From budgeting to professional development and certification, practical green cleaning educational tools are literally at building service contractors’ fingertips — online.

As the green cleaning movement becomes more mainstream, companies are offering Web sites to fuel the trend’s momentum.

Back to school
Green Cleaning University (GCU), which went live August 1, is a professional development resource for contractors and their customers to find quality, up-to-date information.

Stephen Ashkin, president of green-cleaning consulting firm The Ashkin Group LLC, in Bloomington, Ind., along with David Holly, president of electronic media company Don’t Panic Productions, created the site. Ashkin says the industry can benefit from robust educational offerings.

“We didn’t want to just have online training because we felt that not only are there educational challenges with just doing Webcasts, but because the green issue is changing so quickly,” he says.
In addition to online courses, GCU will offer a resource library, chats, discussion groups, workshops, podcasts and special programs on green cleaning systems, sustainability, day cleaning, LEED requirements, green facility management and more.

While certificates of completion for some programs may be granted, Ashkin hopes to soon offer a more serious GCU diploma program.

“We want to really use it as an opportunity to help educate and elevate the level of knowledge within our industry, especially as it applies to protecting health and environmental impacts,” he says. “Our overall goal for Green Cleaning University is to really create a sense of community for those interested in green issues.”

Another educational option for BSCs is the Green Clean Institute (GCI), which has been online for about a year.

Orland Park, Ill.-based GCI has trademarked the term “Green Clean Compliant,” and offers three different levels of certification for workers, supervisors and owners or managers as well as company certification.

Though BSCs were the institute’s initial market, governmental agencies reacting to state-legislated green-cleaning mandates in New York and Oregon now make up the bulk of its business, says Wayne Baxtrom, GCI director.

“Probably 70 percent of our business now is with governmental agencies that are in-house, training their employees,” Baxtrom says.

The institute covers the basics of green cleaning and delves into more of the “meat and potatoes” of the industry, he says, such as governmental regulations, indoor air quality and chemical composition.

In addition to the online training, GCI has partnered with Green Clean Contractors of North America to provide upcoming daylong workshops through janitorial supply houses in cities throughout the Midwest.

“We’re teaming up with different suppliers and they solicit their current customers and it’s an opportunity for them to expand their line to Green Clean products and use their current sales base and just acclimate their customers to green clean procedures,” Baxtrom says.

Keeping green out of the red
Other sites are focused on tools that BSCs can use to determine how going green might affect their bottom line.

Dave Frank, founder of the American Institute of Cleaning Sciences, Highlands Ranch, Colo., launched Web-based budgeting comparison software Ecosmart, a green-cleaning cost evaluator distributed by ISSA, this past summer.

“We’re looking at what is the cost of transition, what is the hard cost of training, (of) paper products, chemicals, capital expenditure,” he says, “so that managers can make a knowledgeable decision about what is the transitional cost and be able to either budget for it or be able to allocate the funding for it.”

The software has evolved from other analysis tools, including those on, which has different software modules. It can be downloaded for use on a personal computer and encourages financial decision-makers to consider the necessary factors of switching to green.

Some of EcoSmart’s biggest users have been contractors, Frank says.

“What we’re trying to do is have them put their current products into a series of fields, analyze it per cost per usable gallon and be able to put their new green products in and evaluate its cost per usable gallon,” Frank says.

The software also measures material consumption and chemical budget.

“We’re designing inexpensive analysis tools that give managers, distributors and manufacturers the numbers to help them make decisions,” Frank says.

Ahead of the curve
Baxtrom believes those offering educational tools online are ahead of the green-cleaning curve.

“In the cleaning business, this is a reality that’s going to happen and some guys are going to be on the train and some guys are going to be left at the station,” he says.

The green community has spent a lot of time trying to focus on the benefits of green cleaning, Frank says. Looking at hard numbers helps move the decision-making forward.
“In this day and age, all business decisions are based on numbers,” Frank says. “People aren’t making decisions on soft benefits.”

Providing online green resources will help to elevate the knowledge of those in the industry, including BSCs, Ashkin adds.

“Our goal is to make this a really good resource because at the end of the day, if contractors can’t figure out how to do green cleaning or make a profit when they do it, the green cleaning movement will fail,” Ashkin says. “So our fundamental goal is, we need them to succeed. We feel if they succeed, everybody wins.”