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Expanding your green horizon

September 19, 2010
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An ecosystem is a system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment.

In many ways, your cleaning department represents an ecosystem.

Every component of this system has an impact on the environment of the buildings you clean.

Each product or process used, staff member employed, and occupant within the building directly affects — or is affected by — your cleaning operations.

If you’re thinking about greening your cleaning operations to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, enhance the health and safety of your employees or limit the impact on the environment, you must think about your operations as a complete ecosystem.

Components of the system
Like getting your employees to wear personal protective equipment as one important step in your cleaning program, switching from traditional chemicals to green-certified chemicals is one step in developing a green cleaning program.

Adjusting procedures and products used elsewhere in your operations can also improve the impact of cleaning on health and the environment.

“The guiding principles of our green cleaning approach is to clean for health first and appearance second,” says Craig Hodges, vice president of sales for CleanSource, a California-based JanSan distributor. “There are many products cleaning professionals can use beyond cleaning chemicals to green their operations.”

For example, implementing a complete microfiber program is an important investment you can make to further develop your green cleaning program.

Furthermore, microfiber mops used with a dual bucket system can lead to numerous positive impacts on health and the environment, including reduced chemical usage, water conservation, improved worker safety and longer life cycle.

In addition to microfiber mops and dual bucket systems, microfiber cloths also reduce chemical use and help enforce green.

Ergonomics and training
Ergonomic products are not generally thought of as conventional “green” products; however, they are a great way to green your cleaning program by empowering employees and enhancing their quality of life.

According to a 10-year study completed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nearly two million workers annually suffer an ergonomic injury at work with approximately 600,000 of the injuries resulting in lost time.

When a worker is out for an injury, it can create additional responsibilities for other staff members and potentially disrupt operations.

“Green cleaning is just as much about empowering the employees as it is using the right products,” says Hodges. “Ergonomic tools are a great way to enhance an employee’s productivity and performance, while limiting work-related pains and injuries.”

Comprehensive training programs
Comprehensive training is another way you can enhance your green cleaning programs.

Train-the-trainer courses, seminars, and on-the-job training are effective ways to educate employees about proper practices associated with green cleaning.

“We work closely with our customers to ensure the products and systems they purchase are used correctly,” notes Hodges. “Depending on the size of the cleaning staff, we train supervisors and provide training cards staff can reference on the job. In addition, we customize charts for each facility that provide detail on correct products and procedures. This not only ensures proper procedures are followed, but also helps staff understand why green cleaning is beneficial.”

Communicating to change perceptions
When cleaning professionals encounter resistance to green cleaning initiatives from staff, a little communication will go a long way.

Securing staff buy-in to your green cleaning program is an integral component of any green initiative.

Ensure cleaning staff understand that green cleaning programs are also an investment to enhance their own safety and productivity.

Communicating information about your green program to building occupants is another often overlooked component of an effective green cleaning program.

Cleaning professionals who promote their green cleaning program help demonstrate the importance of cleaning on a building’s operations.

In addition to educating customers, this communication also brings well deserved recognition to the cleaning staff.

If you have a marketing department at your facility, develop materials that communicate how you have greened your operations, why the changes are important, and benefit the environment, cleaning staff, as well as building occupants.

By looking at your department as a complete ecosystem with individual components that can have multiple effects, you can find additional ways to green your operations.

Changing out chemicals is only a start.

While various products, such as microfiber and ergonomic tools, can have positive impacts on health and the environment, it is equally important to implement processes, such as communication programs, which can also enhance your green cleaning program.

Bruno Niklaus is vice president of global marketing for Unger Enterprises. For more information, please visit or call 1-800-431-2324.

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