There is no question that the green movement is growing. And along with this growth, the definition of green is changing. Once seen only as an environmentally friendly way of cleaning, green is now credited with also providing a healthier work environment for cleaning workers and building tenants.

Consumer Interest
Green products had been slow to gain popularity with building service contractors in years past, but recently manufacturers have seen tremendous improvements in sales figures.

“Green chemicals are enjoying double-digit growth,” says Frank Trevisani, manager of building service contractors for Spartan Chemical Co., Inc., Maumee, Ohio. “The industry is embracing the green movement and everyone wants to ride the wave. It is definitely changing the way we clean.”

Government facilities requiring the use of green products, the growing awareness of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program and the increasing number of green seminars and workshops around the industry are just a few reasons why green sales are seeing such impressive numbers.

“The more legitimacy environmentally [friendly] products get, the more their market value will grow,” says Carl Sherman, marketing director, Core Products, Canton, Texas. “Recently at the ISSA trade show, I had several BSCs come to me and say ‘I never thought I would say this, but how do I go green?’ When asked why they wanted to move in that direction the answer was almost always the same: ‘My customers are asking for green products.’”

Green-product sales, however, are still well shy of sales of traditional product lines. That’s because there are many barriers, says Rocky Massin, senior products manager, Hillyard Inc., St. Joseph, Mo.

“BSCs are hesitant to try because they don’t know the benefits to green, they think it’s not as effective and that it will cost more,” he adds.

To help break consumer resistance, manufacturers have turned to third-party certifications.

“Certification provides assurance to the end-user that they’re buying products that meet fairly rigid, consensus based standards for environmental, health and safety, combined with ASTM International performance standards,” says Tom Seitz, director for environmental programs, JohnsonDiversey North America, Sturtevant, Wis. “In other words, it has broken the old stereotype that green products cost more and don’t work.”

The most common certifications today are Green Seal’s GS-37, the Environmental Choice Program’s EcoLogo and The Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment. All organizations have their own criteria and standards, but the end result is the same: legitimacy.

“One of the goals of…environmental certification groups, is to lend credibility to the phrase ‘environmentally friendly’ and to prevent ‘greenwashing’ which is the abuse of that phrase,” says Geoffrey Greeley, director of marketing and training, Racine Industries Inc., Racine, Wis. “Therefore, a recognized certification body will legitimize the claim and help consumers make an educated decision without having to do all the research themselves.”

“Different manufacturers tend to make different claims,” adds Barry Rosenthal, category manager, Betco Corp., Toledo, Ohio. “An outside non-biased third party is the only way to standardize the claims that are being made. The ‘environmentally friendly’ moniker has little validity without the third-party certification.”

But some manufacturers don’t think putting a certification sticker on a product is the best way for a consumer to make an educated purchase.

“Having a specially marked green product may make it easier for the end users to purchase, but do they really understand what that green sticker represents?” asks Craig Monsell, marketing manager for Procter & Gamble (P&G) Pro Line, Cincinnati. “When we provide our end users with factual information such as our environmental guidelines and practices and compare them to other environmental standards, we are enabling them to make knowledgeable purchasing decisions.”

Green Cleaning for Health
Green products’ rising popularity has caused its advocates to take a closer look at what end users value about green. Since its inception, green was a buzzword used to sell eco-friendly products. But now the benefits of green products are seen to extend well past the environment and apply to building occupants and janitors.

“The term adds clarity and definition to products and services, giving the end user a description of what they are either buying or working with. Green is cleaning for health and well being now and for the future,” says Trevisani.

In order for a green-cleaning program to combine environmental benefits with the term “cleaning for health,” it will take more than just using green products, says Lee Chen, vice president institutional chemical group, Rochester Midland, Rochester, N.Y.

“You also need positive airflow in the building, proper HVAC, effective matting, be aware of mold, have microfilters in vacuums, and reduce the number of volatile organic compounds,” he adds.

Like any cleaning program, product benefits are worthless if staff is not properly trained.

“No matter how friendly the chemical is, it won’t matter if it not used properly,” says Tom Morrison, vice president of marketing, Kaivac, Hamilton, Ohio. “It needs to be diluted properly, so we have a dilution control built in to the system to limit user contact with chemicals.”

The Future of Green
Aside from being viewed as a healthy way of cleaning, manufacturers also predict that green eventually will no longer be seen as a special way of cleaning, but rather the norm.

“I believe that what we now call green cleaning will be considered standard efficient practice within a few years. And for good reason…it is a better and healthier way to clean,” says Patrick Stewart, president, EnvirOx LLC, Danville, Ill.

In time BSCs won’t begrudgingly go green, says Massin. They will buy green products simply because they are better products.

“Without advances in product innovations and technologies, green would have little value,” adds Seitz. “It’s because of this that green, especially as it applies to facilities, is not merely a fad but a major movement for improving the environmental impact and indoor environmental quality of buildings that will be with the industry for a long time.”

Some manufacturers, however, wonder why green has to be viewed as different, now or ever.

“Cleaning is cleaning and green cleaning doesn’t have to be different or special,” says Alan Tomblin, associate director Jan/San and Lodging Segment North America for P&G. “We consider it the standard. We don’t differentiate between which products meet the standards for environmental and human safety and which do not. They all do.”