April 22nd is Earth Day and an excellent opportunity to showcase your company and discuss with your customers’ occupants your efforts to create a greener and healthier environment.

Participating in an Earth Day function does not have to be limited to national or regional contractors, as smaller contractors can also put together an effective event. And if you have never participated before, challenge yourself to do at least one event this year.

Next month’s column will discuss what Earth Day is about, but this one provides some very practical steps to help you prepare for an effective customer event. Remember, Earth Day is right around the corner, so start planning today.

1. Assess Your Assets

Begin by determining who could represent your company. It could be the owner or account manager, or it could be a well-spoken supervisor. Larger companies can consider who in each region would be capable. By determining your assets (capable people) you can make a plan for how many customers to approach.

2. Prioritize Your Opportunities

Let’s be realistic: not all customers care about Earth Day, so focus on the ones who do. Begin by making a list of those who have already demonstrated an interest in "green."

High on the list should be customers who have done Earth Day events in the past. Also think about customers with LEED-certified buildings, as well as hospitals, universities, schools and governments at all levels.

Now start making some calls. Let them know that you have something to share this Earth Day. And frankly, what you have is probably of more interest and relevance to the occupants than other vendors.

3. Plan Your Event

An effective Earth Day event does not require a fancy booth. One of the easiest approaches is just to have a table with some of the green products you use:

  • Cleaning chemicals: Select one or two certified cleaning chemicals to discuss the importance of using effective cleaners and how newer technologies can reduce health and environmental impacts compared to traditional products.
  • Hand soap: Display a foaming hand soap that does not include antibacterial ingredients as there is little evidence that these additives contribute to protecting health. And if occupants use just plain-old liquid soap at home, educate them on how switching to foam could also save them money.
  • Microfiber: Display multiple colors and discuss concepts relating to color-coding and cross-contamination. Consider displaying a microfiber flat mop as well.
  • "Chemical-free" cleaning: Consider some of the new chemical-free cleaning technologies, including devices that electrolyze and ionize water, vapor and steam cleaners, or even new floor pads that remove floor finish without caustic stripping chemicals. All make for interesting discussions.
  • Equipment: One of our most important tools is a vacuum cleaner, but all are not equal. Display a high-filtration vacuum or at least some high-efficiency filter bags. And occupants are always curious about backpacks if you use them.
  • Paper products: Try the "TP Challenge." Display three rolls of toilet tissue: a low quality roll made from virgin fibers; a high quality roll made from 100 percent post consumer recycled fiber; and a third roll made from a sustainably managed plantation of rapidly renewable tree fiber. And then give a prize if people can guess which one is which. This fun exercise can help overcome the notion that recycled products are scratchy and low quality.

Don’t forget that Earth Day is not just about using greener products. Rather, it is about how organizations can find more sustainable ways of operating. So if your company has data on your consumption of products, your use of energy, water and transportation, and any other efforts to become a sustainable company yourself, this is definitely the time and place to let people know.

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