Early on, we had little to show for our green-cleaning efforts, but over the past number of years, it has turned from a small niche to a powerful emerging trend. And while I have marveled at the accelerating growth of the green cleaning movement, 2005 proved to be our best year yet:

    Green Education: The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) expanded its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings program. H2E (Hospitals for a Healthy Environment) offered its Green Guide for Healthcare, BOMA Canada launched its Go-Green program, and the Green Building Initiative launched its Green Globes program. What is significant about these programs is that these are our customers and by educating their constituents they will accelerate demand.

    Green Is No Longer Just About Chemicals: At this year’s ISSA convention a significant number of manufacturers were exhibiting their new green products, while at the USGBC’s annual convention the number of cleaning product manufacturers exhibiting more than doubled from last year and included manufacturers of chemicals, paper, mats and equipment.

    Green suppliers: Not only have product manufacturers been forced by the increasing competition to improve their products and offer better green programs, but more distributors have begun launching green programs, which makes it even easier for contractors to get onboard.

    Green Goes International: In 2005, green cleaning made tremendous strides in Canada, who now may actually be ahead of the U.S., and the Commission on Environmental Cooperation, a joint effort between the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments who is trying to harmonize environmental purchasing in North America, set launching green cleaning in Mexico as one of its primary objectives.

    New Product Standards And Certifications: In 2005, Green Seal completed a new floor-care standard and launched the development of a new program for janitorial contractors. Additionally, we saw both chemical and paper manufacturers certified through the Environmental Choice Program out of Canada, the Environmental Institute began certifying cleaning chemicals for VOC content, and the Carpet & Rug Institute launched a new Green Label program for carpet spot removers in addition to their standard for vacuum cleaners.

2005 was an incredible year for green cleaning. Going into 2006, the number of organizations, educational programs, products, contractors and distributors, international efforts, product standards and certification programs continues to grow. This all bodes well for green cleaning to continue as one of the most important trends in the cleaning industry in decades.

Stephen Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a nationally renowned consulting firm helping both contractors and building owners “green” the cleaning process.