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Picking a partner

September 19, 2010
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Green Cleaning is a facilities maintenance trend gaining momentum in the United States.

It is a method of cleaning and maintaining a facility that is friendly to the environment and healthy for the occupants of the building.

The process involves using environmentally friendly and non toxic cleaning products and practices that are third-party certified.

Choosing to use Green Cleaning practices and products can result in numerous benefits including a healthier building, increased employee productivity, and reduced facility maintenance costs.

In-house facility managers who are considering outsourcing to help go “green’’ should keep in mind that each facilities maintenance provider will have its own unique set of skills and experience, and it is important to find one that will be a partner in helping you achieve your facility’s Green Cleaning goals.

Here are eight tips to demystify the process of choosing a facilities maintenance provider that will make it easy for you to implement a Green Cleaning program:

1. Educate yourself, and understand what it means to go “green.”
The first step to implementing a Green Cleaning system is to understand what the program involves, and what you can expect when beginning the process. Going green is more than just switching from a traditional cleaning chemical to a green alternative. A well-implemented, effective Green Cleaning system will work to reduce cleaning’s impact on people, as well as the indoor and outdoor environment, but ultimately it will serve to protect the health of all those using the facilities.

2. Determine your reasons for going green.
There are independent reasons for taking each facility green. Outline what you hope to accomplish through this process, and keep those goals in mind when selecting a facilities maintenance provider. Are you looking for safer working conditions, lower cleaning costs or lower worker’s compensation costs? Knowing what you want to attain through green maintenance practices will help to identify the provider that best meets your goals. The clearer the vision and the more educated you are on Green Cleaning practices, the better you will be at assessing a provider’s ability to effectively create the ideal green facility.

3. Ask for an assessment.
Request an assessment of your building when beginning to review different green facilities maintenance providers. This should consist of a complete inventory of the facility’s cleaning products and equipment and should be followed by guidance on which issues to address first and a timeline of when each item will be approached. The changes that are simple and inexpensive should be immediate priorities due to the high return on investment. Other changes should be made based on the risk of harm to both worker and occupant health, or to the environment.

4. Evaluate the provider’s janitorial products.
Cleanliness is usually judged by outward appearances — what an area looks like after cleaning products have been applied. Green Cleaning looks at more than just that; it considers such standards as preventing indoor air pollution and reducing toxicity and waste. The janitorial firm you select should employ green products tailored to address your specific needs and concerns, which can include poor ventilation or waste reduction.

5. Request proof that the provider’s products are third-party certified.
Third-party certification verifies that products meet specific standards. This validation ensures that the products truly reduce risks to the health of users and building occupants, decrease environmental impact, and work as well or better than conventional cleaning products.

6. Investigate the provider’s cleaning practices.
How a provider uses its products is just as important as the products themselves. Ask questions regarding the janitorial staff’s knowledge of the products and each one’s intended use. Does the provider continually educate its employees on how to use the products, as well as new products and practices in Green Cleaning?

7. Make sure the cleaning product matches the need.
Another important factor is knowing that the janitors are correctly matching the cleaner to the job. For example, using a product that is too strong for cleaning a mild stain is counterproductive and costly. This wastes the chemical cleaning product, exposes the janitor to unnecessary risk, and might damage the surface being cleaned.

8. Make sure your maintenance providers are using the right equipment.
Knowing that your maintenance provider employs the proper equipment for achieving green standards is important. For example, vacuuming and cleaning up dirt as it appears can reduce the need for the use of harsh cleaning products. Your janitorial manager should select cleaning equipment that is durable, energy-efficient and quiet. Durable equipment will not be a burden on the waste stream, energy-efficient equipment promotes conservation, and quiet equipment reduces noise pollution, which creates a healthier environment for the janitorial staff and for tenants.


Kirk Kofod is senior vice president, Client Services and Quality Engineering, for OneSource, a provider of outsourced facilities services in commercial, institutional and industrial markets in 45 states. He can be reached at www.one-source.com.
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