Love it or hate it, the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for is not only here to stay, but it is the preeminent green building program in the United States. And within its popular LEED Rating System for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM), there is a requirement for green cleaning, along with a number of voluntary credits, which taken together, provides a "roadmap" for how many define a comprehensive green cleaning program. The following are some reasons why building service contractors should join the USGBC.

Learn About LEED: LEED really is leading the way and being a member of the USGBC will provide access and keep you abreast of the changes to the rating systems, and allow you to participate in its future improvements. This is especially important right now as the next revision is currently out for "public comment," and while anyone can comment, the USGBC only needs to listen to their members; input from others is optional.

It's Still Growing: These days many membership organizations are struggling to survive. However, in 2010 the USGBC's membership exceeded 30,000 organizations and the number of projects passed the 40,000 mark. To put this in perspective, just five years ago there were only 5,000 members and less than a 1,000 projects. Thus joining an organization that is only going to grow will result in increasing opportunities to network, learn and prospect.

It's Influencing Others: There are other programs that address green cleaning, but these are typically based on the LEED requirements. This includes industry programs such as ISSA's Cleaning Industry Management Standard for Green Buildings (CIMS-GB) and Green Seal's Standard for Environmental Services (GS-42), as well as legislation on green cleaning in schools and programs for specific sectors such as the "Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools" and the "Green Guide for Health Care." Focusing on green at the source will pay dividends in other areas.

Prospect for Customers: If you were selling surfboards, rather than a massive sales campaign in Alaska, I would recommend starting in Florida, Southern California or Hawaii. In the same way, if you're selling a green cleaning service, focus on prospects with an established interest in green issues. And that's members of the USGBC. Attending their meetings and getting involved will put you in touch with others who have an interest in "green" and who would value your knowledge about green cleaning.

Stay On The Leading Edge: As contractors, it is difficult just running a successful business and one of the challenges faced with respect to green cleaning is that it is changing rapidly. Thus joining the USGBC can help you stay on the leading edge, especially as defined by customers. You can get plenty of good information about new green products and techniques from your suppliers or industry trade associations, but the USGBC will help you understand the issues as they emerge and directly from facility managers and those who are creating the future of the issue.

It's Expected: If you were a doctor or lawyer, your clients would likely expect you to be a member of the American Medical Association or American Bar Association. In the same way, if your company professes to be a leader and authority on green cleaning, your customers likely will expect you to be a member of the USGBC. This is especially true in some parts of the United States where the greening of buildings has matured even to the point of being considered "best practices," such as in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and on the West Coast, as well as a growing number of other areas around the country.

Stephen Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group and executive director of the Green Cleaning Network. He can be reached at