Stephen Ashkin
By Stephen Ashkin

Stephen Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a nationally renowned consulting firm helping both contractors and building owners “green” the cleaning process.
Despite the increasing importance of green practices in the cleaning industry, there is still some doubt among sellers and buyers as to whether going green is worth the effort.

A recent survey of readers of “DestinationGreen,” The Ashkin Group’s monthly e-newsletter, indicated that decision-maker skepticism and concerns about performance and quality, among other factors, continue to limit sales of green cleaning products and services. How can proponents convince those who continue to question the effectiveness and value of green cleaning? What proof can we cite? Here are some examples to help sway the skeptics:
  1. Support is growing: The cleaning industry has strongly endorsed green cleaning. For instance, ISSA has recently published a special edition of “Green Cleaning for Dummies” and has hosted a regulatory forum in Washington, D.C., specifically on green cleaning. In addition, The Building Services Contractors Association International (BSCAI), hosted several educational sessions on green cleaning at their recent annual convention.
  2. Performance is comparable: Green products weren’t always as good as they are now, but to meet industry standards today, green products must be at least as effective as traditional products. For example, the Green Seal 37 Standard for Institutional and Industrial Cleaners includes stringent requirements for product performance.
  3. Availability is up, prices are down: Selecting green products used to be like looking for a needle in a haystack and required a master’s degree in chemistry to understand. Today, there are more than a hundred companies offering products that are certified green by a third-party organization. As a result, most janitorial product distributors are able to offer a wide variety of competitively-priced green cleaning products, and at prices lower than in years past.
  4. Documentation exists on health and productivity: There is significant empirical evidence that links building occupants’ improved health and productivity with green cleaning. A review of published research on the subject, performed by the Carnegie Mellon University Center for Building Performance in 2005, identified 17 separate studies documenting a reduction in reported symptoms of asthma, flu, sick building syndrome, respiratory problems and headaches that ranged from 13.5 to 87 percent — an average improvement of 41 percent.
  5. There are measurable savings to the environment: Four and a half billion pounds of janitorial paper products, most of which is made from virgin tree fiber, requires the cutting of approximately 30 million trees. By just using toilet paper with recycled content, we can save between 12.5 and 25 million trees a year. Also, commercial and institutional buildings use more than 6 billion pounds of cleaning chemical, most of which are made from valuable, but nonrenewable natural resources. These can easily be replaced with products that reduce our impact on health and the environment.