By Phil Carrizales
As businesses continue to learn the extend of their impact of the environment, more have committed to implementing sustainable practices. Saving the planet is no longer limited to recycling, renewable energy, or even electric vehicles. Chemical companies have also jumped on the green bandwagon in recent years, offering a wealth of environmentally friendly and safer options for cleaning solutions in workplaces, commercial and residential buildings, and public facilities.
Then Vs. Now – Cleaning Goes Green
Just a decade ago, there was a cleaning chemical for virtually everything. You had glass cleaners, solid surface and floor cleaning solutions, toilet cleaners, disinfectants, deodorants, etc. There were over a dozen cleaners used for any one facility. Today, we’re seeing a consolidation of chemicals where one or two cleaners can be effectively used on multiple surfaces rather than eight or nine different products. This not only bodes well for facility managers on tighter budgets who are getting the highest level of clean with fewer chemicals, but it’s also a win for the environment.
It’s not only chemical products that have gotten a make-over in recent years. Flooring, for example, has also followed sustainable and environmentally friendly trends. Take Terrazzo flooring. A mix of cement and various aggregates, this versatile flooring looks like polished stone or marble and is often used in Class A office buildings, schools, and healthcare facilities. For years, chemical floor finishers were used on terrazzo to enhance its shine and durability. But more recently, building operators are forgoing these chemical finishes and leaving the terrazzo bare, adding only a thin layer of water-based sealer once or twice per year for protection. Labor utilization is lower, and floors are easier to maintain as a result. In addition, other easy-to-maintain flooring options such as luxury vinyl tile and ceramic tile that looks like wood have come into fashion for their ease of cleaning and low maintenance, eliminating the need for expensive chemical strippers and finishes as well as the labor required to keep up such processes.
The Advantages of Green Cleaning
Green cleaning practices go beyond just meeting environmental regulations. They’ve become a more mainstream solution for many facilities that must do more with less – less labor due to worker shortages and less funding for comprehensive cleaning programs. Other benefits include:
- Cost efficiency. Many of the green cleaners today come concentrated and are easily diluted. One cleaner now does the job of three different products.
- Training efficiency. Employees must be properly trained on how to use each chemical cleaner safely and effectively. Having fewer chemicals means employees need to be trained on a couple of cleaning products compared to dozens.
- Improved indoor air quality and safety. A small number of chemical cleaners utilized per square foot mean an overall safer indoor environment, free of VOCs, excessive fragrances, and fumes that contribute to indoor air pollution. At ACME, we’ve found that customers who have implemented green-certified cleaning programs utilizing products that have low or no residual fragrances or chemical odors state that occupants are taking notice of the change. With greener cleaning products becoming more popular, people understand that the environment can be clean without smelling like chemicals. In environments with more sensitive occupants such as schools, hospitals, and senior living facilities, better air quality and a safer overall environment are important.
How Green Chemistry Has Improved
Years ago, green cleaning products did cost more and were less effective because there were fewer manufacturers of these chemical cleaners. Today’s environment looks very different.
Over the past several years, we’ve seen green chemistry greatly improve. With large chemical manufacturers transitioning away from standard chemistry and moving toward more green-certified products, these cleaners are now fairly abundant, keeping costs low and competitive with traditional solutions. Any cleaning product labeled “green” must be certified by independent parties such as Design For the Environment (DFE) or Ecologo, which perform intensive testing on green-labeled products to ensure the chemicals used are not hazardous to people or the environment.
The Future Looks Green
Businesses that have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic have upped their game when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting methods. They’re quickly recognizing that greener, more innovative, and environmentally friendly cleaning programs are not only more sustainable but more cost-effective and efficient. The green industry will continue to grow and adapt, and businesses and facilities that adopt greener cleaning programs today are ensuring a healthier environment for employees, the public, and perhaps an even greener bottom line for tomorrow.
Carrizales is the Director of the Hygiene and Facilities Solutions Division at Acme Paper and Supply Company, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of sanitation solutions, disposable food service packaging, restaurant equipment and supply, retail and industrial packaging, and custom-designed packaging. Phil has over 20 years of experience in account management for major cleaning suppliers and is ISSA certified.