Is there a difference between ‘green cleaning’ and ‘sustainable cleaning’?
Yes! Within the commercial cleaning industry, green cleaning tends to refer only to the cleaning products and practices used to deliver cleaning services.
Sustainable cleaning takes a much broader view. It means reviewing all aspects of running a cleaning company and service; and looking for ways to reduce its environmental and social impacts.
By ‘impacts’, we mean the way in which we negatively affect the environment, or people. This doesn’t stop at your front door – it means understanding the environmental and social impact of your supply-chain, such as the way in which the ingredients in detergents are being harvested, and reducing it through smarter purchasing choices.
Yes, that’s a big ask. But let’s face it – if we want to ensure our children and grandchildren have a healthy planet, with enough natural resources to live as well as we do, then that is what we all need to strive to do.
The final area of sustainability is financial. In the big picture view, if we deplete the planet of natural resources that cannot be regrown, such as minerals, then suppliers won’t be able to use them make products to sell, and the price of goods will escalate – pretty simple maths really!
Trying to balance environmental, social and financial sustainability is called the Triple Bottom Line. We also have a name for ‘sustainable cleaning’ – we call it ‘High Performance Cleaning’ and you can learn all about it in our two Management Workshops:
Will a green cleaning program cost more to run?
One of the most significant benefits of investing in a green cleaning program is that the savings are far-reaching. After adopting our green cleaning programs, clients have reliably experienced the following:
- more engaged workforce
- fewer complaints
- better cleaning outcomes
- improved staff retention
- less time required to manage cleaning.
While it’s money upfront in terms of management, training and consultancy, the return is excellent. Our framework has been designed to make monitoring and management of commercial cleaning contracts more efficient and sustainable.
We make it easy for clients and cleaning companies to partner, improve accountability and achieve high performance, sustainable cleaning outcomes.
Do green cleaning products work as well as ‘normal’ products?
Sorry, but we think you’re asking the wrong question! You see, if you’re expecting a non-toxic chemical to dissolve soil as efficiently as a hazardous solvent, or leave the surface as streak free as a glass cleaner full of VOCs1, or bleach the soil so you can’t see it anymore, then the answer will most definitely be ‘no’!
We’d rather ask: what do you need your cleaning product to do? Is there another way to approach this problem, to lift the grease, evaporate the moisture or lift ingrained grime, without risking the health of your cleaners or aquatic life-forms?
Perhaps you could achieve the same outcome with the help of a mechanical device, by allowing more dwell time, by using a squeegee, or supplying more effective cleaning cloths and washing them properly so they clean instead of smear the soil around!
Taking a ‘risk hierarchy’ approach means identifying the least harmful method of addressing each soiling problem, and trying that first.
If you want the same product you use to clean finger prints from a desk, to be able remove marker pen as well, sure a ‘green’ product will struggle, but do you really need to blow out a candle with a fire extinguisher?
How can my cleaning company meet the Green Star – Performance criteria?
The Green Star – Performance1 (GSP) is another building rating program by the Green Building Council of Australia that measures the sustainability of existing building operations. One of the nine GSP rating categories is called Management, and under that, is a sub-category called ‘Green Cleaning Management’.
It is important to realise that GSP is not designed for the facility cleaning company – but for the building owners and occupants. To achieve the Green Cleaning Management ‘credits’ (rating points), participants must demonstrate that their green cleaning policies and procedures are documented and being implemented.
This provides a great opportunity for commercial cleaning companies to support their current and prospective clients by doing their part to meet the Green Cleaning Management criteria. This could include:
- Supplying and using only eco-label certified cleaning products
- buying vacuum cleaners fitted with HEPA filtration
- documenting waste segregation training and monitoring procedures
- offering additional waste auditing services
- performance monitoring
- training your cleaners and supervisors in the competency units for sustainable cleaning practices
A company that has voluntarily established policies and procedures for implementing and reporting on its green cleaning performance, is going to be far more attractive to building managers who are undertaking the Green Star – Performance program.
Find out how we help both the occupant and the service provider to write policies and procedures for Green Cleaning Management.
Why is sustainability important for the cleaning industry?
Sustainability offers the cleaning industry an opportunity to demonstrate the inherent value in what we offer our clients. By focusing on the cleaning processes and outcomes, like improved hygiene, air quality and longevity of assets, sustainability affords us a framework for providing high performance cleaning.
