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Traditionally, building service contractors gravitating towards green cleaning would choose any product labeled as environmentally friendly. But according to a recent Contracting Profits survey, that’s no longer the case. BSCs are looking for third-party certifications, such as Green Seal, EcoLogo or Design for the Environment.

According to the survey, 94 percent of BSCs who green clean use green-certified products, a 21 percent increase in just two years. By comparison, use of green products and technology in general has held steady at around 80 percent the last few years.

Green’s growth

The continued growth of green-certified supplies is testament to the advances made by green manufacturers to produce products that match traditional cleaners in price and efficacy. Leading the list of green-certified products being used by respondents were multi-surface cleaner (78 percent), glass cleaner (75 percent) and restroom cleaner (65 percent).
 
The benefits of green-certified cleaning products have traditionally included reduced environmental impact and consumption of natural resources, a healthier workplace, happier occupants and custodial staff, and even reduced liability and insurance risks. Now cost savings and superior results can be added to the list.

“Green cleaning products, especially all-purpose cleaners, have become comparable in performance and cost to traditional products,” says Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group, a green consulting firm based in Bloomington, Ind. “Every manufacturer makes them. It’s become state of the art.”

Five or 10 years ago, a contractor would have had a hard time finding a certified green product. That’s not the case today.

“Now [a BSC] probably has three different chemical suppliers that each have a line of certified products,” says Ashkin.

At least two BSCs with a national presence agree. Both were on the forefront of adopting green technology and products, and understand the benefits of using products with third-party certification.

“Whether it’s carpet cleaning or restroom cleaning, we have found a green chemical that’s as economical as non-green, and as effective,” says Chris Norgren, president and COO of Marsden Bldg Maintenance in St. Paul, Minn.

Marsden has been migrating toward green since 1996, but today it’s only the green-certified products that are important to them.

“We’re only interested in green-certified products, as our program is designed to be compliant with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED green building rating system,” he says. “We look for the Green Seal and EcoLogo certifications because that’s what LEED requires.”

Norgren estimates that 98 percent of the products Marsden uses are green certified.

GCA Services Group, based in Cleveland, integrated green-certified products wherever feasible into their supply chain about eight years ago as these products began to have comparable results to conventional solutions. Green-certified products are standardized through GCA’s nationally selected vendors as part of their sustainability initiative.

“Anything that has to do with daily or interim maintenance is green, and more of those products are third-party-certified green,” says Jason Lee, director of sustainability and business development for GCA.

Based on the survey, other commonly used green-certified products include: carpet care chemicals (45 percent) paper products (44 percent) and vacuums (40 percent).

Maureen Badding is a freelancer based in Milwaukee, Wis.