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August 2013 Feature 7

Separating ‘Green’ Fact From Fiction

Though the JanSan industry has adopted more sustainable cleaning methods, many managers still have unanswered questions.

August 13, 2013
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About 10 years ago, one of the leaders in the professional cleaning industry — and still a very important figure — indicated that while he believed green cleaning and the use of environmentally-preferable cleaning products would continue to evolve, it would follow what is known as the Pareto Principle: Twenty percent of the industry would likely adopt green cleaning while 80 percent would continue to clean using conventional cleaning tools, chemicals and equipment.

However, time has proven this gentleman wrong.

What has evolved in the past ten years is just the opposite, according to Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group.

Ashkin is considered the leading advocate for green cleaning in the professional cleaning industry.

“What we see now is that most facilities, probably more than 80 percent at this stage, [are] selecting green cleaning tools and equipment and incorporating green cleaning strategies,” Ashkin says. “As a matter of fact, it is actually becoming rare for at least a brand-new location not to have a green cleaning program in place.”

Because green cleaning has had such a major impact on the professional cleaning industry as well as the building and management industries, it might serve us well to clear up confusion about certain cleaning myths.

This article aims to answer frequent questions and address common concerns when it comes to green cleaning.

Myth: If a product is green it means it is safer for the user and the environment.

Fact: This is true, but with one caveat.

While the product is safer, it still must be used properly.

Users are always advised to dilute the product properly, use as instructed and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Myth: All green products perform alike.

Fact: Green cleaning products are not all the same.

Like other cleaning products, some perform better than others, some work better on certain surfaces than others and so on.

It is best to try the products first and compare them with others before making a final selection.

Myth: All green certifications are the same.

Fact: While many of the certification organizations use similar standards and criteria, they are not all the same and some products certified by one organization may not earn certification with another.

It is best to select a certification organization that is well-known and widely respected, and then look for the products they have certified.

Myth: Green cleaning products do not work as well as conventional cleaning products.

Fact: Generally speaking, this is false.

Manufacturers have struggled making green equivalents for some floorcare products, but in recent years, some have been able to address these challenges.

For most other cleaning products, green equivalents are proving as effective as, and in many cases better than, conventional cleaning products.

Myth: Green and sustainable are the same.

Fact: The definitions of these terms are evolving in the professional cleaning industry because today most green cleaning products must be made from renewable resources.

In the view of Green Seal and some other green certification organizations, green and sustainable are becoming increasingly interconnected.

Myth: There are times when a conventional cleaning product should be used.

Fact: This is true.

While it is not the case in Canada, in the U.S. at this time, no disinfectant may be labeled green or green certified.

This means a conventional disinfectant must be used.

Additionally, there may be other situations, such as in floorcare as mentioned earlier, when a conventional product is necessary.

However, green equivalents are now available for most professional cleaning products.

Myth: Users prefer conventional cleaning products.

Fact: This is false.

Although many green cleaning products were met with reluctance years ago, that is no longer the case.

One key reason for this is that many cleaning professionals had adverse reactions to traditional cleaning products that no longer materialize using green products.

As a result, they now typically prefer using environmentally preferable products.

Myth: Green cleaning products cost more than conventional cleaning products.

Fact: For the most part, this is still true.

However, and this is what is very important to know, green cleaning products are often highly concentrated.

This saves on packaging costs and reduces transport needs.

The products last longer so the additional cost is often made up by the higher concentration and reduced packaging and transport costs.

Myth: Cleaning with green products usually takes more time.

Fact: While this may have been true years ago, this is not true today.

However, cleaning professionals are advised to try different green products, just as they would conventional cleaning chemicals, and select those that perform most effectively for them.

Myth: Green certification is not necessary because the federal and state governments have rules and regulations about the use of cleaning chemicals.

Fact: There are literally thousands of chemicals on the market that have not been thoroughly tested by government entities as to their safety.

Very often, the dangers related to using a product do not come to light until after the product has been introduced in the marketplace.

Jennifer Meek is the director of marketing for Enviro-Solutions, a leading manufacturer of green cleaning products.

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