With all the activities that you’ll find at this year’s ISSA/INTERCLEAN and BSCAI conventions, I hope you’ll find time to learn more about green cleaning, and specifically about sustainability. To make things easier, I’ll help point you in the right direction.

Educational Opportunities: On Tuesday, Oct. 16, there will be a half-day Green Cleaning University workshop, which is an excellent learning opportunity for new salespeople as it will cover a host of issues, including defining green cleaning, prospecting for green customers, overcoming common objections and more.

Also on Tuesday there will be an update on LEED-EBOM. If your current program is built around the LEED requirements, this will be a very helpful program as LEED’s green cleaning credits are changing. If you are beginning the journey towards sustainability, LEED is the place to start.

On Tuesday afternoon, consider attending the seminar “Create a Culture of Sustainability — Save Green by Going Green.” As the title suggests, this program is designed to help organizations reduce costs.

On Thursday, Oct. 18, you can attend “Sourcing Green: Insights From Industry Leaders” at the ISSA Education Theatre, booth 3669. This program will help you identify sourcing issues, which is becoming a bigger challenge.

Sustainability Discussions On The Show Floor: This year you can anticipate finding an increasing number of manufacturers talking about sustainability. So ask exhibitors to explain exactly what they mean. Are they simply using “sustainability” interchangeably with “green,” or does it mean something different? If so, can they document their claims? And are those claims verified by an independent third-party so you can be confident that you won’t be embarrassed in front of your customer for making misleading statements?

Remember, green focuses on reducing health and environmental impacts across the entire life of the product, while sustainability goes beyond just the product itself and addresses the broader issue of social equity. This includes how the manufacturer deals with its employees and communities where they are based. Be careful if you repeat others’ claims about sustainability; you will ultimately have to address what your company is doing in this regard, too.

Sustainability And Your Conference Experience: This year, don’t just learn about sustainability, but take action. The following are some ideas that you can consider to help contribute toward a more sustainable conference.

• Literature. If you don’t need it, don’t take it. Or ask the exhibitors to send you electronic copies. This saves trees and reduces environmental impacts.

• Transportation. Buying “carbon offsets” for your airfare is one option, but taking public transportation, ride sharing and walking are a lot simpler. ISSA provides shuttle services to the convention site and walking to and from restaurants can be good for the environment and your health.

• Food. Consider ordering smaller portions (do you really need a 32-ounce steak?). And it is OK to skip appetizers and dessert, or at least share it with your friends. Not only is it healthier to do so, but the extra food has huge environmental impacts (especially if it goes to waste).

• Hotel. When leaving the room for the day, adjust the thermostat to reduce energy and make sure the television and other electrical devices are turned off. To save water, hang your towel back on the rack to use another day.

• Tipping. As I discussed earlier, what makes sustainability different from green is our impact on people. So in addition to treating service people politely and with dignity, please leave them a tip. Besides foodservice workers and cab drivers, don’t forget to leave a tip for the housekeepers as our way of recognizing and thanking them for keeping our rooms clean, safe, healthy and sustainable.

Stephen Ashkin is the president of The Ashkin Group, executive director of the Green Cleaning Network, cofounder of Green Cleaning University and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools LLC — all of which play important roles in his efforts to move the global cleaning industry from green to sustainable. He can be reached at