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26 Wednesday, November 20, 2013


The Future of Green Cleaning Is… People

I am often asked what the future is for Green Cleaning. Some things are obvi-

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ous. Green Cleaning is certainly not new. Not only are more and more conventional products being replaced with environmen- tally preferable alternatives, in many cas- es, professional cleaning chemical manu- facturers are now on their second, third, fourth, or even fifth new ver- sion of certain Green Cleaning products. Further, the development of more cleaning equipment that helps protect the environment is also evolving. An example of this is low-moisture carpet extractors that use less water and chemical than conven- tional machines and help car- pets dry faster, preventing the growth of mold and mildew… all environmental attributes. Along with these advances, I believe the real future in Green Cleaning is not just new chemicals or equipment…but peo- ple. The future of Green Cleaning is the growing widespread endorsement of these products by people who believe in envi- ronmentally preferable cleaning and know that it is critical to the overall health of the facilities we maintain and contributes to a healthier, more sustainable planet. A Green Cleaning Culture I have given many presentations at ISSA tradeshows and anyone who gives presen-

tations on a regular basis learns a few things about doing so. One is that every audience is different. Second, you know when an audience is absorbed and inter- ested in what you are discussing and when they are not. And third, you know when you say something that resonates with your audience and something they believe is valuable for them to know.

I had just such an experi- ence about three years ago when giving a presentation on sustainability and said that we must take steps to create a “culture of sustain- ability.” What I was referring to is

when everyone in the facil- ity—cleaning workers and distributors, staff, clients, building

users,—believes Stephen Ashkin

being sustainable is prefer- able behavior. They realize

they all can and should play a part in re- ducing the use of natural resources, even if it is just by turning off unneeded lights. As a culture of sustainability is evolving

in North America and many other parts of the world, so is a culture of Green Clean- ing. Whereas custodial workers and facil- ity managers had to be enticed to select Green Cleaning products five or ten years ago, now they are looking for environ- mentally preferable products first and se- lecting conventional items only if a Green product does not exist or is a cost-prohib-

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itive or poor performer. Fostering the Green Cleaning Culture However, cultures don’t just happen. In order to build a Green Cleaning culture and to ensure that the future of Green Cleaning is people, education by experienced and effective trainers is necessary, especially for custodial workers. These workers are the future leaders in the Green and sustain- ability movement when it comes to facility management and maintenance. The following are some suggestions on

how to make this training all the more ef- fective:

Emphasize the benefits of using Green Cleaning products. Educating cleaning workers that environmentally preferable cleaning products are designed to protect the health of the cleaning worker is the first step in adoption of these products and building the foundation of a Green Clean- ing culture. Respect how people learn. While ac- countants and real estate brokers may find sitting in a classroom setting the most ef- fective learning environment for their pro- fessions, this is often not true for cleaning workers. Typically cleaning workers learn more effectively with hands-on training in their own language. Teach the processes of Green Clean-

ing. Green Cleaning is far more than just using environmentally preferable cleaning products. There is a process including such things as: • Fully understanding the overall Green Cleaning program implemented for the specific facility involved • Understanding how to safely handle and track cleaning chemicals • Implementing equipment maintenance and operation procedures • Reporting and record keeping Request feedback. Requesting feed- back from custodial workers is critical be- cause it helps make them part of the Green Cleaning program. Listening to their ques- tions and concerns helps them own the program, a requirement for the formation of a culture. Reinforce and review. As with most ef-

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fective training programs, understanding and implementing a Green Cleaning pro- gram requires that the program be ongoing, reviewed, trained, and retrained. Further, there may be some untraining required as well; cleaning workers, like other workers, have a tendency to drift back to old habits and ways of doing things. Years ago when facilities were just con- sidering transferring to Green Cleaning, one of the key steps I taught was the im- portance of getting all the facility’s stake- holders—from building owners and man- agers to vendors delivering packages to the facility—involved in the process. As to the establishment of a Green Cleaning culture, getting all of these stake- holders onboard is all the more important. In order for a Green Cleaning culture to evolve and be effective, everyone must join in and become active participants and supporters. Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The | p. 1.855.762.0011

Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializ- ing in Greening the cleaning industry, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which offers a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report and improve their sustainability efforts. n

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