Even in a bad economy, green innovations continue to accelerate. And this is good news for building service contractors, as well as children and those with pre-existing health conditions in client buildings, our cleaning personnel who have high exposure rates as they work daily with potentially harmful products, and the environment at-large. Not only are the new green products and services increasing sales opportunities, but they can also improve profitability by reducing consumption and spend on disposables. 

Today, many if not most contractors have heard this “speech” before and have developed strategies to internally embrace green cleaning as some part of the overall service offering. So the biggest challenge often comes from translating these green strategies into tangible business.

At the same time our current and prospective clients are themselves in a state of flux due to the economy. Budgets for operational requirements are declining at a time when occupancy — the number of students in our classrooms — is increasing. And deferred repairs and maintenance are creating even greater challenges in the efforts to create cleaner and healthier buildings.

Like the adage, “necessity is the mother of invention,” the challenges faced by current and prospective clients create opportunities for BSCs. One such opportunity is the Green Cleaning Awards for Schools and Universities.

This program itself is based on the requirements of the Healthy Schools Campaign’s “Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools,” the Green Cleaning Network’s recommendations on green cleaning products, and the cleaning credits found in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance Rating System. And since these are the “roadmaps” that contractors typically follow, meeting the requirements of the award should be relatively easy.

Now in its fifth year, the awards program provides national recognition for the winners and allows contractors to be clearly and specifically recognized for their contributions. So not only does nominating a client strengthen relationships and build goodwill, but the award can be an excellent marketing and public relations tool — and at a very low cost.

The application process only requires three short descriptions, each less than a page in length. The application also provides enough information to make it easy to write. 

The three short descriptions are:

• Describe the history of the program including when it was started, what it has accomplished, and where it is going.

• Describe the program’s cleaning procedures and strategies that reduce general health impacts, as well as training and evaluation methods.

• Describe efforts to engage others (including teachers, students and the community) in the responsibility of green cleaning.

Applications are due by September 9, 2011, and can be found here.

In an economic climate where everyone is trying to “do more with less,” taking advantage of this program for current and prospective schools and universities can be a good strategy to help drive success.

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