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Time to switch?

September 19, 2010
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Most industry people are familiar with the green movement.

Whether you’re traveling to industry trade shows and conferences, attending seminars, participating in JanSan associations or simply reading trade magazines, you’re well-informed about green cleaning.

But, with all this information, there are many who are still unsure about the benefits of green cleaning and are hesitant to transform cleaning practices into a green cleaning operation.

To find out why, CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management offered a “Green Cleaning Reader Survey” earlier this year.

The survey produced a good sample of respondents from three major segments of the JanSan industry — building service contractors (BSCs) as well as health care and education facilities.

When asked “How would you rate your firm or facility as a green cleaning operation?”, 87 percent of respondents indicated that they are either fully green (15 percent), are in the process of becoming fully green (56 percent — compared to 28 percent in a 2005 survey) or they’d like to be green, but are unsure of where to start (16 percent).

This means that only a small number of respondents — 12 percent — are not interested in making the switch to green cleaning.

Perhaps these people don’t believe the hype, are nervous to make change or think green cleaning is just the latest fad.

To address these concerns, we contacted industry experts and asked their opinion of why those 12 percent might be hesitant.

State of the marketplace
As big as the green cleaning movement is today, there were times in the past when it had trouble gaining momentum among distributors and end users.

At the time of the green cleaning survey, though, most people believe that this current movement is here to stay and that it’s exponentially growing.

Kevin Gallagher, vice president of EcoLogo™, attributes some of this staying power to former President Bill Clinton’s signing of an executive order requiring the use of environmentally preferable cleaning products in all federally owned or managed facilities.

And, Beverly Jurenko, president of cleaning contract company Best Cleaning Services LLC, Houston, TX, believes higher energy prices have been a catalyst for her clients’ increased interest in green cleaning.
“While managers are looking at new ways of being more energy efficient,” she says, “it opens the door for an examination of the whole facilities management program, creating opportunities for us to present our green cleaning program.”

Product knowledge
Another reason why it’s easier now to make the switch is because green product knowledge has dramatically increased.

Some proven benefits include: Better health for building occupants, such as fewer instances of respiratory illnesses and asthma attacks; reduced employee absenteeism; greater productivity due to safer working conditions; and less environmental impact.

Jurenko has even seen no added costs once she switched to green cleaning, which is a major concern for those who are hesitant. “If you do it right,” she says, “green cleaning doesn’t cost more and [it] generates huge benefits in indoor air quality. Once our customers try green cleaning, they never want to go back.”

Another reason for hesitation is that people believe green products are ineffective compared to traditional products.

However, Mike Sawchuk, vice president and general manager of Enviro-Solutions, believes this is because they have not been effectively presented the facts.

“Once they are given the facts and are presented with a plan, and if the green products (from their distributor) work as well as or better than traditional products and are competitively priced, most would be willing to make the change,” Sawchuk says.

Certification awareness
Now more than ever it is easy for distributors and end users to find products that are certified green.

“End users should look for certified products, such as those bearing the EcoLogo label,” Gallagher says, adding that this helps make an informed choice.

“With these products, the user can refer to the EcoLogo standard to know why the product is considered green and be assured that it has been proven to perform as well as any other product in the marketplace.”

Another popular certification organization is Green Seal. According to their website, “Industry knowledge and standards help manufacturers, purchasers and end users alike make responsible choices that positively impact business behavior and improve quality of life.”

Making the switch to green cleaning is also easier now because of the plethora of resources available to end users for general information on green cleaning as well as educational and training opportunities.

According to Sawchuk, the first place end users should go to for information is their local JanSan distributor.

“The second resource is the Web,” informs Sawchuk. “There are a lot of organizations and companies with great resources on the Internet.”

Indeed, simply typing “green cleaning” into the Google™ search engine returned 286,000 English language results in a recent Internet query.

The third resource, Sawchuk recommends, is industry consultants, who he believes can provide a wealth of information.

Information about green certification programs, distributors, green cleaning websites and consultants is all readily available — end users must simply make a small effort to find it and do the research.

Manufacturer and marketer support
Experts agree that this current green movement is strong because of unprecedented manufacturer and marketer support.

Manufacturers and distributors are partnering with customers to get green products “out there” and in use in all types of facilities.

The availability of these products have, in effect, turned the movement into a customer-driven one since more end users are discovering and making the purchasing decisions that allow for green cleaning programs to be implemented.

Sawchuk believes credit for this must be given to marketers of green products that are “effectively teaching their distributors to ‘sell green’” to their customers.

“Otherwise,” Sawchuk says, “the products will simply sit in the warehouse or just be traded for existing business.”

Green future
Because of the state of the marketplace and the increased green product knowledge, certification awareness, available resources and manufacturer and marketer support, it is believed by many that this green movement will only continue to grow.

“Green is here to stay,” Sawchuk adds. “While it may not be in your area or building today, one day it likely will be. Users, distributors and sales reps must decide if they want to be ahead of the curve and reap those benefits, ride the curve and keep up or follow the curve and fall behind.”

So, are you going to “stay ahead of the curve” by making the switch to a green cleaning operation?

If you have not switched yet, there couldn’t be a more perfect time to start than now.

Everything you need to get started is out there and if you do it right, you can better your operations — both ecologically and financially.
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