Today’s green products are as, or more, effective than their traditional counterparts, experts agree, and priced just as competitively. So why are so many users still skeptical?

“I walked into see a property manager one day, and I made the wrong assumption that she’d care about green,” says Moody. “She said, ‘If it’s green I’m not interested. That green stuff doesn’t work. I want the good, strong stuff.’”

Moody believes many BSCs tried an early, less effective green cleaner and wrote the entire product category off for good.

Even those who tried eco-friendly products more recently may have had a bad experience, says Petruzzi.

“Personal preference feeds into it,” he says. “You may have to buy three or four brands to find one that’s acceptable to you. If you bought something and were disappointed with it, that’s not something that’s unique to green products. We’ve all bought things we didn’t like and don’t write the entire category off. We sometimes paint green products into too narrow of a corner based on a single bad experience.”

And while the price of most environmentally preferable chemicals rivals that of traditional products, there may be cases where going green will cost more “green.” But then, it’s important to consider the entire life-cycle cost of the green option and not just the price tag.

For example, a green chemical that replaces one that requires goggles or respirators offers a savings on personal protective equipment. A much larger cost savings can come in the form of reduced risk of injury to workers.

“About 6 percent of professional janitorial workers are injured by the cleaning products they use,” says McFadden. “If we could reduce that substantially, then we reduce the overall costs, because companies pay for those injuries in medical costs or replacement workers.”

Protecting employee health is the No. 1 reason BSCs should switch to green chemicals, according to everyone interviewed for this story.

“Without employees, a building service contractor has no business,” says Thompson. “The cost of a chemical is nothing compared to the cost of a lost day from an employee. If you want to be in business for a long time, your employees need to be your top concern. If a product or process protects their health, that’s feeding the bottom line.”

Another reason to reconsider green cleaning chemicals? More facility executives are looking for BSCs who use the products. Remaining a naysayer could cost BSCs new business.

“We get calls from BSCs we’ve never worked with saying the buildings they’re bidding on are asking for these products,” says Moody. “Contractors will be doing themselves a good service to be looking for things that work that are safer. It makes sense to revisit it.”

It’s time to take another look at green, says McFadden, because there have been major advancements in the chemistry behind the products in the last two decades. Today, the products are just like any other on the shelf.

“Can you say all green cleaning products perform well? No. But can you say all traditional cleaning products perform well? No,” says McFaddon. “There are hundreds of green formulations that perform equal to, or better than, the traditional chemicals they replaced. Some work better than others, just like traditional cleaning product portfolios.”

Becky Mollenkamp is a freelance writer based in St. Louis.

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