While other industries have begun making environmentally-friendly products to satisfy the incredible popularity of “green” products over the past few years, cleaning product manufacturers have long been ahead of the eco-curve.

For example, paper and soap manufacturers aren’t “going green,” they’ve been green, many of them for decades.

“We started making recycled paper in 1927,” explains Cindy Stilp, director of marketing for SCA Tissue North America, based in Neenah, Wis. “Today, all the products that we manufacture internally are made from 100 percent recycled paper.”

In fact, manufacturers of soap, towel, tissue and touch-free products have so embraced an environmentally conscious attitude, that it’s not at all difficult for building service contractors to provide a complete green restroom for their customers.

Paper Products

Towel and tissue products are some of the oldest and most common green products available. In fact, many building service contractors may be using green paper products and not even be aware.

Green towel and tissue are made of 100 percent recycled fiber, processed chlorine-free and EPA-compliant.

“We believe that our true, green products allow you to utilize a responsible amount of the recycled material — which is a finite resource — and a finite amount of high-performing, virgin fiber in formats that lead to less packaging and that leads to less waste ending up in landfills,” says Don Totten, customer marketing manager, Kimberly-Clark Professional, Neenah, Wis.

In addition to the above requirements, if manufacturers want their towels to meet third-party certification standards, they need to be manufactured without any added inks, dyes, fragrances or pigments, says Mark Stanland, vice president of marketing, Wausau Paper, Mosinee, Wis.

As green, by definition, also takes into account how products are made, green paper products reuse the by-products of the papermaking process.

“We recycle and reuse water throughout multiple stages of the papermaking process in our mills. In addition, some of the by-products from our mills are reused to help make grass grow, build roads and provide a strong foundation for highways,” says Tom Banks, director of marketing, Georgia Pacific Commercial Division, Atlanta.

Green practices can also be incorporated into deliveries. SCA regionalized its manufacturing facilities so product ships shorter distances. The company also redesigned packaging so more product fits in a case and more cases fit on a delivery truck, says Stilp. Both methods reduce fuel usage.

Finally, if BSCs use less product, they are, in effect, helping the environment.

“Compact tissue offers 90 percent reduction in waste vs. standard toilet tissue due to elimination of the corrugate case, inner roll wraps, cardboard cores and ‘stub rolls’ or unused small rolls of tissue,” says Banks.


With soaps, the environmental efforts hinge on a number of features.

These features include products with limited toxicity for aquatic and other organisms, have a high biodegradability, limit ingredients that are considered likely to contribute to specific environmental and health impacts and limit waste and resource use, says Angela Watkins, communications and media relations manager for Akron, Ohio-based GOJO Industries.

Soap can also be certified by third-party organizations and one additional component to achieving certification is recyclable packaging, says Ron Shuster, business line director for STOKO Skin Care, Greensboro, N.C. Shuster also adds that there is more to a product and company being green than just having a stamped seal on its package.

“It is not just about what is in the product, it is also about how the products are manufactured, and what type of environmental steward the company is in its operations,” Shuster says.

All types of soap can be green, including lotion and foam soap and hand sanitizers, says Watkins. Also, green soap is available in touch-free, wall mounted and counter mounted dispensers, as well tabletop bottles.

Touch-free Products

Although products like paper and soap lead the discussion when deciding which “green” restroom products to use, there’s one other product category building service contractors should also consider: touch-free.

To combat high-amounts of water being used and wasted, a number of plumbing product and system manufacturers have long offered highly-efficient toilets, urinals, showers and faucets.

Touch-free toilets can reduce water usage by 20 to 40 percent, touch-free urinals by 88 percent and waterless urinals by 100 percent, says Daniel Sturch, HEALTHMINDER sales and service manager with Sloan Valve Company, Franklin Park, Ill.

Some touch-free products go far beyond just water efficiency and also promote sustainability through their product composition.

“Many of our products are considered ‘green’ because of the function of the products, as well as the material consideration and manufacturing processes of the products,” says Sturch. “The majority of the metal used to produce our flushometers comes from recycled sources, and the flushometers can be recycled at the end of their life cycle.”

Touch-free towel and soap dispensers also contribute to helping the environment because they control usage. Restroom patrons are throwing away fewer towels and less soap is going down the drain. And when product is used fewer times, there is less packaging to be thrown away as well, says Jerry McDermott, executive vice president, Technical Concepts, Mundelein, Ill.

Benefits of a green restroom

To easily identify green products, users can look for third-party certifications from Green Seal or Ecologo to “take the guesswork out of the green evaluation process,” says Stanland. In addition, green towels and tissue, soap, and touch-free fixtures can all help a BSC and its customer earn points toward the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Beyond LEED, there are other benefits to implementing a green restroom. Perhaps most alluring is the cost savings.

“The main advantage from the contractor’s perspective is these plumbing products reduce maintenance and operating expenses and save money,” says Sturch. “These plumbing products and systems can reduce water usage by hundreds of gallons to several million gallons, depending on the size of the facility, which significantly contributes to the bottom line.”

“When you choose the right dispenser system it also comes with the added value of saving money,” adds Stilp. “High capacity systems that control consumption will reduce the amount consumers use in the first place, meaning less purchased cases, less time refilling them, and less waste created leading to emptying receptacles, less trash liners, less trips to the dumpster and less disposal fees.”

Finally, green restrooms can create healthier and cleaner restrooms, says McDermott. Patrons are touching fewer surfaces, using fewer towels overflow waste receptacles and with less water being run from faucets, there is less chance of it pooling around sinks.

“Truly green restrooms are those where users leave the restroom and have used the least amount of product in the most hygienic way,” adds Totten.

Steven Potter is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee.