Question Of The Week: How Can I Avoid “Greenwashing?”

green cleaningWhen you’re looking for a green cleaning provider, how do you sort out fact from marketing fiction—also known as “greenwashing?”

Contributed by ABM

Not just a passing trend, eco-friendly cleaning has become a vital aspect of a facility’s care. Effective products, equipment, and techniques have now been around long enough to demonstrate impressive results: safer, healthier environments—inside and out.

But when you’re looking for a green cleaning provider, how do you sort out fact from marketing fiction—also known as greenwashing? Here are some Q&As to help guide you.

  1. How much experience does the green cleaning provider have?
    You’ll get the most value for your dollar from a bona fide provider. A company with years of experience can share best practices they’ve learned in serving their many clients in a variety of settings. Ask them to share their success stories—you may see similar opportunities at your facility. Also determine how much experience they have with your specific type of property and business.
  2. What are your facilities green goals?
    You might be seeking safer working conditions, reduced absenteeism, LEED certification, increased property value, good corporate citizenship, or something else. Prioritizing a list of goals will help you focus on finding the right program. An expert provider will work with you to set key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress against benchmarks.
  3. Does the janitorial company provide an assessment?
    By taking a holistic look at your facility, a full-service provider may find opportunities to go green in places you never thought to look—and some things may be at little or no extra cost. For example, switching from night cleaning to day cleaning (if appropriate in your environment) saves on lighting bills, which can defray other costs.
    An assessment should include an inventory of current cleaning practices, an evaluation of recycling opportunities, and an understanding of your facility (who uses it, how and when). The service provider can guide you on which issues to address first and suggest an implementation timeline. Changes that are quick and inexpensive should be at the top of the list due to the high return on your investment. Other decisions should be based on risk—is there immediate danger to the health of janitors and/or occupants, or to the environment? Still other items, especially those requiring a larger investment, can be put into a phase-two program.
  4. What cleaning products do they use?
    Of course everything should look and smell clean. But the products should also solve unseen problems, such as indoor air pollution and waste. Request proof that the provider uses third-party certified, environmentally safe cleaning products. For example, Green Seal is a non-profit organization that tests products for health risks, environmental impact, and effectiveness. Look at cost versus return: Changing to green cleaning products is usually cost neutral.
  5. What equipment will be used?
    Durable equipment saves in the long run and lessens the burden on the waste stream. Efficient equipment uses less energy and gets the job done quicker, and quiet machines reduce noise pollution. Examples include:
    – Carpet & Rug Institute’s Green Label vacuums
    – High-speed burnishers with active vacuum attachments that capture fine particles
    – Carpet extractors and automatic floor scrubbers that reduce water consumption
    – Microfiber cloths and mops
    – Entryway matting systems
  6. What kind of training to they give their employees?
    green cleaningThe products and equipment are key but won’t do much good if improper techniques are used. Do janitors know each product’s intended use, including proper dilution with water? Cleaning a mild stain with a strong product can waste the product and possibly damage the item. Something as simple as spraying glass cleaner on a cloth rather than on the mirror itself reduces airborne vapor particles that irritate lungs. Proper dwell time of a product increases its effectiveness, and using a designated mop (color-coded, for example) in bathrooms reduces cross contamination.
    You should look for employees who are well trained, well supervised, and evaluated regularly. Ideally, they should be employees of the facility services company and not subcontractors. If they are subcontractors, ask how training and quality is monitored.
  7. Does your budget allow for advanced options?
    If you have the budget for taking your program to a higher level, ask about (1) coreless restroom paper and dispensers, (2) low-flow and high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, and (3) an electrolyzed water system to produce your own cost-effective, gentle but effective cleaning solutions.
  8. Does the provider offer other services in a cost-saving bundle?
    An integrated facility services company can handle a full range of facility needs—from drought-tolerant landscaping to your eco-friendly roof—under one contract. You can select from a menu of services or choose a holistic, customized package that takes the entire facility services burden off you, so you can focus on your business.

These questions and answers should put you on the right track to choosing a facility services partner. An expert provider will be able to educate you further. Keep in mind that each janitorial company has its own set of skills, and look for one truly capable of helping your facility achieve its green goals.

green cleaningABM is a leading provider of facility solutions with over 100,000 employees in 300+ offices throughout the U.S. and international locations. ABM’s comprehensive capabilities include electrical & lighting, energy solutions, facilities engineering, HVAC & mechanical, janitorial, landscape & turf, mission critical solutions, and parking, provided through stand-alone or integrated solutions. ABM provides custom facility solutions in urban, suburban, and rural areas to properties of all sizes — from schools and commercial buildings to hospitals, data centers, manufacturing plants and airports.