Why green cleaning makes “cents” for sustainable facilities
A green floor-cleaning program benefits the environment and the bottom line
Green cleaning can help meet dueling facility management goals – improving sustainability and controlling operating costs.
Why clean green?
There are many reasons why distribution centers, warehouses, manufacturing plants and processing facilities can benefit from a green floor-cleaning program. From a cleaning-only perspective, green cleaning reduces the use of water and chemicals and improves the effectiveness of cleaning programs. It also directly impacts a facility’s sustainability efforts by reducing energy consumption, improving indoor air quality (IAQ) and contributing to certification programs such as LEED-EBOM (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance).
Certainly, stewardship of the environment is in itself a worthy objective, and it’s a goal of many companies small and large. But green cleaning can also reduce the cost of operating a facility and even help extend the life of a building. The ultimate benefits for most green cleaning practitioners are environmental stewardship and economic return.
Who is cleaning green?
According to a recent survey by the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA), 79 percent of material handling and logistics managers have or are planning to institute sustainability goals for their operations. And, at the close of 2009, 39 of the 4,286 LEED-certified projects were in food manufacturing facilities. Green initiative programs are the norm in many Fortune 500 companies, including Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Carrier Corp. and others.
The green movement for manufacturing and industrial sites is a natural outgrowth of what is already established in the “front office.” All warehouses have office space; over 2,000 commercial developments are certified as “sustainable” through the LEED® program (Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design) of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Now the focus is on what’s “out back”: the warehouse, distribution, manufacturing and processing facilities that are integral to operations.
THE DUAL BENEFITS OF CLEANING GREEN
Specifically, a green floor-cleaning program will reduce environmental impact and bottom-line costs through:
1. Less water/wastewater discharged
Traditional floor scrubbers can be big water guzzlers. For example, a 100-gallon floor scrubber requiring three tank-fills per cleaning shift will consume 300 gallons of water and associated detergent. Yet newer floor-cleaning machines can be big water-savers. Some floor scrubbers use ultra-low-flow dispensing that cuts water usage by up to 70 percent. In addition, floor scrubbers should be flexible enough to allow the operator to choose where to apply extra water or detergent, such as in higher-traffic or spill areas. Most of the cleaning can still be done with minimal water and detergent.
2. Fewer chemicals used and discharged
Floor-cleaning machines for scrubbing, buffing or burnishing use fewer and less toxic cleaning chemicals while still delivering superior cleaning. Automatic dispensing systems mix chemicals at the correct ratio and eliminate unused cleaning solution. To minimize chemical use, some new floor machines offer an ultra-low detergent or water-only cleaning for light, routine cleaning.
3. Improved indoor air quality
Gel-battery-powered equipment increases safety and convenience because there is no potential for battery acid spills or noxious gas emissions during charging that can occur with conventional batteries. Powered sweeping equipment can help improve IAQ by controlling the spread of dust while sweeping.
The importance of measurement
A “non-green” facility will likely pay electric, gas and water bills without really knowing what contributes to the costs. A green cleaning program is quantifiable. Simply being aware of how much water and chemicals are dispensed into the waste stream can be an incentive for reducing use. Establishing a consumption benchmark (i.e., before the program is started) and then measuring costs and contributing factors once the program is underway helps gauge success. Proper cleaning equipment and methods will significantly reduce use of these resources.
How to get started on a green cleaning program: Basic standards
Whether you’re working toward LEED certification or just want to establish best practices, there are three basic components to a floor-cleaning program: chemicals, equipment and policies/procedures. Establishing practices for these three components will help ensure a successful outcome. Here are some green standards that have been established for each of these components:
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Advance floor-cleaning equipment is designed to increase cleaning productivity and reduce the cost to clean — while also minimizing environmental impact and meeting today’s newest green cleaning standards. From vacuums and carpet extractors to sweepers, scrubbers and outdoor cleaning machines, Advance delivers efficient, easy-to-use equipment backed by professional, local maintenance and service support.
For an up-to-date list of the green certifications that Advance equipment has earned, contact a local Advance equipment dealer or visit