Recently, ISSA, Building Services Contractors Association International (BSCAI), International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA), and Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI) held their conventions in Las Vegas.

More than 600 exhibitors used these shows as the opportunity to debut their new green products and training programs. Numerous educational sessions highlighted the changes to important programs that shape our customers’ thinking on how they specify green cleaning, including the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Existing Buildings Rating System (LEED-EBOM), Healthy Schools Campaign’s “Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools,” and MD Hospitals for a Healthy Environment’s “Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Healthcare.”

Whether or not you attended, an opportunity to enhance your own green program is just beginning. I recommend you set up specific meetings with your vendors so they can help you benefit from the conventions. Give them a list of questions so they can prepare for the meeting to make it as fruitful as possible.

The following are some questions that you should pose (and frankly, if current vendors are not prepared or capable of helping, perhaps this is the time to speak to others).

• Review innovative new products. Ask vendors to provide a summary of what’s new and innovative in new green chemicals as well as some of the new “chemical-free” cleaning technologies. This may not be the “magic wand” that some suggest, but it does seem to have application in some cleaning programs.

• It’s more than just chemicals. While chemicals always seem to be “top of mind,” make sure to ask vendors for a summary on other products, tools and supplies as well. As you know, cleaning is a system so there may be some excellent green opportunities that when taken together can help you provide an excellent program to customers and set you apart from the competition.

• Discuss conservation opportunities. Ask vendors of paper, dispensers, microfiber products, mops, buckets and more for new strategies that can reduce consumption. Not only is this good for the environment because it uses fewer resources and produces less waste, but it can save money.

• Training is key. It is not just about selecting the correct green product, but making sure that those products are used correctly. So ask vendors if they can help you improve your training and/or implement some of the new strategies such as daytime cleaning.

• Updates on programs. Because an ever-increasing number of customers are following programs like LEED it is important to keep up with the revisions that are taking place. LEED-EBOM will introduce its revisions in 2012 and vendors should help you make the appropriate modifications to keep your program up-to-date. Your customers are counting on this.

• How to save money. The economy continues to be slow, so ask vendors for ideas that can help you and your customers save money. And this goes beyond just the products and training, and includes invoicing, payment terms, delivery, inventory issues and more. Everything adds up and even small things can make a big difference.

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