By Colleen Tang
Implementing a green cleaning program can be a daunting task for facility managers. A range of environmentally responsible products are available. So where do you begin? Here are key steps in implementing a green cleaning program.
Facility managers may look to in-house janitorial staff to make the building’s cleaning program more eco-friendly. But before purchasing new products or making major changes to the program, managers might consider enrolling janitorial staff in education and training classes.
Dave Thompson, president of Green Clean Institute, which offers certification classes, has been in the industry for 40 years. He says before you can employ more environmentally responsible cleaning methods, you first must understand why you are cleaning and focus on the existing indoor environment, relative to the positive or negative attributes of indoor air quality.
"Always use the lungs and nose to tell you where to go green first," Thompson says. "If you smell [a product] and a person’s body has an immediate reaction to the vapors of the process or product, it needs to be changed. What changes are needed depends on what caused the reaction."
In deciding whether to employ greener cleaning practices in-house, managers should consider cost and quality control. Implementing an in-house green cleaning program could be cheaper, and employers can manage internal employees more effectively than outside contractors, says Albert Addante, director, chief financial officer and estimator of Westcoast Building Maintenance Ltd., a cleaning service based in Vancouver.
Managers who outsource should determine whether the contractor is qualified to provide green services, Thompson says. Managers can check into the organization that certified the contractor to ensure credibility. The certifying body’s website should have a verification page.
"Being transparent as to the validity of the certification and outlining how long the certification lasts are paramount to the credibility of the certification," Thompson says.
Eco-friendly cleaning products are not necessarily more expensive than non-green alternatives because many use simple ingredients, such as natural extracts, Addante says. LEED and other industry resources can provide product-purchasing guidance, Addante says. For example, the Public Works and Government Services Canada website provides a list of programs that certify goods and services.
To ensure products contractors bring in to a facility are in fact green, managers should ask for a full description of the products from the contractor and inspect them once they arrive at the facility.
"The products should not only be eco-friendly, but they should contain some sort of well-known certification, such as EcoLogo, which is government regulated," Addante says.
The Canadian government founded EcoLogo in 1988, and the organization certifies products using strict environmental standards that consider a range of environmental attributes throughout a product’s life cycle.
Addante says janitorial staff can use acid- and alkaline-based cleaners periodically for heavy-duty cleaning. But a more eco-friendly cleaner can be effective on a regular basis.
Whether managers keep a green cleaning program in-house or decide to outsource, they need to pay close attention to products coming into their facilities. Government resources and certification programs provide guidance related to green cleaning and help managers ensure a healthy indoor environment for building occupants.