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How cleaning is helping shape the sustainability agenda

March 31, 2014
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The words ‘clean’ and ‘green’ go together perfectly — and not just because they rhyme! The sustainability agenda is informing and driving legislation, product design, service provision and trends in so many areas of our lives — and the cleaning and maintenance of our buildings is no exception.

From political circles to public on-line forums, the environment is a hot topic for debate that shows no signs of moving from the top of the agenda. With parts of America recently suffering from the worst snow storms in years, we are all too aware of our changing climate. The result is that organizations are now expected to find ‘greener’ ways to run their businesses, and limit the effect their activities have on the wider world.

The mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to ‘protect human health and the environment’. It does this by developing and enforcing regulations; studying environmental issues; working in partnership with business, non-profit organizations, state and local government; teaching people about the environment; and publishing information. One of the most interesting topics it covers is the issue of ‘green buildings’.

The EPA defines a green building as: ‘a structure that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout its life-cycle’. It goes on to say that green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by:

  • Efficiently using energy, water and other resources
  • Protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity
  • Reducing waste, pollution and environment degradation.

It’s clear that committing to sustainability is essential for businesses who want not only to survive, but also to thrive, in the 21st century. Renewable energy sources provide a win-win situation for businesses keen to achieve two important aims. The most obvious is to cut energy costs; the other is to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and lessen the impact of a firm’s activities on the environment.

The cleaning and maintenance of public buildings, offices and work spaces is an area where companies can start to take the first steps on their sustainability journey. The cleaning industry is rising to the challenge and using technology to find more sustainable ways to clean. This has seen a rise in machines that need less energy to operate, or incorporate batteries that have a longer run time between faster charges; together with equipment that needsless water and chemicals, but still provide the required hygienic results. Water-fed pole systems that use pure water don’t need chemicals, saving both money and helping companies with their ‘green’ agendas; plus re-usable, washable pads for cleaning equipment such as mops, mean less waste and more sustainability.

As companies and organizations have become more environmentally aware, an increase in the use of solar panels has created opportunities for innovation, particularly in the window cleaning sector. Installing solar panels represents a big investment in both time and money, so businesses need to ensure that they are kept in top condition to reap the expected rewards.

Soiling that is left on the panels stops sunlight from getting through, meaning that less energy is produced, in some cases resulting in a decrease in efficiency of 30%. This is obviously not acceptable, so regular cleaning has to be in place to ensure you protect your investment.

Water-fed poles have adapted and now also lend themselves perfectly to cleaning solar panels, dispensing with the need for ladders or cranes but still cleaning safely and efficiently to help boost solar output. Cleaning with chemicals also runs the risk of leaving a film on the panels that can prevent the sun’s rays from getting through, so the most effective way to clean is to use pure water. To get to this state the water is processed to remove the minerals and impurities that would otherwise dry and lead to spots and streaks.

I fully expect even more innovations to emerge in the coming months and years as the cleaning and sustainability agenda continues to gather pace. Tools and systems that provide the cleanest, greenest results, are on the rise – and society, and the cleaning industry, are all the better for it.


Author: John Lombardo, Vice President of Global Marketing, Unger

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