It might seem a bit strange to find an article advocating green cleaning in a publication whose readers already understand the merits of cleaning and operating their facilities in a more environmentally preferable manner. This is even more true when discussing the value of green cleaning to the lodging industry, which has been at the forefront when it comes to implementing green cleaning.
However, the truth of the matter is that there are still a number of negative perceptions about green products—specifically green cleaning products—that make it hard for some hotel administrators to accept them. In fact, some distributors of cleaning chemicals still report that in certain quarters, just the mention of green cleaning is enough to get the door closed in their face.
One possible concern that hotel administrators might have about green cleaning products involves costs. With the economy still tough in many parts of North America, discussing any product that might cost more than what is currently being purchased is taboo. This is followed very closely by another concern: performance. Do green cleaning products perform as well as their conventional counterparts? Some hotel administrators aren’t so sure.
Age of Decision Maker is a Factor
Interestingly, whether hotel administrators and housekeepers are willing to consider green cleaning chemicals often depends on their age. This factor is reminiscent of “the generation gap” of the 1960s, when the chasm between young and older people was never greater. Older people saw the world one way and younger people viewed it another, and never the two did meet.
There is also a bit of a generation gap when it comes to green cleaning products. Many older administrators still remember early green cleaning product formulations, which tended to be costly, poor performers. Many younger people, on the other hand, are not aware of these early products and their drawbacks, and are therefore typically far more welcoming of green cleaning chemicals. In addition, the younger generation in general appears to be more green and focused on sustainability.
There is only one way to handle this situation: distributors must first sell the benefits to hotel management and then let hotel administrators/housekeepers test proven-green cleaning chemicals in order to evaluate their performance and costs for themselves.*
In many cases—especially when working with a knowledgeable janitorial distributor—hotels and other facilities find the performance of green alternatives to be as good, if not better, than conventional products, while the costs are comparable or in some cases even lower. After testing these alternatives, facilities typically find they can stop purchasing a number of products, a cost savings in itself.
For instance, when one university transferred to green cleaning, they reduced the number of cleaning chemicals they regularly purchased from 15 to four. This proved to be a significant enough savings that they were able to begin implementing other green and sustainable initiatives, such as updating their cleaning equipment and purchasing more effective matting systems.
A lesser concern, but one which must nevertheless be addressed, is administrators who doubt the health benefits of green cleaning products. Even as recently as 10 years ago, there were very few studies proving that green cleaning products improve and protect both human health and the environment. But today, many studies have been conducted in all kinds of settings—including hotels, office buildings, schools, and even industrial locations—all coming to the same conclusion: green cleaning chemicals are safer for the user, building users and occupants, and the environment.
Working with formerly doubtful hotel administrators who decide to transfer to green cleaning, it should be stressed that such a transition does not happen overnight. “Going green” is a journey, and changing to green products is merely the first step.
What to Do with Conventional Products
For instance, what should administrators do with their remaining conventional cleaning products? Unless the product has the potential to seriously harm the user or the environment (some conventional floor strippers fall into this category), any conventional products still in stock should be used up, or better yet, if dealing with a fair and professional distributor, ask them to take back the product or exchange it for other products that are green or more acceptable. This is the most cost-effective way to handle the issue and is also the most sustainable disposal method.
Training will also be necessary to teach cleaning workers how to use the new environmentally preferable cleaning products properly. Both administrators and housekeepers should become familiar with the new products and learn how to use them correctly. This will help speed along the conversion, prove the benefits of the products not only as to performance but also in regard to costs, and result in customers who are satisfied with their new products and their decision to go green.
Mike Sawchuk has been involved with the green and professional cleaning industries for more than 20 years. He is vice president and general manager of Enviro-Solutions, a leading manufacturer of proven-green cleaning chemicals based in Ontario, Canada.
*The term “proven green” refers to products that have been tested by a third-party organization such as GreenSeal, EcoLogo, or the DfE program, and that have proven to meet accepted environmental standards and criteria for the product.