What’s Happening in California May Impact the Cleaning Industry

When it comes to Green and sustainability issues, our nation’s capital has just moved.  It’s now located in Sacramento.

With the sixth largest economy in the world, California can and does have the power to impact environmental programs throughout the country.  Plus, nine other states, including New York and Washington, have joined forces with California when it comes to protecting the environment.

And there is something else we should add. Since the 1960s, California has been the trendsetter in this arena. Architects, planners, building managers, and others have long looked to the state for innovation, especially today when it comes to sustainability and environmental issues.  They see what California is doing and then replicate it in their own projects.

So, what is happening today in California that might impact jansan businesses and our future dealings with building owners and managers?

The first thing we need to know is that California is taking steps to become the world’s first major economy to abandon the use of fossil fuels as a primary source of energy. They are doing this by putting much greater emphasis on building optimization.

It is estimated that nearly 70 percent of all the electrical consumption in the US is delivered to commercial buildings, the ones owned and managed by our customers. While developers have made tremendous gains in the past decade in making buildings more “efficient,” California now wants to take things to the next level.

Before going further, the word “efficient” is in apostrophes for a reason.  Efficiency refers to long-term reductions in the use of energy, fuel, water, waste, chemicals, etc.  Efficiency is the first step on the journey towards sustainability.

The California Energy Commission has proposed a requirement that all new residential construction be, what is called “zero net energy,” by 2020, just two years away.  The program expands to commercial buildings ten years after that.

According to the US Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, a net-zero building is one that “produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements.” In other words, new buildings in California will be essentially off the “grid” for most of their daily operations.

And just so we don’t think existing buildings will be left behind, the state is working with local communities, enacting programs to help older commercial facilities also become more efficient and reduce consumption.

Typically, the program starts by helping managers and owners determine precisely how much energy their facility is using on an annual basis. To do this, they are using what are called “sustainability dashboards.” Once the benchmark is established, consumption is continually measured, monitored, and with these metrics in hand, steps can be implemented to reduce consumption.

Interestingly, the state is also encouraging new and retrofitted facilities to share their Green and sustainability progress with their tenants and commercial neighbors.  The thinking behind this is that sharing this information becomes a key motivator for other owners and managers to follow suit.

So, how does this impact the professional cleaning industry?

Typically, when programs like this are in place, building owners and managers want their vendors to be on the same sustainability team.  For example, in 2011 only 20 percent of the Standard & Poor 500 companies published sustainability reports.  Six years later, that number increased to 85 percent.

So, to play ball with these owners/managers, whether in California or elsewhere in the country, jansan professionals will need to have their own Green and sustainability programs in place.  Not only will this help differentiate their company from the competition, it will help reduce operational expenses and increase profitability.


Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in Green cleaning and sustainability.  He is considered the “father of Green Cleaning;” is on the Board of the Green Sports Alliance; and has been inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame (IGIHOF).

He is also helping the professional cleaning turn sustainability into cost savings.  He can be reached at steveashkin@ashkingroup.com