There are many reasons to establish a green cleaning program. A facility may be required as part of green building certification or staff and patrons may prefer a space that employs green cleaning. Whatever the reason, buildings with a green cleaning program have a higher cleanliness standard, enjoy better indoor air quality and their assets, such as floors, wall substrates and mechanical equipment, tend to last longer.
Before embarking on a green cleaning program, it’s important to conduct a facility-wide green cleaning audit to fully understand current cleaning practices and to identify areas that can be improved. From here, benchmarks can be set, which allow a company to measure the success of their green cleaning program once it has been implemented for a specific period of time.
The first step in the audit process is to determine if there’s a green cleaning policy presently in place. The policy should clearly establish in writing the standard operating procedures for effective green cleaning, including what products and tools will be utilized and frequency of cleaning, as well as detail how the green cleaning program will be managed and evaluated.
The policy should also include a way to collect feedback and measure the effectiveness of green cleaning technologies, procedures and processes on a regular basis. Of greatest importance is that the policy is endorsed by all levels of management. Without buy-in, compliance will not be achieved.
The second step is to evaluate the training process. For a green cleaning program to be effectively managed, all supervisors must receive adequate training in green/high-performance cleaning. Educational information should be provided in either written or electronic form.
Supervisors are then responsible for training workers and documenting when each has completed this task. Training should include all aspects of a green/high-performance cleaning program, as well as chemical handling, storage and disposal. Understanding why it is important to use green/high-performance cleaning principles is key to getting workers to adopt new products and processes quickly.
Training should not be limited to those involved in the cleaning process. Educating all building users that a green cleaning program has been adopted can help quell any concerns. For instance, one of the biggest changes building occupants may notice is the reduced odour of cleaning products. If it has not been conveyed that ‘green has no scent’ and the new cleaning protocols respect those who are scent sensitive while improving indoor air quality, building users may have the perception the facility is not being cleaned.
Next is the assessment of cleaning products and materials purchases. At least 75 per cent of all annual purchases should be certified to an Ecologo, Green Seal or other third party environmental standard. Purchases include cleaning chemicals, plastic trash bags, floor pads, paper towels and napkins, facial and toilet tissue, and hand and kitchen towels. Where possible, mechanisms that reduce waste like dilution control systems for chemicals and controlled paper and hand towel dispensers are ideal.
A green cleaning audit also involves the evaluation of cleaning equipment and tools. A minimum of 40 per cent of auto scrubbers should be equipped with variable speed feed pumps and onboard chemical metering or a dilution control system for filling. When possible, battery-powered equipment should use environmentally friendly lithium-ion, absorbed glass mat or gel cell batteries. It is also important that the correct floor pad is used for the application. Carpet care equipment should have high-efficiency filtration systems, high-performing vacuum systems and decibel ratings that meet health and safety regulations.
On the tool front, microfibre cloths and mops are recommended as the fibres are designed to remove dirt and germs, trapping them until it is time for the cloths to be laundered. This prevents the spread of bacteria from one surface to another.
Superior matting systems of at least 10 to 15 feet should be placed at all entrances and run with foot traffic to trap dirt at the door so it doesn’t enter a building. This can also significantly improve a facility’s indoor air quality. It is 80 per cent less expensive to remove dirt from a matting system than it is to eliminate it once tracked into a building. The green cleaning policy should dictate the frequency of cleaning, maintenance and replacement of all matting systems.
The final step in the audit process is to evaluate recycling initiatives. Finding further ways to divert waste from landfills is the goal of any successful program.
A green cleaning program is about more than simply using ‘green’ products. The real objective is to achieve a cleaner and healthier facility while also having the smallest possible impact on the environment. Green cleaning also protects cleaning staff, building occupants and the facility itself. Completing a green cleaning audit before implementing such a program is the most effective way to achieve the desired end.
Louise Taillon is director of training for the Sani Marc Group, where she is responsible for managing the company’s training program for both employees and clients. Louise has been active in the cleaning industry for more than 30 years and is a frequent guest speaker on green cleaning, cleaning for health and how to successfully implement corporate sustainability programs. She is also a LEED green associate and an ISSA Certification Expert (I.C.E.).