Sustainability Adds Edge To Green Products
As the green cleaning and cleaning for health marketplaces have evolved over the past several years, it has sometimes been difficult to separate hype from the trends, and the trends that are full of hype from the trends that are real. While the term green typically applies to products and practices that are environmentally preferable, “sustainability” brings to mind a more holistic and comprehensive ecological stance.
Green products that are made in a sustainable way, and are made to be sustainable into the future, can be used by building service contractors that want to be as green as possible.
The term sustainability also has an economic meaning to BSCs that reflects the importance of being organizationally strong and thriving as a business.
No matter the product or industry, sustainability takes the entire business process into consideration, from sourcing and producing to packaging and shipping — and it has evolved from being simply the “right thing to do” into a business opportunity as well.
How can the products BSCs use and the manufacturers they buy from help strengthen sustainability initiatives while supporting the sustainability of business itself? Manufacturers offer many ways, including the use of renewable resources in products, the reduction of use of resources such as fuel and water, and initiatives to use recycled materials in products and packaging.
Products can be called sustainable when their environmental impacts are minimized, from sourcing and production to use and eventual disposal.
Reduction in the amount of resource or energy used in the creation, shipping, use and disposal of products has become a very popular sustainable manufacturing method. On the receiving end, BSCs benefit from manufacturers’ eco-friendly packaging, chemical concentrates and regional distribution centers that cut down on the number of miles products travel.
From coreless paper rolls to chemical concentrates to reduced volume and packaging of product being transported, there are plenty of ways manufacturers are making it more cost-effective for BSCs to use their products in facilities they service.
Reducing product use by janitors and end-users is another way BSCs can practice sustainability. Consumption of products that utilize dispensers, such as towels and soap, can now be restricted by automatic dispensing mechanisms that control how much product each user gets. Such systems also reduce waste, a benefit for BSCs that don’t have as much time to spend on overflowing waste receptacles.
Of course, cutting down on product and packaging waste also cuts down on product costs.
Manufacturers are examining the trend of using fewer nonrenewable resources, such as petroleum, to create products. In response, some of the industry’s progressive scientific minds have come up with formulations that use plant-based, renewable resources.
Manufacturers consider the use of plant-based ingredients to be very sustainable — a soy-based cleaner, for example, is using a renewable resource that can be planted over and over again as opposed to using an oil derivative. That cleaner represents cradle-to-grave thinking.
Companies that have traditionally harvested trees to make paper products are not only decreasing the number of trees being cut down by using recycled material, but they are also preserving forests and planting new ones.
Brooms with handles made from renewable fibers such as bamboo are another option for BSCs who want to walk the sustainability walk.
Biodegradable products, such as liners and polyethelene dusting sheets, have been made effective for their uses but up to 100 percent biodegradable. Contractors trying to help reduce landfill waste will consider biodegradable products a plus.
Many manufacturers are using recycled products in some way, whether they’re using post-consumer resins in receptacles, combining recycled materials with microfiber in cloths, using recycled polyethylene in molding for battery boxes, recycling plastic and metal scrap materials or using post-consumer recycled polyester in mop heads. The great thing about recycled products is that they work just as well, if not better, than their traditional counterparts. With proper use and maintenance, the life of recycled products is just as long.
Manufacturers of textile products are taking the extra step of further recycling their used recycled products, providing the option for BSCs to return them. Where BSCs used to throw items away, they now can ship them back to the company for another step of recycling.
The environmental aspect of sustainable products cannot be their only selling point. When considering sustainability, a BSC must also be making a smart business decision by considering economic and social factors as well. For instance, touch-free towel dispensers that use recycled paper not only restrict product consumption and waste but also provide hygienic benefits to users by reducing cross-contamination.
As technology has improved the recycling process, making it possible to recycle more types of materials as well as create more out of them, BSCs have been given a chance to play a big role in the recycling programs of their customers. By using well-marked recycling receptacles, BSCs can encourage the practice while maintaining a highly visible and helpful presence in that sustainability initiative.
Other ways BSCs can utilize sustainable manufacturing is by using products and equipment made with quality parts that, if maintained properly, last many years, simply reducing product waste.
More Choices than Ever
Prioritizing sustainability comes down to making choices that paint a holistic picture of environmental sensitivity. While many of those choices revolve around products, they can also focus on doing business with vendors and customers that place priority on sustainability.
With manufacturers doing everything from attempting to reduce landfill waste and engaging in land and habitat preservation, to reducing use of resources by greening production processes and committing to conservation and new technologies, BSCs can feel good about doing business with them.
Sustainability initiatives should be implemented by incorporating multiple methods of environmental sensitivity and awareness of how a BSC’s processes can be improved. What is the lifecycle of each product being used? How can that be improved? Do the products help reduce sick time, injuries and workers’ comp claims with ergonomic and air quality features? Third-party certifications can set sustainable products apart from those of competitors by rating criteria such as energy consumption, air emissions, waste and raw material usage.
BSCs shouldn’t forget that communication with customers about the sustainable products they are using is key to continuing the business partnership. Not all customers understand what it means to be sustainable — for that matter, neither do all BSCs. Contractors need to take the role of “expert” seriously by studying information about their manufacturers’ efforts and by becoming educated about market trends.
Those BSCs that are interested in being considered green and sustainable should keep an eye on building and energy trends. Social responsibility, or impact on people — from employees to customers to building occupants to society at large — is increasingly emphasized by contractors that want to be leaders in the industry.
The following companies contributed to this article: