green cleaning and sustainable green cleaningThe following are questions and answers from Stephen Ashkin for Healthcare Facility News

1. What green and sustainability trends do see happening in healthcare today?

• Healthcare administrators are looking for more green and sustainability information that is both comprehensive and easy to interpret.
• Administrators want more information regarding their distributors and all vendors as to their environmental performance such as fleet management, fuel savings, and energy and water management in their facilities in order to develop a “Sustainability Scorecard.”
• More administrators only want green-certified cleaning products used in their facilities; along with this, they are developing their own in-house sustainability programs.
• Facility care administrators want changes that reduce costs along the entire supply chain process, including reduced product costs, electronic purchasing (which saves time and contributes to automating the ordering process), delivery improvements, etc.
• All administrators want greater transparency. They want to know, for instance, what chemical ingredients are actually in the cleaning products they select, if there are greener or healthier alternatives to the products they are using, if those products perform more effectively (thereby lowering labor costs), etc.

2. What environmental services trends will supply chain professionals need to be aware of in the future—and why?

Large facilities, such as hospitals and major medical centers, are likely to make increasing use of analytical tools or supply chain management systems that both keep tabs on overall purchasing and make it easier to select greener and more environmentally preferable products. A recent survey of 300 directors and managers involved in purchasing for their organizations (conducted and reported by Bloomberg BusinessWeek Research Services earlier this year)  found that the need for information gathering systems is expected to jump considerably and to continue to grow in future years.

3. What are some of the common errors that healthcare administrators make when it comes to green cleaning products?

• Believing their custodial staff does not need training regarding green cleaning products and green cleaning procedures.
• Understanding the need to incorporate sustainability into cleaning and all of their facility’s operations.  Green cleaning and sustainability now go hand-in-hand
• There still exists a belief that green cleaning products cost more and/or do not perform as well as traditional cleaning products. Those are now myths from a bygone era.

4. What steps can administrators make to become more sustainable?

• Implement a color-coding system for all power-using devices in a facility such as copiers, computers, monitors, etc. The codes can be used to identify systems that can be turned off completely after hours or on weekends, reducing energy consumption.
• Provide employees with training regarding how to reduce consumption in a variety of areas, including energy, water, and product usage, etc. Doing so helps create a “culture of sustainability,” which means taking steps to reduce consumption is now a key part of an organizations operation.
• Be aware that sustainability has no endpoint—it is a journey. Always be open to new ways of doing things that may prove to be more sustainable and/or economical.
• Realize that effective waste management systems can be a major cost saver.

5. How can health-care facilities include sustainability goals in their environmental services processes and procedures?

Practice “the four E’s”

Engage. Make sustainability visible. Employees must discuss goals, targets, etc. Make it real to all staff members.

Educate. Once staff is engaged, educate them about how their work impacts the health of the facility, patients, and the environment.

Empower. Encourage workers to get involved and help solve problems. Sustainability goals are easier to achieve when staff members are involved at all levels of an organization.

Experiment: Allow small groups of motivated people to experiment with different ways to be greener and more sustainable…such as a ride sharing program, composting in a cafeteria, etc.;  drive change from the bottom up to benefit the entire organization.


Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing 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. He is also coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies


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