This month I'll be heading to Hawaii with my wife to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. And for those of you who are married (or have been married), I think you can appreciate what a milestone this signifies and how much hot water I would be in if I forgot or didn't do something special that is commensurate with the importance of the event.

To environmentalists in the United States, Earth Day is similar to my 25th anniversary: it's an important date that should be recognized and celebrated. But interest in Earth Day is moving beyond just devoted environmentalists to mainstream Americans, as evidenced by national debates over climate change, energy independence and green jobs plus the daily appearance of new advertisement for everything from green cleaners to hybrid cars.

So, what does this increased interest mean? Facility managers at malls, universities, commercial offices, government buildings and every place in between, are likely planning to showcase their environmental accomplishments this April 22. And while most will focus on energy efficiency, purchasing of recycled products, water conservation efforts and the like, it is up to cleaning contractors to help them showcase green cleaning efforts. Not only will this help make your customer look good, but it can help your relationship with both the customer and building occupants.

While it would be naive to suggest that all customers will conduct Earth Day Celebrations, many facilities probably will, and I encourage you to develop a plan to participate and showcase the work you are doing.

Begin by developing a few options before talking to your customers. You might want to create a simple flyer or poster for those customers who only will allow a limited amount of space. Use this to illustrate some of your accomplishments especially if you measure your reductions of chemicals, paper, water use and waste. Other bullet points can include the use of green chemicals, paper, liners, equipment, training programs and other green products and activities.

A second option is to think about a tabletop display to showcase some of the products you use in the building, which could include:

  • Green cleaning products, especially if the label includes a "seal of approval" which makes it easy to engage occupants about green issues.
  • Microfiber cloths and other chemical-free cleaning devices to help expand the discussion beyond just "greener" chemicals to the potential of eliminating chemicals altogether for some cleaning applications.
  • Green toilet tissue to demonstrate that green paper can be high-quality and soft.
  • Backpack or other high-efficiency vacuums with high-filtration filters to explain why it's important to capture small particles.
  • Entrance mats to explain the importance of capturing soils before they enter.
  • Durable mop buckets and wringers to introduce the importance of durability and its positive impacts on the environment.
  • Ergonomic tools to discuss that green cleaning isn't just about protecting the environment, but also worker health and safety.

While there are numerous other opportunities, the main point is to be prepared. And you need to be prepared to act quickly to help your customers celebrate Earth Day as it will be here soon and it is an important opportunity you won't want to miss.

Stephen Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group and executive director of the Green Cleaning Network. He can be reached at