Facility managers who are trying to implement a green cleaning strategy typically wait until the new year to do so. The best way to start any green cleaning program is by building a team. Green cleaning involves not only building managers, but also requires effort from distributors servicing the facility, cleaning crews and building users.
Building a team
When forming a ‘green team,’ facility managers should consider what contribution each team member can make. Often, a team member is passionate about green issues and has the best of intentions, but is not skilled enough in building operations to lend much to the program’s success.
Also, when seeking to add tenants to the team, managers should be sure that they understand what kind of commitment will likely be required for the project. Otherwise, they may drop out for lack of time, and these disruptions can negatively impact the entire process.
Defining a program’s scope
One of the first issues the newly founded green team must address is the scope of the program. In some facilities, green cleaning is limited to products, equipment and strategies.
However, some facilities go further and include such measures as: introducing environmentally responsible pest-management programs; starting or expanding recycling programs; composting; and energy, water and fuel reductions.
If this is a facility’s first venture into green and sustainable strategies, it should start with the low-hanging fruit — green cleaning products and equipment — and expand the scope once that program is running successfully.
When transitioning to environmentally-preferable cleaning products, facility managers should consider working with a janitorial distributor that has expertise in green cleaning.
Managers should do a complete inventory of all cleaning products used in the facility, and source their green equivalents. An issue that invariably comes up is what to do with the inventory of conventional cleaning products still stored in janitorial closets. If the decision to go green was made a few months earlier, these supplies are likely already be running low. But if not, the most cost-effective step to take is to finish using what products remain.
However, if a product is especially harmful to building users and the environment, a facility manager may want to just go ahead and properly dispose of it.
Implementing a strategy
The next step is actually one of the most important, but is also the one that is most often overlooked: actually implementing a comprehensive and effective green cleaning program.
An effective green cleaning strategy involves the following:
1. Planning: Develop and maintain written guidelines that govern cleaning procedures, chemical handling, equipment maintenance, communication, training and inspection programs. Managers should also implement record-keeping procedures that make information available to all cleaning personnel, green team members and building users.
2. Products: Look for cleaning chemicals certified as green by an independent party. Green cleaning also includes choosing vacuum cleaners that meet the minimum standards of the Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) Green Label program and carpet extractors that have earned the CRI’s Bronze Seal of Approval. It also means selecting floor machines with vacuum systems or other devices that capture and collect airborne particulates.
3. Procedures: Managers must provide easy-to-understand directions for workers, and include documented training on how to properly use cleaning tools and equipment.
It should show everyone:
- How to implement effective and healthy cleaning processes and methods;
- How to track the amounts of chemicals used over time;
- How to properly use chemical dilution systems;
- How to recycle or properly dispose of used chemicals and equipment at the end of their life cycle;
- And how to reduce, minimize, or eliminate the need for cleaning chemicals.
Paul Wildenberg is the vice-president of sales at Charlotte Products/Enviro-Solutions, a leading manufacturer of professional cleaning chemicals and green-certified cleaning products.