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Sustainability

Green is easier said than done

September 19, 2010
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"It''s not easy being green," once remarked Kermit the Frog.

Sorry to borrow a line from Kermit, but it seems appropriate for this discussion and relevant to what the cleaning industry is feeling right now.

The green invasion
In the cleaning industry, "green" takes on a completely new meaning today compared to just five years ago.

Green dominates trade magazines, trade shows, product manufacturers, training and certification classes.

Most of the professional cleaning industry understands what green means, but is it easy to accomplish?

Cleaning professionals are the stewards of indoor air quality (IAQ) and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) through the application of professional procedures to eliminate the unwanted waste matter in buildings.

We locate, identify, collect, contain and transport this unwanted matter through a system of cleaning procedures specifically designed to ensure the unwanted matter does not impact humans in a negative way, while leaving the cleaned area free of moisture or cleaning product residues.

We are often asked to accomplish this for the lowest cost possible.

Cleaning green: The difference
When green is thought of as a systems approach or, in other words, "cleaning green" as opposed to "green cleaning" we have a larger set of options available to the professional cleaner.

Every procedure we enlist in our battle against unwanted matter may impact the indoor environment.

Vacuuming, wiping, sanitizing, mopping, extracting and drying, as examples, can all have an affect on the building''s environmental quality and therefore an impact on the occupants of those buildings.

Our green procedures need to be thoroughly evaluated through the process of training.

Our staff needs to be brought up to speed on what practices are logical to be continued with human health at the forefront of the debate on cost effectiveness versus low bid.

Our customers need to have information to make value decisions based on the same issues that impact our cost effectiveness rather than the traditional relegation of cleaning to the back burner of budget issues.

Any time we bring customers into the debate on "what is right" rather than "what is the cost," the debate becomes cloudy and the potential for misunderstanding is great.

The tough questions
The debate is easier to conduct when answers to the tough questions are known.

Who exactly is responsible for the green programs?

Do the customers have a responsibility to ensure their clients or employees have access to environmentally sound cleaning practices?

Or, do they just relinquish that responsibility to the cleaning professionals?

How do our customers know that we know?

What criteria does a consumer use to determine which professional cleaning company has the right knowledge or programs to be environmentally responsible?

Many times, it is based on advertising and marketing, not training and awareness of environmental issues.

Holistic approach
Our industry needs to be more responsive to cleaning green in order to minimize our negative environmental impact.

This doesn''t mean to just buy cleaning products that have met some arbitrary measurement of a certifying body.

Instead, ensure that your products and procedures have been thoroughly evaluated to have a minimal impact on the indoor environments we are contracted or responsible to clean.

Green products are only a part of the system.

Our cleaning systems need to be made green through training and application of best practices with highly motivated professionals accomplishing each cleaning task as a part of a holistic approach to overall environmental management.

Each staff member needs to understand their role in the system and be a part of an environmental team.

Our customers need to be informed as to why this could be important to their interests.

It won''t be easy to get everyone as interested as we are, but the most difficult things are usually the most rewarding when accomplished.


Dane Gregory is a business consultant and trainer specializing in working with companies in the professional cleaning industry. He currently trains technicians in the use of cleaning protocols for stone, tile and masonry surfaces for IICRC Certification. He also presents a business opportunity for newcomers in the cleaning industry in the care of ceramic tile, stone and grout, with a full equipment and training package. He can be contacted at dane.gregory@charter.net. You will find a safety program template that can be purchased at www.tilecarebusiness.com.

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