“Going green” is a popular phrase nowadays. On an individual and commercial scale, people and companies are functioning in ways that are helping to sustain the environment and save natural resources.
Cleaning businesses and custodial managers are joining in on this trend by purchasing green cleaning technology and equipment and combining it with green cleaning products. They are seeing that they are not only contributing to the betterment of planet Earth, but saving in other ways as well, which can help a company’s bottom line.
“We don’t go green because it’s the fad. We go green because it’s saving us money.”
“Some equipment is labeled green because it’s more efficient,” said Robert Dobmeier, who owns Dobmeier Janitorial Cleaning Supplies Outlet in Buffalo, NY. “There are products out there that do save time, which is money. They save on our natural resources like water and use less chemicals.”
Olon Hyde, training and support manager at Florida-based commercial cleaning company OfficePride, has seen a direct economic benefit to his company by changing how they operate. “We don't go green because it’s the fad,” he said. “We go green because it’s saving us money.”
If custodial managers are looking to buy green vacuums, the first step is to see whether the products contain high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. Vacuums with filtration systems do a better job when it comes to cleaning the air and eliminating pollutants from indoor environments. Indoor air quality is especially important to owners of buildings certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) faction of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
Green buildings accounted for 41 percent of all nonresidential buildings in the United States in 2012, according to the USGBC. From 2011 to 2012, LEED-certified federal construction in the United States jumped by 50 percent, and it is predicted that this year, 40 to 48 percent of all new construction will be green. This could lead to more business opportunities for cleaning companies if they have the right equipment in place.
If custodial managers are using LEED-friendly vacuum and filtration equipment, they have the opportunity to serve new clients that are located in LEED-certified buildings. “Indoor air quality seems to be a tremendous concern in today’s world,” Dobmeier said. “We see that with the LEED buildings. Everyone wants LEED credits, but it’s a standard that is not necessarily easy to reach. Different types of equipment will help you reach it.”
When Hyde and his staff go into a building, they utilize backpack vacuums, “because they have HEPA four-stage filtration,” he said. “It's like a super allergy filter. It removes 99 percent of the dust and particles from the exhaust that it puts out.”
Aside from providing environmental benefits and potential client development opportunities, some green vacuums are also saving managers and workers precious time with ergonomic features that require less of their energy and effort, says Jacalyn High, director of marketing at commercial vacuum manufacturer ProTeam Inc. “As professional cleaners have one of the highest job-related injury rates, that’s an important way that we can have a positive impact on more sustainable cleaning practices,” High said.
She added that if custodians go cordless, the efficiency is even greater, with the potential to shave 60 to 90 minutes during a four-hour shift, allowing workers to get more done in a small timeframe. “The difference is not being tethered to a cord and the ability to go anywhere.”
Green Floor Scrubbers
Green floor scrubbers have the power to conserve water chemicals, and at the end of the day, save companies dollars and staff time. Take the orbital floor scrubbers. With them, “you can strip wax off a floor with just plain water,” Dobmeier said. “They have a much greater appeal [than regular scrubbers]. They are quicker and save man hours, along with a lot of rinsing hours.”
Dobmeier said orbital floor scrubbers must be combined with the correct surface preparation pad, ideally one that leaves no slippery residue, helps to reduce labor and material expenses, and can be used on numerous surfaces, including vinyl tile, concrete, terrazzo, and marble.
Green Carpet Care
If custodians are working on buildings with carpets, some technology that will come in handy is carpet encapsulation, a process some sources say helps to lower costs associated with carpet maintenance. “It’s quicker, more productive, and you use less product,” Dobmeier said.
Carpet encapsulation is about two things: The encapsulation chemicals themselves, as well as the machines that use them. The chemicals come out as a detergent to clean the carpeted area. Afterwards, the polymers in the chemicals will encapsulate the detergent, dirt, and soil and dry them into the form of a crystal. Then, the crystal can easily be vacuumed. Since encapsulation removes residue from the carpet that attracts dirt, carpets stay cleaner for longer. For custodial managers, that means clients will be more satisfied with how clean their carpets are after encapsulation is used.
Saving on a More Basic Level
It’s important for custodial managers to cover all the bases when it comes to the technology and equipment used at their businesses. But when going green, they also need to remember the smaller aspects of environmentally friendly cleaning that can help to minimize the amount of resources used on the job.
Instead of buying 8-gallon buckets for mops, custodial managers may want to try using 4-gallon buckets. Peter Singeisen, president of Green-Tech Building Maintenance Inc., a cleaning business located in Windsor, Ontario that specializes in the health care industry, said doing this has saved him water. If janitors don’t have huge containers, they won’t fill them up to the top and end up wasting more water than necessary.
When workers need chemicals for cleaning, Singeisen will provide them with dispenser machines, which mix the concentrate with water to dilute it. It ends up conserving money and materials, and can protect janitors. According to RD Industries and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “U.S. institutions spend more the $75 million a year on medical expenses and lost-time wages for janitors due to chemical related injuries.”
The Benefits Are Clear
Whether custodial managers are going green to increase their productivity, save on costs, or preserve energy, one thing is clear: Any environmentally friendly practice can make a difference. “The future is unknown,” said High. “We may not know when a resource will become scarce, but we can constantly work to use the resources we have now more efficiently.”