Green cleaning programs provide obvious benefits; however, the one benefit not always at the top of the list is cost savings. For some organizations, saving money may be the best reason for implementing a green cleaning program, but until recently there had been an industry-wide perception green cleaning was more costly and less effective in meeting quality cleaning standards and objectives.
If you asked 100 people to describe what green cleaning is, a common answer would be “using products that cost more money and do not work.” Yes, that was the case 15-20 years ago. To recover R&D costs, pay for the third-party certifications (Green Seal, EcoLogo, and US-EPA’s Design for the Environment (DFE)) and marketing costs, the chemical manufacturers had price points often 30% higher than the equivalent non-green products. Additionally, green cleaning products did not perform as well as non-green cleaning products. As a result, the green movement in the cleaning trades never aggressively moved forward. It was not logical to spend more money for products, that simply did not clean. Cleaning tasks took longer, janitorial staffs got frustrated and results suffered.
What has changed in the past 10 years? Green products such as disposables, chemicals and paper, are now priced more competitively and can often be less expensive than non-green products. Also, with the development of new chemistry technologies, the efficacy of these products often surpasses some of the older more hazardous cleaning chemicals.
Dave Fortin of the Burlington, CT Public Schools comments in an article (Green Cleaning in Schools is Cost-Effective): “These green changes are making the job easier and safer for custodians as well as saving money. You can go green and not impact the budget.” In the same article, he cites the experience of one school district in Florida, “After saving $512.86 in one school during a 3-month pilot program, the Palm Beach County District began to phase in green cleaning into all of its 180 schools in June 2008. Projected annual savings for the entire district was $360,000.00.”
This is all good for the green cleaning movement, and as a result, the fastest growing product categories in the warehouse of most janitorial wholesalers are “green certified.” But using “green certified” products are only a small part of a comprehensive green cleaning program. Cleaning managers need to examine every part of their cleaning processes and make wholesale changes in almost everything they do in order to fully realize cost savings.
Many green cleaning practices can help reduce costs, such as:
- Using micro-fiber flat mopping systems.
- Reducing or eliminating the chemical products used in daily cleaning.
- Removing all aerosol and ready-to-use chemicals.
- Implementing chemical dilution control systems.
- Adding top scrub and recoat floor finishing programs.
- Using high filtration back-pack vacuums.
Dave Butler, president of Butler-Dearden, commented on why consulting with their customers on the cost benefits of green cleaning is important: “The cost advantages of a green cleaning program are rarely discussed by the experts in the industry, and yet in our experience most organizations today with cost pressures everywhere, won’t consider adding costs to their operations just to become greener.” He added, “We continue to expand our green product offering and are committed to educating our clients on green cleaning alternatives, showing them how to save money going green, and thus helping them expand their green programs and initiatives.”
Considering all the benefits of green cleaning for health, safety, and environmental impact, being able to reduce costs in a cleaning program is a substantial benefit, which most in the industry fail to recognize. Instead, they opt to take small steps in their implementation of a green cleaning program.
A building being cleaned with green cleaning principles is also a much cleaner building. Using green cleaning techniques and tools to enhance the “capture and removal of soil and dirt” will result in much cleaner floors, bathrooms, and offices, and creates a healthier indoors for all building occupants.
Yes, there can be some capital investment needed to fully implement a green cleaning program, but some of the products will be purchased in the normal course of business, such as flat mopping systems, new vacuums, and better dusting tools. As an example, the reduction in chemical costs alone can help pay for the purchase of a micro-fiber mopping system, so cost benefits are quickly realized.
“Becoming green is good for the planet, good for the buildings our customers clean, and good for the people who live in them daily,” stresses Dave Butler.
Having assisted with schools and building service contractors throughout the country on designing and implementing cost effective green cleaning programs, we can also help you do the same.
Our series on green cleaning will continue in future blogs on green cleaning implementation procedures and the questions you should address before you get started.
Written by Jack Collins