Green Cleaning for Safety, Sustainability, and Savings

Green cleaning, relatively new watchwords in facilities management, improves indoor air quality for employees and customers and lightens the environmental-toxin load.  But while large corporations and public-sector businesses, like hospitals and schools, may have sophisticated green-cleaning programs, midsize and small companies may feel left behind by the green train.

LEED for Existing Buildings Program

If you are a facility manager in an organization that has not fully boarded, the first thing you can do is measure what you are currently doing against the LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) program. This document is easily obtainable from the Green Building Council, which developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, today’s most widely used green-building rating system. (Sections 3.1-3.6 of this document explains what is needed to set up a green-cleaning program.)

For example, these are general requirements for a high-performance program:

  • An appropriate staffing plan
  • Maintenance-personnel training in the hazards, use, maintenance, disposal, and recycling of cleaning chemicals and in the dispensing of equipment and packaging
  • Use of concentrates with appropriate dilution systems to minimize chemical use
  • Use of sustainable cleaning materials, products, equipment, paper products, and trash bags
  • Use of sustainable cleaning and hard floor and carpet-care products and equipment.

Most people will start a new green-cleaning program by looking at the chemicals they use, and that make sense, as long as they recognize products are only one part of a complex picture. Cleaning agents should be certified by a third-party who is not a manufacturer—such as Green Seal, EcoLogo, or EPA’s Design for the Environment Program.

Green Seal Certified Products

The website for Green Seal provides an easy mechanism for finding the names and company websites for Green Seal-certified products and services. Chances are, some of the products in use in your facility already pass muster. These products can easily be identified with the help of information from third-party certifiers. You can also make use of the Green Guides, produced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Last updated in 2012, the Guides are neither regulations nor lists of recommended products. Rather, they are meant to help a user assess the claims of a supplier about a product’s safety or sustainability (harmlessness to the environment).

Another easy way to start greening is by looking at how much product is used. For example, maintenance staff may be under the impression that more is better, when in fact, overusing a product does not lead to more cleanliness and in fact degrades indoor air quality and creates problems for people with allergies and chemical sensitivities. To avoid the overuse of chemicals, it will be necessary to audit cleaning processes and then retrain staff in the use of both old and new cleaning agents.

Next Steps

Those who already are successfully running green-cleaning programs might think of next steps for increased safety and sustainability. For example, more organizations are discovering electrolyzed water (also called engineered water or ionized water). An electric current is applied to tap water mixed with salt, which produces a dirt cleaner and grease cutter (sodium hydroxide) and a sanitizer and disinfectant (hypochlorous acid) that is better than bleach with none of its harmful side-effects. Electrolyzed water, made on-site with appropriate equipment, has been widely used in Russia and Japan for years. An electrolyzed water system is also cost-effective, since is saves the purchase, shipping, and storing of bulk chemicals and costs about 2 cents a gallon to make it from tap water, which will quickly offset the price of the high-tech equipment needed to make the water.

To learn more about green cleaning and the range of Building Services we offer, contact SAMS today.

Tags: Blog Post