Commercial cleaning is an expensive component of managing buildings and facilities. It’s ongoing, happens at night, is rarely seen and often, under-appreciated.
As an industry expert, who managed a successful cleaning business of her own, Bridget is determined the raise the perceived value of the sector. She understands the challenges that building managers, cleaning companies and cleaning staff face.
Sustainable cleaning that is meaningful, process-driven and easily monitored is vitally important to the future and present operations of any building or facility.
How do I know if a cleaning company is really green?
Let’s be very clear. Making unsubstantiated claims about being ‘green’ or safer for the environment is called ‘Green-washing’ and it is against the law.
The ACCC has produced an excellent guide called ‘Green Marketing and the Australian Consumer Law’ which we highly recommend you read – especially if your sell cleaning products or offer services.
So in order for a cleaning company to be really green, they must be able to demonstrate evidence of the benefits of their service to the environment – and to the health of those who use the facility.
For example: this can be as simple as using cleaning products that are third party environmentally certified, or measuring the volume of waste diverted from landfill as a result of a sustainability initiative.
But if you specify vague statements about ‘using environmentally friendly products’ when out-sourcing cleaning services, you could be aiding your cleaning service to break the law – and that’s not good!
Here are some suggestions about what you can do:
- To read more about the 7 Sins of Green-washing visit this excellent website
- To download a copy of the ‘Green Marketing and the Australian Consumer Law’ click here
- Have your cleaning specifications ‘Green Clean Health-checked’ so that you can make sure your cleaning company is really green
- Or contact us to arrange for us to show you samples of our Cleaning Specifications & tendering support documentation
Do you accept commissions or referral fees?
Never! We take our independent reputation very seriously. As a subject matter expert in best practice cleaning, our role is to evaluate and advise you on the most suitable cleaning processes and products for your service or facility.
We couldn’t give you our 100% unbiased opinion if we sold products or took commissions or referral fees. Simple.
How can I learn more about green cleaning and sustainability?
Here are some great ideas to get you started…
Ask Fresh Green Cleaning to conduct Management Workshops and Professional development training courses that are tailored to the needs of your sector and service.
Browse our library of articles written by expert Bridget Gardner on a range of current topics, or read about industry success stories in our Case Studies section.
Consider engaging our consultancy services for an hour or so, to give you an idea of about what a sustainable approach to cleaning could mean for your organisation.
Or check out the following websites* that we recommend (these are just a handful!)
- ISSA Green Cleaning University
- Eco Specifier Knowledge Green
- Green Facts
- Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI)
And finally, here are a few fun and informative You Tube* videos:
- Sustainability explained through animation:
- What’s the deal with carbon?
- How waste recycling helps our planet – Zero to Landfill
- Indoor Air Quality
*Note: we do our best to check but please be aware that internet links are not permanent and may be broken
Can sustainable cleaning practices reduce running costs?
There are many ways in which sustainable cleaning practices can make your operations more lean and efficient, thereby saving labour time, resources and energy.
Running costs can be lowered by implementing strategies for reducing the quantity of materials used, and associated supply and delivery costs, or switching to more energy efficient and longer-lasting equipment.
Of course, these benefits will not be realised unless your operations are being measured and tracked to identify the ‘leakages’ and waste points in the first place.
These are just some of the ways in which our Sustainability Support Program can help you to reduce your running costs and improve the efficiency and sustainability of your cleaning service.
Does a facility really need to have its own cleaning policy?
For any initiative to be successful, it needs a policy that is driven and signed-off by top management. Its strategies must be measurable, achievable and specific to the risks and desires the organisation wants to address. Cleaning, or green cleaning, policies, are no different.
Yet when building owners or tenants leave the green cleaning policy to the service provider, there can be a huge expectation gap between the specified ‘sustainable cleaning products and practices’, and the reality of the VOCs, toxins, dust and germs remaining in the building after the cleaning operators have left.
Why? Because an effective green cleaning policy lays down the directive for the organisation to set meaningful service standards, budgets, monitoring and reporting requirements, and even cleaner’s room facilities.
It ensures that the cleaning service is specified and implemented properly, and that the facility manager is monitoring conformance and measuring performance.
And that’s why you every facility should have their own Green Cleaning policy – or even a standard facility cleaning policy! Click here to find out how we can help you to develop your own.