As green cleaning has become more and more accepted within the cleaning industry and outside the marketplace, certain best practices have emerged for implementing a green cleaning program.
Green cleaning is a system that employs both green chemicals and green equipment.
However, a successful green cleaning program is not just a matter of having the right cleaning products.
Achieving the buy-in of building occupants and owners is also essential.
The following 10 steps developed by The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in greening the cleaning industry, offer building managers a basis for implementing their own green cleaning process.
Building owners, occupants and management must agree on how they define a green cleaning program and how it will be implemented into their facility.
To ensure adherence, the agreement must be in writing and written in the form of a concise, easy-to-understand contract.
With the agreement in hand, a team should be organized that includes not just cleaning professionals, but also the building management and occupants.
The team will meet and discuss the green cleaning system, and as a result of these meetings, will generate support for the project for all building occupants — a pivotal element in its success.
One of the team’s first duties is to determine the facility’s current housekeeping status by conducting audits to verify how the facility is being cleaned and maintained.
This will establish a baseline to judge future improvement.
For instance, surveys may include an inventory and evaluation of existing paper products, liners and cleaning equipment used in the location.
It may also include appraisals of the following:
Once the data has been collected, the team must analyze the information to determine the best ways to implement the green cleaning system.
They decide which areas need to be addressed first, based on contract requirements, costs and potential health and environmental impacts.
It is vitally important that everyone is involved in the process and supports the team’s plans and goals.
This is often best accomplished by including all necessary parties in the process and making them aware of how and why changes are being made.
To begin the process of greening a facility, new cleaning products and equipment may need to be purchased.
This may include investing in environmentally-preferable cleaning chemicals, vacuum cleaners with high-filtration filters, floor machines with dust-control systems to capture impurities so they don’t pollute the indoor environment, and microfiber cleaning cloths and mops, which are more absorbent than conventional cloths and mops and reduce the need for cleaning chemicals.
Begin new cleaning procedures that help cleaning professionals understand and use the environmentally-preferable products carefully, safely and with the goals of green cleaning in mind.
Adopting green cleaning is often an opportunity for all maintenance personnel to learn the most up-to-date cleaning procedures.
This often streamlines all cleaning operations and improves the appearance and health of the facility.
Once a green cleaning program has begun, cleaning personnel, building occupants and visitors share the responsibility of maintaining a healthy and productive indoor environment.
This is called stewardship.
These stakeholders make sure the green cleaning system is successful by reviewing the program’s progress and implementing changes necessary for the health of the facility.
Communication and feedback are vital among chemical suppliers, building occupants and management.
As with any new process or procedure involving many people, the ultimate goal is continued improvement.
Information provided by all parties helps facilitate this goal.
We really cannot end an article on the importance green cleaning without bringing in LEED (Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design).
With v4 of LEED, green cleaning is a prerequisite.
This means a green cleaning strategy must be in place in order for a facility to even be considered for LEED certification.
With older versions of LEED, facilities were given credits toward certification if a green cleaning program was in place.
Further, v4 requires that a much greater percentage of cleaning and cleaning-related products be green certified.
Seventy-five percent of all chemicals, paper products and liners must now be certified (up from 30 percent) and 40 percent of equipment must be recognized as environmentally preferable (up from 20 percent).
“For most cleaning and building professionals,” says Stephen P. Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group and chief executive officer (CEO) of Sustainability Dashboard Tools,“this tells us green cleaning is now the de facto standard when defining a green building. It also tells us we have come a long, long way in reducing cleaning’s impact on the environment.”
Ashkin once compared the evolution of green cleaning to an old locomotive pulling out of a train station.
The engine moves slowly, sometimes hesitantly, but over time it gathers more and more speed.
When the tipping point arrived with green cleaning — when the professional cleaning industry along with end customers decided they preferred to transfer to green cleaning strategies — is anyone’s guess.
However, suffice it to say green cleaning is now well-established in the industry and with few exceptions will likely be the way most commercial facilities are cleaned going forward.