With a growing number of companies transitioning to more environmentally responsible business models, sustainability has become an important focus for cleaning and maintenance professionals.
This has spawned increasing demand for non-toxic, biodegradable cleaners and equipment options that provide more eco-friendly cleaning capabilities.
Fortunately, both new and well-established suppliers are rising to the challenge by providing innovative solutions that are helping many achieve their goals of providing cleaner, greener workplaces, schools, hospitals and other public facilities.
In the last decade, states, cities, counties and public institutions across the United States have initiated bans on toxic cleaning products, and some are now mandating the use of nonpolluting cleaners.
This trend will certainly continue as overall environmental standards continue to be set higher.
Moreover, it has become substantially more common for businesses to implement green cleaning programs as a tactic to remain competitive and profitable.
Once a goal has been set to become more sustainable, cleaning and maintenance professionals have many resources to help them develop comprehensive plans of action to initiate green cleaning programs.
The organization''s website provides detailed checklists, processes and strategies for maximizing operational efficiency while minimizing the environmental impact in existing buildings.
Besides switching to recycled paper products and biodegradable trash bags and garbage can liners, one of the most significant ways to increase a cleaning program''s sustainability is to switch to safer, less toxic alternatives to standard cleaners.
There are now eco-friendly options for almost every type of cleaner.
Everything from floor strippers and degreasers to glass cleaners and hand soaps are now widely available with formulas that are better for the environment.
While there are many cleaning products that are safe, non-toxic and better for the environment, some are just marketed as "green" alternatives and hardly offer any improvement over standard cleaners; this practice is known as greenwashing.
Thus, it''s always a good idea to specifically look for products that are certified and meet the environmental standards of Green Seal Inc., EcoLogo, Design for the Environment (DfE) or another independent, third-party evaluation and testing program.
According to Brent Crawford, president of Core Products Company Inc., "Forward-thinking vision keeps green cleaning at the forefront of new product development. With quality products that stand up to traditional cleaners in both performance and price, there''s no reason not to choose greener alternatives."
Why do green cleaners play such an important role in achieving environmental goals?
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies have shown that human exposure to air pollutants can be two to five times higher in a workplace than outdoors.
Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) contributed to cleaning supplies has been proven to cause a variety of attendance-reducing and productivity-inhibiting ailments including headaches, asthma, nausea, dizziness and fatigue.
The impact on cleaning personnel who have long-term exposure to cleaning products at high concentrations can be even more serious.
Exposure can even lead to chronic conditions such as cancer, neurological illnesses and reproductive disorders.
Besides inside air quality issues, the overall impact of standard products on the outdoor environment is also significant.
With over six billion pounds of chemicals being used by commercial and institutional buildings in the United States each year, large volumes of phosphates and other toxic chemicals are polluting the water supply and harming algae, plant and animal life.
Eco-Friendly Cleaning Equipment
To create a well-rounded, sustainable cleaning program, equipment must also be evaluated to determine eco-efficiency.
With improved options available for mops, brooms, buckets and even rags, there is no shortage of ways to decrease a facility''s environmental footprint.
Certain JanSan manufacturers offer eco-friendly commercial carpet and floor cleaning solutions that foster improved air quality, lower costs and reduced consumption of chemicals when compared to traditional cleaning systems.
Unlike traditional carpet cleaners that leave carpet wet, contributing to mold growth and decreased air quality, sustainable carpet and floor cleaner combination equipment utilizes renovator technology to hygienically remove soil without adding moisture and toxic chemicals to the carpet.
"[These systems provide] a number of sustainable features that can help facility managers meet their environmental goals," says Richard Bertossa, executive vice-president of Brush and Clean Corporation. "Not only does [this] system significantly reduce mold growth on carpets and scrub floors with an effective yet eco-friendly cleaner, it also provides a two-in-one solution that eliminates the need for purchasing multiple pieces of equipment."
There are now also many environmentally friendly vacuums on the market that are worth considering as part of a green cleaning program.
The newest models are more energy efficient while still being powerful enough to get the job done.
Most range between four and 12 amps and offer features such as high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, multi-cyclonic technology, Microban antibacterial protection and Green Label certification.
Undoubtedly, as more facilities transition to greener practices, manufacturers will increase their focus on developing cleaners and equipment that support sustainability goals.
This will inevitably lead to more choices, lower prices and better products that will ultimately improve the conditions within these buildings and the environment as a whole.
Julie Trade Levitch is a freelance writer specializing in environmental and health topics. She has had articles featured in the U.S. News and World Report, as well as many trade publications, journals and blogs. She resides in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband and two boys.