Why green cleaning is a team effort

Implementing a green cleaning program means that everyone from the facilities managers, to the cleaning staff, to the occupants of the building need to be on the same page.

Procuring sustainable cleaning products is a significant step for the health of both people and planet, but it’s not the whole story.

For a truly green clean you need to consider not only what products are being used but also how they are being used. Implementing a green cleaning program means that everyone from the facilities managers, to the cleaning staff, to the occupants of the building need to be on the same page.

The benefits of a green cleaning program are well documented. Using green cleaning products helps improve the indoor air quality of a building, which has been linked to improved productivity, better health, and reduced absenteeism for the building occupants and cleaning staff alike.

Having healthier, more productive workers translates into less money spent on sick leave or inefficient working processes. There are also obvious environmental benefits that contribute towards any sustainability performance requirements of the building.

In order to reap these benefits, procurement and facilities management professionals need to select the right products in the right quantity for the building. These need to be used correctly, with cleaning staff following proper procedures and understanding the reasons behind choosing green products over conventional cleaning solutions.

“Facilities management professionals and cleaning product manufacturers are very aware of the benefits of green cleaning programs – but unfortunately, the products that they might specify aren’t actually being used by cleaning staff in a lot of cases,” says Paula Clasby, head of engagement for GECA.

“Often it’s simply a case of a cleaning staff member not understanding the importance of green cleaning products or perceiving them to perhaps be inferior to the conventional products they’ve been using for years already.

“We’ve heard stories of staff members adding bleach to cleaning units that are designed to use only water or insisting on using bathroom cleaners with a strong fragrance because that’s perceived as an indicator of an effective clean. So, it then becomes a matter of making sure that all cleaning staff understand what they’re using and how it will benefit them.”

Cleaning staff using conventional cleaning products can potentially be exposed to high levels of various chemicals that range from being mild irritants to known carcinogens. It is in their own best interests to switch to cleaning solutions that are free from such substances.

Less exposure to harmful substances helps lower the risks for cleaning staff and building occupants, and fewer chemicals to store and dispose of safely makes regulation and compliance easier for management professionals. Therefore, facilities management and procurement professionals face a dual challenge: procuring genuinely sustainable cleaning products and ensuring that staff are using those products effectively.

Standards and certification provide an effective solution to both issues. Procurers can check for independent, third-party certification on products to show that they conform to high standards for environmental and health impacts.

Similarly, facilities management professionals can rely on certification when choosing a cleaning services provider, knowing that their processes and products have been independently assessed. GECA provides an example of such certification, with standards available for certifying cleaning products, as well as for certifying cleaning service providers themselves.

Through the Cleaning Services (GECA 37-2008) standard for example, cleaning service providers must implement guidelines on:

  • Storage and use of chemicals;
  • Procurement of environmentally preferable cleaning products;
  • Equipment inspection and maintenance;
  • Communication protocols;
  • Training requirements;
  • Quality assurance procedures; and
  • Record keeping.

Under the GECA standard, cleaning service providers must have procedures in place, and provide regular training, for dealing with hazards as they may arise on a worksite. Certified providers must also adhere to guidelines for reducing the amount of waste produced and water used.

When using a GECA certified cleaning service provider, you know that staff will not only be using sustainable products, they have also been trained in the correct operation of equipment and chemical handling.

This first appeared in the March/April issue of INCLEAN magazine.

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