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How Green is the Cleaning Industry?

Three professionals from the service and end consumer industry talk to American Cleaning & Hygiene about their efforts in using and applying eco-friendly products and practices.

 

LUCAS MIGNEAULT, VICE PRESIDENT-OPERATIONS, COASTAL GROUP, HHS

In healthcare, green cleaning trends are becoming increasingly popular. As a result, more ecofriendly chemicals and products are being produced that are safer for the sewer and wastewater systems. Additionally, in the effort to reduce the effect on respiratory related issues, manufacturers are removing by-products from solution mixtures. With regard to healthcare training, there has been a big push to equip team members and staff with the tools and the knowledge they need to properly dispose of pharmaceuticals, hazardous and radioactive materials, and more. These are just some of the contributions to green cleaning programs.

 

Stakeholder awareness

Stakeholders are very aware of the importance of eco-friendly cleaning and hygiene practices, especially in healthcare. Heads of infection-control departments must remain up-to-date with the current trends and best practices in properly sanitizing and sterilizing a medical facility. Healthcare cleaning solution manufacturers have begun to realize and implement these eco-friendly concepts and have a large number of green label products. In turn, distributors market these products for their green, eco-friendly qualities.

 

Products available

An important green product that has really made an impact on our industry is closed-system concentrates. This chemical dispensing system accurately dispenses products into bottles, floor care machines, and mop buckets by using a pre-tipped nozzle to ensure the proper filling and dilution of products. Utilizing this technology not only eliminates the possibility of team members coming into contact with the chemical products but also helps reduce the chances of chemicals being spilled or wasted. This system allows for safer, more accurate chemical mixing while helping to reduce costs and environmental impact.

 

Training in green

Our environmental services teams complete a rigorous training process that not only covers cleaning and disinfection techniques to reduce the spread of hospital acquired infections (HAIs) but also green cleaning protocols and processes. They are equipped to handle a range of items that affect the environment around them from hazmat and radiation monitoring to waste segregation. This training is essential to keeping the patients, team members, and the environment safe. Additionally, we have been training on green-conscious initiatives for over a decade. Our extensive courses include proper dilution of chemicals, which helps save water, resources, and costs. To continue our efforts to conserve our natural resources, our teams use microfiber mops and cloths. In addition, all of our leaders complete mandatory monthly HHS University (HHSU) training modules to keep them abreast of the latest process improvements and best practices and provide re-training on key foundational proficiencies, including our environmentally sustainable practices. Incorporating this training helps keep our leadership teams aware of important trends and changes within the environmental services industry.

 

The cost factor

Cost depends on the industry and the type of chemicals that need to be used. In some ways, using green products is more cost efficient because clients are able to purchase a green concentrated cleaner, which comes in smaller weight increments and lasts longer, and by adding it into a closed fill system, reduces the amount of product wasted. Although the product may be more expensive than its nongreen equivalent, by reducing the amount you need and the quantity in which you purchase the product, the cost for shipping and for product purchasing comes down. In addition, by using green concentrate cleaners, you are able to use refillable bottles. This eliminates extra expenditure and also decreases the amount of waste in local landfills.

 

Challenges

Our first priority in the healthcare industry is to keep the patients and the guests we serve safe. Not all green products are strong enough to handle the proper disinfection and sterilization that is needed to reduce the spread of HAIs. As environmental service providers, we must be strategic in our cleaning practices and ensure that, first and foremost, we are providing a sterile, hygienically clean, and safe environment for our patients. That has been one of the biggest challenges when it comes to incorporating green products and practices in healthcare.

 

The future

A lot of the products and practices being utilized in our industry are actually green, and in the coming years, in an effort to better protect our environment and resources, I feel that green products will continue to improve and saturate the market.

 

  • Manufacturers remove by-products from solution mixtures
  • Closed-system concentrates dispensing systems effective
  • Healthcare teams to be trained in handling hazmat & radiological material
  • Company leaders take mandatory training in HHS University modules
  • Green products to improve and saturate market

CRISTIAN FLORES, HOUSEKEEPING PROFESSIONAL, LUXURY RESORT, NAPA VALLEY

Some properties advertise simple “green” efforts such as requesting guests to reuse towels, etc., but this is more towards saving money and labor. Hotels today take a step further and use liners that can be washed to reduce the use/ waste of plastic bags. They work towards being LEED certified – and that is contributed by the use of biodegradable products.

 

Awareness

All stakeholders of the industry are aware of the importance of green or eco-friendly practices and products. However, the necessity of these is usually determined on the basis of the caliber of the hotel and the clientele, which, in turn, affects all the stakeholders.

 

Products available

The choices for green products are very limited due to low demand; moreover, some companies also sell green products that may not qualify for a LEED certification or eco-label.

