Five Must-Haves for a Sustainable Cleaning Program
Contributed by Kurt Kuempel, vice president of GSF USA
In response to COVID-19, commercial facilities are cleaning more than ever before. Cleaning professionals use chemicals and tools on a daily basis, while visitors to your facility are also impacted by the choices you make regarding cleaning. Thus, it’s essential that your cleaning program takes into consideration what is safest for people and the environment.
Sustainable cleaning programs are on the rise, as they can enhance health and safety and provide many other benefits. Facility managers interested in transitioning to green cleaning should be able to articulate the benefits to decision makers, employees and customers, and understand certain must-haves that will ensure success.
Why Green Cleaning is Not a Trend
In the past, green cleaning may have been considered a phase or a fad, but the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of responsible cleaning. Green cleaning is here to stay because it offers numerous benefits, including:
• Enhanced safety. Certain health conditions like skin irritation, headaches and more can result from using traditional cleaning chemicals with harsh ingredients. These ailments may occur in those who clean or are present during or after cleaning takes place. Using green cleaning products and practices can help reduce exposure to chemicals that can create risks on their own or if mixed with other solutions.
• Reduced illnesses. It has been proven that sick workers are less productive, which can cost employers $2,660 per worker per year. By utilizing green methods, you can safely remove illness-causing pathogens and avoid aggravating those with asthma and allergies.
• Better indoor air quality. Good indoor air quality (IAQ) is a must-have in buildings, particularly with people spending much of their time indoors. Poor IAQ can lead to symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, and respiratory illness. Green cleaning programs opt for chemicals that do not release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have a negative impact on IAQ.
• Enhanced brand reputation. Companies with a strong sustainability focus are more likely to deliver financial value and a lasting positive impact for their workers and, most of all, society and the environment. Considering the impact your cleaning program has on the planet is one way to further enhance your organization’s commitment to environmental stewardship.
• Cost savings. In an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19, many organizations are overcleaning, which increases resource use and unnecessary costs. Green cleaning programs prioritize energy, chemical and water savings to reduce consumption and related costs. Additionally, by using safer chemicals, organizations lessen risks that can lead to expensive injuries, illness or reputational damage.
Achieving Sustainable Cleaning Success
Consider the following strategies to help you implement or enhance a green cleaning program:
1. Look for reputable certifications – Many products are marketed as “all-natural,” “organic” and “eco-friendly,” and it can be difficult to know which have meaningful claims. Green Seal is a global nonprofit organization that pioneered the ecolabeling movement. Facility managers can look for certified products and trust that they meet strict standards for health, sustainability and product performance.
2. Use technology to your advantage – With better tools and equipment, a higher quality and more efficient clean is achieved the first time around. This saves time, energy, water and chemical. Advanced tools, like robotic scrubbers and vacuums, take floor care to the next level, making maintenance of facilities easier, faster and more effective.
3. Ditch potentially hazardous cleaning chemicals – Of the estimated 85,000 to 95,000 chemicals registered in the United States, only a small percentage has undergone legitimate safety testing. Rather than relying on bottled solutions or concentrates that have a long list of ingredients, you can provide effective electrochemically-activated solutions (ECAS) made from three safe ingredients: water, salt and electricity. These ECAS clean and disinfect without releasing VOCs or creating safety risks.
4. Optimize products that repurpose – Not all cleaning tools need to be produced from new raw materials, especially considering the strain this puts on natural resources and our planet’s forests and waterways. Consider the entire lifespan of your equipment. Remember that it takes 22 gallons of water to produce one pound of plastic. Selecting tools made from recycled materials helps repurpose waste that may have otherwise ended up in landfills or waterways.
5. Conduct training – A successful green cleaning program ensures that the professionals carrying out these duties understand how best to use the equipment, chemicals and tools that support sustainability. Help your cleaning professionals understand that these tools are implemented to work alongside them, as well as to protect them. Green cleaning training for new hires and seasoned employees should stress benefits that directly impact these workers, including their health, wages and productivity.
Doing Good through Green Cleaning
At the height of the pandemic, 73 percent of business executives claimed becoming a truly sustainable and responsible business is a top priority for their organization in a three-year plan. Green cleaning is one avenue that organizations can explore to reduce negative effects on the planet. It’s a process that enables facilities to control the spread of pathogens in a healthier, more sustainable way. It can also have a positive effect on worker morale, customer satisfaction and your bottom line. As companies adapt to green cleaning, it’s more important than ever to stress why and how incorporating green cleaning is better for the environment and people.