Businessman is making a choice. Pushing a right box.

Sustainable Avenues To Consider 

While the benefits of a sustainability program include a wide range of health and financial benefits, facility cleaning managers may seek guidance for what avenues to target. The list is large, but there are a few key areas of focus that can help get the ball rolling. When it comes to a green cleaning program, facilities can start small, measure progress, and continue to build as it gains affirmation.   

Start With Chemicals 

A sustainability program can be versatile, but at the start, it’s easiest to address cleaning chemicals first. According to the Green Business Bureau, many cleaning departments are unaware of just how many everyday cleaning solvents are derived from petroleum and classified as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Use of these chemicals creates a laundry list of problems, ranging from respiratory system damage to polluted groundwater. In a study from Washington State endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it was found that six percent of all custodians suffer from a chemical exposure-related injury each year. 

Although it requires some upfront research, departments can identify eco-friendly cleaning solutions by examining the labels closely. It’s crucial to look for signs of “greenwashing” on products, where products claim to be eco-friendly without actually meeting the criteria. Greenwashed products often contain a vague description as to why they are environmentally helpful and will lack certification from the EPA. Resources are available to help decipher the legitimate options from pretenders — namely the Safer Choice program. Available on the agency’s website, users can identify certified products on the front end and confirm whether ingredients are green through the Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL). 

Waste Reduction Practices 

One way that facilities can reduce waste is with the implementation of high-speed hand dryers, preferably with cool air, in lieu of paper towels. While carbon emissions created by hand drying machines is a concern, a report from the Green School Alliance notes that in 95 percent of circumstances, hand dryers are a greener alternative to paper towels when the greenhouse gases produced to decompose towels into landfills are factored into the equation. On average, paper towels produce 56 grams of carbon dioxide emissions per use, compared to just 9-40 grams for hand dryers. 

Another simple fix with a surprisingly large benefit is to remove plastic liners for recycling bins that mainly receive paper products. In doing so, facilities not only contribute to the use of less plastic altogether, but, over time, the savings from avoiding the purchase of daily liners can help the cleaning budget. Similarly, labeling waste bins by trash and recycling — and implementing a color-coded system consistent throughout a facility — can not only guide occupants to dispose of their waste correctly but remind them that recycling is important. A study conducted by Recycle Across America found that standardized labels boost recycling by more than 50 percent while also significantly reducing the levels of non-recyclable materials into incorrect bins.  

previous page of this article:
How To Launch A Sustainability Program
next page of this article:
Initial Steps For Launching A Sustainability Program