Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

CM/Spotlight: Floor Care — Celebrate Earth Day With Green Floor Care

September 19, 2010

On April 22, 2009, people throughout the world will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a day developed to bring awareness to issues surrounding sustainability and the protection of the Earth''s natural resources.

The first Earth Day celebration was very effective at changing attitudes toward environmental issues.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "Public opinion polls indicate that a permanent change in national priorities followed Earth Day 1970. When polled in May 1971, 25 percent of the U.S. public declared protecting the environment to be an important goal, a 2,500 percent increase over 1969."

Since then, the movement has reached its tipping point in many countries.

Individuals and organizations have become increasingly aware of the broader implications of their actions and their potential affect on future generations.

No one knows this better than managers and directors of cleaning departments who face increased pressure to green their cleaning operations.

To meet this demand, manufacturers are offering "green" products, some of which do not have any less impact on the environment.

While chances are good that you''ve already implemented at least one green cleaning process or product into your overall operations, floor care is one area you can focus on starting this Earth Day.

There are several simple strategies you can use to green your hard floor care program, beginning with the process of floor finishing.

In addition to helping improve the sustainability of your operations, these strategies can also save you money.

Old Techniques, Old Problems

For many cleaning professionals, "sustainability" means using equipment and chemicals that limit the impact of cleaning on the environment.

However, cleaning professionals should also consider products and processes that limit impact on workers and building occupants.

When someone''s health is adversely affected, it reduces his or her activity, thereby limiting the product''s sustainability.

Occupant Impact

Some traditional finishing methods can have a negative impact on building occupants.

For instance, the mop-and-bucket method is considered an open system that can release more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the indoor environment than closed systems.

As a result, building occupants are exposed to strong odors that often result in complaints.

Resource Waste

Cleaning professionals often attempt to eliminate the impact of cleaning on building occupants by closing down areas or scheduling floor finishing for evening hours.

Night cleaning increases energy costs in facilities that are not open 24 hours because it requires additional use of lights and heating/cooling units.

In addition to energy waste, some traditional floor maintenance programs result in water and product waste.

Traditional mop-and-bucket methods require significantly more water and chemicals compared to newer application methods, much of which is wasted in the process.

Traditional mop heads absorb floor finish, leaving chemical in mop fibers after a project is complete.

Also, studies have shown that employees often pour too much finish for the job, wasting the leftover chemical or even washing it down drains.

Staff Injury

According to the most recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 42,000 occupational injuries requiring time away from work in the janitorial industry in 2000.

Of these, 15,200 were musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) requiring a median of seven days away from work.

Traditional floor finishing methods that require repeated lifting of heavy buckets, applicator units or backpacks increase the risk of back and neck injuries.

In addition, use of straight mop handles without ergonomic features in mop-and-bucket or flat-mop systems can increase risk of MSDs or other occupational-related injuries.

You can avoid costly expenses such as workers'' compensation claims, loss of productivity, complaints, waste disposal and shipping costs by implementing a green hard floor care program.

Give Your Floors A Green Sheen

To find the most sustainable way to apply floor finish, look for new systems that reduce the possible ill effects of the floor finishing process on staff, building occupants and the environment.

Tip #1: Get a grip on it

Look for new ergonomic designs that reduce the impact of applying finish on the user''s hands, arms, shoulders and back.

In addition, tools should fit users of all heights so bending is not required.

Ergonomically-designed products reduce injury and costs, enhancing worker productivity and contributing to a more sustainable environment.

Tip #2: Pay attention to the wrap

Sustainable containers reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and the fuel needed for transportation while also allowing for easy storage.

In addition, when you use systems with bag-in-box (BIB) packaging, you can

easily reseal them after use, reducing the opportunity for contamination and potential waste.

Tip #3: Look for closed-dispensing systems

Look for systems that do not require finish to be transferred from the original package to a secondary package.

The benefit of this type of system is that it reduces the opportunity for spills.

In addition, the system reduces the exposure of floor finish and VOCs to the indoor environment, improving indoor air quality (IAQ).

Tip #4: Don''t trash it

Innovations in floor care have eliminated the need for water while reducing chemical waste.

Look for environmentally preferable floor care systems that automatically dispense finish onto the floor, eliminating any guesswork.

After applying finish to the surface, you should easily be able to reseal the finish container so leftover finish can be used later.

Tip #5: Look at the literature

By using products with low VOC content, not only are you making the indoor environment better for staff and building occupants, you are reducing the environmental impact because these products also contain fewer volatile contaminates.

While there are many sustainable initiatives you can take throughout your cleaning operations, use Earth Day as the starting point for greening your hard floor maintenance program.

By incorporating closed, ergonomic floor finishing systems that do not require cleaning, you can reduce impact on staff workers, the environment and your bottom line.


Lance Brown is an innovation leader of floor care for JohnsonDiversey. For more information, visit www.johnsondiversey.com/prospeed or call (262) 631-4001.