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Sustainability Beyond Green

May 05, 2011
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In some ways, green cleaning and the green movement has plateaued, not just in the cleaning industry, but in other industries as well.

It''s not that cleaning contractors or building owners/managers can''t or shouldn''t strive to do better — they should; it''s more that, in today''s emerging marketplace, green cleaning is becoming the norm and is expected by leading customers and practiced — at least on the surface — by leading cleaning companies.

Tomorrow''s challenge today is moving to the next phase of sustainability that focuses on bringing more than a few states — California, Washington, Oregon, New York, Connecticut, etc. — and a few industries — education, government and health care — into the green movement.

Another challenge for green cleaning is to go beyond the low-hanging fruit of chemicals and equipment in order to find greater improvements, savings and environmental protection.

Green chemicals, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered vacuums and microfiber mops are easy to procure but, unfortunately, have very little impact on the environment or energy use.

The challenge now is changing behavior, which has the potential to make make a major reduction in the negative impact our activities have on the environment and energy use.

This includes making changes in how and when we clean and comprises such things as setting specific resource and waste reduction goals, switching to low-moisture cleaning processes and extending the frequencies of labor, resource and waste-intensive processes — all without a negative impact on the reasons why we clean.

The Next Generation Of Contractors

Over the last couple of years, I have noticed what I refer to as the next generation of contractors and business owners.

I''m wondering how these newcomers entering the marketplace will impact existing businesses.

It appears to me that these new people will catch the old-timers off guard.

Here are some characteristics that I''ve notice with these new competitors:

  • Under 30 years of age
  • Technologically suave
  • No fear of failure or the unknown
  • No limits and no borders.

Have you seen these companies in your neighborhood yet?

Something tells me that you will, and when you do, they will have already eaten your lunch.

Taking A Page from The Success Playbook

Cleaning businesses and the cleaning industry are like the tail on a dog: We are the last thing to go through the door.

We don''t like to amend and often fight or resist change almost to the death.

A broom and a mop are classic examples of this; much better processes and tools exist today that actually do a more complete job of cleaning, yet both historic tools are still in wide use in almost every building and business.

When it comes to business management subjects, today''s cleaning business owners would benefit from taking a close look at how high-tech industries approach business start-up for ideas on funding, future growth and marketing.

If you want to know where your industry is going, look at industries you serve and those that lead all others in sales and innovation.

Twenty years ago, major advances were made in how we clean office areas.

Among other things, we got backpack vacuums and Team Cleaning.

Today, major advances are being made in how we maintain hard floors.

Over the last couple of years, we have seen the introduction of ionized and oxygenated water, microfiber float mops, foam scrubbers, bucketless mopping and new flooring surfaces that, for most part, eliminate the need for stripping, burnishing and refinishing.

These surfaces include densified and polished concrete and vinyl flooring that comes coated from the factory with mineral impregnated wear layers that resist wear and respond well to low-moisture cleaning processes.

That''s it for this month.

Keep it clean out there.

Wm R. Griffin is president of the International Custodial Advisors Network Inc. (ICAN) and owner of Cleaning Consultant Services Inc. ICAN is a non-profit association comprised of industry consultants with a wide range of expertise in building management, indoor environmental and service disciplines. This network provides free janitorial and building maintenance consultation service to the industry through the Cleaning Management Institute (CMI). Comments to Griffin are welcome: (206) 849-0179;

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