 

Training

Firstly, green products do not work as quickly as their harsher counterparts. Products need to be applied and left for 5-10 minutes for them to be effective, and even with daily cleaning, we encounter issues from time to time. A huge challenge is educating staff – they all use traditional products in their homes, and the concept of green is foreign. A little mold results in them instantly using bleach; but, no LEED property will even touch bleach or any other acid/caustic chemical for that matter. Apart from this, refresher training is given during morning meetings, daily – this includes reminders to use PPE at all times, to leave the chemicals on surfaces for 5-10 min before wiping down or scrubbing, etc.

 

The cost factor

It is a common assumption that green products are more expensive. This is not altogether false. But, that is merely a result of the practices. Sometimes, because green products are milder, twice as much chemical is used, thereby increasing consumption. Extensive training and education is the solution.

Challenges

Apart from educating staff, the biggest difficulty is the application of these products. When room attendants only have about 20-60 minutes per room to clean, these products are not very effective even with daily use at the pace of the attendants using them.

 

  • LEED certification popular in hospitality
  • Limited choices for green products
  • Staff still uses traditional cleaning products – training should be extensive
  • Challenge to use green products effectively within the given time span

STEVE WILSON, PRESIDENT & CEO, THE SERVICE COMPANIES

We work with our partners to identify trends and products that are beneficial for The Service Companies. Lynne Olson, Corporate Scientist of our nationwide partner, Ecolab, provided some guidance in terms of current trends when it comes to green cleaning programs: “The trend is more action, less talk, and fewer “green” buzz words about cleaning and hygiene. Leaders in the industry are developing cleaning and hygiene programs founded on benchmarking and measurable outcomes. Over the past several years, many have implemented “green” or “sustainable” cleaning programs that incorporate a broad and varied array of factors to define their “green” program. But more recently, leadership organizations have started looking back and asking if these efforts are resulting in real, measurable improvements. Good question, but difficult to answer since in most cases, impacts and impact reduction were not systematically defined or considered in developing the sustainable cleaning and hygiene program. To address this gap, an organization called the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) is evolving as a source for best-in-class guidance. Businesses interested in defining and executing strategic, outcome-driven programs to improve the sustainability of their cleaning and hygiene programs can find guidance, case studies, links, and a community of practice through the organization’s website.”

 

Awareness

We are at a point where all stakeholders, with some exceptions, are fully aware of the importance of eco-friendly cleaning and hygiene practices. At The Service Companies, we have seen a growing focus from our hospitality customers on utilizing green products and the implantation of practices that reduce energy and water usage. It helps that suppliers are dedicated to sustainability and have created lines of products that are more efficient, require fewer resources and safer. But, in addition to purchasing green tools and chemicals, some of our hotel, casino, and resort customers have partnered with sustainability and environment-focused organizations and have developed contests to educate their team on the importance of eco-friendly tools and chemicals. These contests are great ways to ensure that end users (in The Service Companies’ instance, our associates) see the direct difference these chemicals make. We still see challenges in breaking the perception that eco-friendly tools are not as powerful as nongreen ones; but, with training and education, those perceptions are quickly changing.

 

Product availability

The supplier market for green products is quite large. At The Service Companies, we utilize environmental solutions when available, and Ecolab, Windsor Kärcher Group, WAXIE, and Cosgrove are just a few of the suppliers that have produced green product lines we have tested and approved. The supplier market has fully adopted the green movement and there are many options for service companies like ours to utilize.

 

Training

At The Service Companies, we have developed a robust training program that is tailor-made for each position and property, depending on responsibilities and the services we provide. The training program encompasses best practices, how to use chemicals safely, and green practices, among others. We invite our suppliers to furnish training materials, training resources and to conduct in-service training to our team members. As part of the training, we educate each team member on the sustainable and green products that are part of that property’s designated chemicals. They are trained on those specific chemicals, and if they are not certified for a product, they are not permitted to use it. We have also designated March as the “Going Green” Month. Each daily pre-shift meeting focuses on green cleaning practices. The pre-shifts are the perfect forum to reinforce our training program throughout the year in addition to our annual mandatory refresher training.

 

The cost factor

Green products and equipment do bear a higher initial purchase price; however, generally speaking, the total cost of ownership (including chemicals, repairs, and supplies) is lower with such equipment. We are committed to using the bestin-class equipment. This results in The Service Companies being able to provide a higher quality of cleanliness and increased efficiencies to our hotel, casino and resort customers.

 

Challenges

I think one of the biggest challenges is contradicting the prevalent perception that green products are as strong as non-sustainable products. When given green products, some people think they need to use more to get the same results as when not using a nongreen product. That is completely false, and the only way to break this perception is through education and training.

 

The future

I see the momentum of green cleaning practices continuing in full force, especially as the environment becomes a major focus for the global population. While there is a large range of products already available, I predict companies will begin to enforce green practices and eventually phase out non-green chemicals that could not only be harmful to the environment, but to their associates as well. I have already seen this begin to create traction, and fully anticipate that companies will be going mostly or completely green.

 

  • SPLC evolving as a source for best-in-class guidance in green cleaning
  • Customers set up contests to educate cleaning teams
  • Challenges in breaking the perception that eco-friendly tools are not as powerful
  • Suppliers furnish training materials, training resources to conduct in-service training