Collaboration is key to the success of a green cleaning program

Just like no two buildings are identical, no two sustainable, green cleaning programs will look the same. An effective program isn’t cookie-cutter. Green cleaning programs are unique to each organization — designed from the inside out.

And a strong program starts with a strong leader that identifies the needs of their environment from the perspective of the building occupants, not from the viewpoint of the ideal we would like to achieve. Strong leaders set goals and look at the impact of change from all vantage points: health, safety and cost. They foster an environment for change to occur organically and lead by example. They do not create change independently or dictate.

This type of leadership starts with building a team to objectively examine and pilot new programs and procedures. The end program is only possible because of the support and input of the front-line workers and all stakeholders. 

Benefits Of Collaboration

When introducing any new green cleaning program, the path to long-lasting success is through collaboration. This means getting input from all levels of the organization. In a school such as mine (East Meadow Public Schools in Westbury, New York), that means talking to the Board of Education, administration, teachers, support staff, etc., about what it means to be green and sustainable.

Too often, though, collaboration is considered a synonym for agreement, resulting in Groupthink. It’s important to avoid this trap.

One solution may be to include people who have different opinions into the discussion-making process. When consensus is a product of varied, strong opinions — which were debated freely — the results will be supported and defended by the stakeholders involved.

In fact, for the best ideas to be identified, different perspectives are needed, even if those stakeholders do not share the same goal of what constitutes a green, sustainable environment. A solution can only be reached once all scenarios are defined and analyzed.

Working together, collaborative groups should first establish a baseline of the current program. Building off of the existing program gives a starting point from which to launch something new.

Never move forward on any green alternative if it does not meet or exceed the efficacy of the established product or method. This is why even the ideas we are most excited about are piloted and carefully evaluated first. For example, changes that we have made in our schools are for green products that work better. Shortsighted change to an inferior green product can damage the standing of the committee.

The industry now offers many effective green products from which to choose. But it’s important facility cleaning managers are cautious of products that over-promise or greenwash, which is green marketing deceptively used to promote the perception that products are environmentally friendly.

When choosing green products, even for managers that have done their homework, some failures are unavoidable. Failure, however, can be invaluable in that it can lead to further improvements in a finalized program. All worthy accomplishments will encounter some disappointments along the way; that is part of the process.

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The Players Needed For A Winning Green Cleaning Team