Google offices
At Google, green cleaning focuses on the health and productivity of its employees Photo courtesy of Google

Though it is doing well to advance the practice now, Google's green cleaning initiative had a lot of difficulty getting started. Back in 2010 the company was working on establishing U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification for some of its existing facilities when a dialogue began about implementing green cleaning.

"That's how we got the conversation started," says Navarro. "When you have a goal like LEED to start off a conversation, it forces people to have those very fun conversations around efficiency, and for the purpose of this conversation: green cleaning."

The company looked into how often or how many green cleaning products were already being used by janitorial staff and discovered they would have to start from scratch.

"When they asked the cleaning contractor, 'What are you doing with cleaning around our buildings,' they'd have the typical answer like, 'Oh we use green products. They have these green labels on them, so I think we're good to go,'" says Navarro.

The company looked into the products the building service contractors thought were green and discovered the chemicals weren't as environmentally friendly as they had assumed. The fine print suggesting the product was green wasn't legitimate — like some others in the industry, the contractors had been duped by certification claims made by the chemical's manufacturer, not green cleaning-certified labels approved by LEED.

Deterred a bit from the experience, Google turned its attention to all its facilities in the Bay Area with assumptions that green cleaning products might just be watered down versions of traditional cleaning products. They feared these products had more of the cost, with none of the results. However, once Google got out in the field, they discovered their facilities in the area using true green products were experiencing a decrease in both cleaning consumables costs and user complaints.

"For us, those were the two major (benefits), and having a certification standard like LEED lead that discussion really helped out with the implementation across our Bay Area offices as well as our other U.S. offices," says Navarro.

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