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Sustainability in Action: Four Things Green Cleaning Can and Should Do

We hear a lot of businesses say that they do green cleaning, but often what they mean is that some of the cleaning products they use have natural or environmentally friendly aspects. It’s true that green cleaning means using cleaning products that have lower impacts on the environment than do conventional products. But, green cleaning is as much about how the cleaning is performed as it is about products. Green cleaning products, without green cleaning practices, will quickly deflate the value of what you are trying to accomplish.  Here’s why.

There are four things that green cleaning aims to do:

  • Prevent pollutants and particulate from remaining on surfaces or becoming airborne,
  • Provide high quality, effective cleaning,
  • Prevent the discharge of harmful chemicals into our water supply, and
  • Protect the health and well being of the cleaning staff and building occupants.
  • The biggest complaint we hear about green cleaning is that it doesn’t work.  Hogwash!  Ninety nine percent of the time, the problem is people, not products that are the problem.  The most significant impediment to effective green cleaning is proper training.  A lack of training on green cleaning practices is the single greatest cause of failure on all four of the objectives above.

Cleaners who are used to big gun nasty chemicals need to be trained on how to use greener products. Green chemicals often require more time to work, particularly when it comes to disinfecting. A microfiber cloth will put as much allergenic particulate (that’s dust that makes you sneeze!) in the air as a regular duster if the cleaner does not know how to use it. Using a high efficiency water bucket without changing the water as recommended means the cleaner will be applying rather than removing dirt. When cleaners are trained to alter the way they clean, they can achieve cleanliness and time efficiency without the health and environmental harm of conventional cleaning.

On the equipment side of things, green cleaning involves buying greener cleaning equipment. This includes everything from microfiber mops to ergonomic, HEPA filtered, and quiet vacuums. Greener equipment reduces building contaminants, noise, and risk of injury to your cleaning staff. Fewer injuries and sick days results in more consistent cleaning. Greener equipment also reduces workers’ compensation claims. If you use a janitorial service, they will have these cost-saving benefits to offset the cost of new equipment.

Using greener cleaning equipment also allows you to consider daytime cleaning. Most businesses conduct all cleaning at night.  Day cleaning saves energy (uses less lighting), improves performance (cleaning staff are being observed), and humanizes the process for both occupants and cleaning staff.  With proper attention to occupant needs and staff training, day cleaning programs can produce many benefits.

The products and processes used to clean your workspace have significant effects on human health and the environment, so begin by considering the following three steps to put green cleaning in place.

1. Evaluate your current cleaning program. Work toward lowering the environmental and health impacts of your program. Develop a cleaning program that provides guidance on all three important aspects: staffing, training, products, and equipment. If you use a janitorial service, find one that uses, and invests in the education of custodians on proper use of, green cleaning products and equipment. For a great guide, click here.

2. Buy green cleaning products. Your green cleaning program should outline the types of products that are acceptable for purchase, such as those that meet the Green Seal standard.  This includes chemicals and equipment. The EPA’s website has extensive information to help you make your green purchasing decisions.

3. Educate your workforce.  There are many ways that building occupants can help reduce cleaning needs.  Reporting spills when they happen reduces cleaning time. Using common sense to avoid attracting pests through open food or water sources reduces a host of headaches. Proper hygiene through regular hand washing prevents the spread of germs between cleanings.

Green cleaning is more than just reducing the harmfulness of the chemicals used to clean. It considers the products and equipment used and most importantly, the training of custodians. It is about protecting human health and the environment. For a few good guides to help you improve your cleaning program, click hereand here.

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