By Joshua Schwartz
From the October 2022 Issue
There are countless ways to signal excellence and stand out from the competition in the hospitality industry. A hotel might offer great amenities, proximity to local attractions, or affordable prices. A restaurant could offer unique cuisine, a generous happy hour, or live music.
But in this industry especially, the absence of one basic factor will send customers running in the opposite direction. Without it, you’ll certainly stand out—but in exactly the wrong way; that one basic factor is cleanliness.
In hospitality, cleanliness is necessary, and facility managers look to use the most potent cleaners and disinfectants available. This is understandable, but it’s ultimately misguided. To demonstrate why hospitality management professionals should focus on environmentally-friendly alternatives, here are the top five advantages of sustainable cleaning in this industry.
1. Sustainable Cleaning Can Be More Effective
The most obvious problem with the view expressed above is that its fundamental premise, and the assumption that sustainability reduces effectiveness, is incorrect. More precisely, it’s outdated.
Sustainable cleaners that use fewer toxic ingredients have been around for a long time. But in recent years, technological advances have produced options that are as effective as traditional brands, while containing no toxic chemicals.
Electrolyzed water is one such technology, which uses electricity to activate the ions in salt to produce a hypochlorous acid disinfectant (HOCl) and sodium hydroxide cleaner and degreaser. The HOCl disinfectant is 80 to 120 times more effective1 than sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and the cleaner is a heavy-duty degreaser, but both solutions are completely non-toxic as they are produced with water, salt, and electricity.
2. The Health Of Workers And Patrons
Highly toxic chemical cleaners and disinfectants are effective against germs, but they’re also “effective” against humans. In other words, their ability to kill germs and clean grime doesn’t come without costs.
Many contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have been connected to numerous negative health outcomes,2 including cancer, liver and kidney damage, and more. For cleaning staff, the impact can be particularly severe. As a group, custodians suffer from occupational asthma double the rate of the general population.
One study of 6,230 people in a range of occupations, “found accelerated lung function decline in women both following occupational cleaning and cleaning at home. The effect size was comparable to the effect size related to 10-20 pack-years of tobacco smoking.”3
Of course, these products don’t need to be misused to do damage. To varying degrees, staff and patrons alike are all affected by toxic chemicals.
More sustainable, non-toxic options reduce or eliminate this problem. For example, there are electrolyzed water solutions generators that produce cleaning and disinfecting solutions with just water, salt, and electricity. Their use poses no risk of harm to humans or the environment. Healthier patrons and staff—and the inevitable savings that result—should be sought by any hospitality business.
The Benefits Of Switching To Green Cleaning
3. Better For The Environment
The environmental costs of toxic cleaning chemicals are underappreciated but high:
- 6.2 billion pounds of chemicals are used to manufacture conventional cleaning products each year
- Household cleaning products produce more VOCs than vehicle emissions
- More than 1 billion plastic spray bottles are discarded each year in the U.S., and less than 9% of plastic gets recycled
- 70% of U.S. streams contain chemicals from cleaning products
As toxic chemicals, plastics, and microplastics enter our waterways, millions of fish and animals are killed4 as a direct result of this pollution. Additionally, microplastics and toxic chemicals can survive for long periods of time and even enter the food chain. Sustainable cleaning reverses this equation, reducing pollution, resisting ozone depletion, and minimizing the worst chemicals in our food.
While there are few set standards for what qualifies as “sustainable,” there are ways to cut through the noise, including verification by reputable bodies such as the EPA or the Environmental Working Group.
4. Evidence Of Social Responsibility
Each benefit listed above suggests another advantage: The opportunity to demonstrate genuine social responsibility. Private investment decisions are increasingly made with sustainability in mind, even as democratically elected politicians across the developed world have committed to various ambitious environmental goals.
According to McKinsey, “in a survey of roughly 7,500 consumers in six countries, 79% of the respondents said they believe that wellness is important, and 42% consider it a top priority. In fact, consumers we researched reported a substantial increase in the prioritization of wellness over the past two or three years.”5
In short, many consumers are sending a clear message about their priorities. Businesses that act on this message stand to benefit.
But a word of caution is important here: Any marketing of sustainable cleaning in the hospitality industry (or elsewhere) needs to be genuine; it needs to be more than just talk.
5. Being On The Cutting Edge
Whatever one’s attitude toward sustainable cleaning, it’s hard to imagine the green cleaning market is proving unusually resistant to the rising salience of wellness and the environment.
A report by Prophecy Market Insights projected that the global sustainable cleaning market will grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 11.8%, hitting $11.6 billion by the end of this decade. In other words, sustainable cleaning is going to make inroads in the hospitality industry.
There’s value for businesses that get in on the coming wave sooner rather than later. Consumers like to feel that the companies that receive their business are on the lookout for innovative solution.
The tools are out there for the hospitality sector to respond to this consumer need for sustainable cleaning.
Schwartz, president and co-founder of Viking Pure, is an active developer of medical real estate and supportive housing. Prior to Viking Pure, Schwartz was the President of an Article 28 Diagnostic and Treatment Center. He began his career in the financial industry, first in investment banking at Citigroup and then at private equity firm Apollo Management.
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