first time, but with a fresh pair of eyes.  Managers and facility service providers should also take some time each year to look at their facilities with a fresh pair of eyes.  This is also a key component of the Green gap audit.

Look to see if there have been changes in soil loads, levels, or types of soiling.  For instance, at one university, a parking lot located behind a building was once rarely used.  However, over time it became a commonly used parking lot for students and staff with many people going in and out of the adjoining building.

No one seemed to take heed to this change.  The mats installed in this area of the building were made for light foot traffic, not the heavy foot traffic it was now receiving.  Vacuuming frequencies were minimal, based on earlier usage patterns, causing soils and moisture to be tracked into the facility and impact the health and cleanliness of the entire building.  Further, the hard surface floors in this area were not receiving the care and attention necessary to meet the new use demands.

With a fresh pair of eyes, the managers and cleaning professionals were able to re-focus their time and energy, which resulted in more cleaning attention to this part of the building.  And, because all areas of a facility are in some way interconnected, once this part of the building was receiving more thorough cleaning, the health, cleanliness, and appearance of the entire building improved as well…all as a result of a Green gap audit.