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Greening Meetings

Meetings and events are big business in the U.S. They are valued at about $1 trillion and invariably listed as one of the ten largest industries in the country. With so many meetings and events, this can have a significant impact on the environment and the use of natural resources.

Fortunately, hotel properties are already very focused on Green and sustainability issues. Their guests now expect it, and hotel and lodging facilities are now enjoying one of the many benefits of sustainability: saving money. However, there is more to do. Administrators are encouraged to focus more attention on ways to reduce their environmental footprint when it comes to meetings.

Far too often, these have been overlooked. But there are many ways we can turn this around. Often it requires some “partnering” with the organizations planning to hold an event at your property, and in most cases, they will be more than happy to do so.

One way to start this partnering off to a good start, is to make sure the prospective client is aware of the sustainability and environmentally preferable initiatives already in place at the hotel. This way they can plan accordingly and know what to expect should they plan an event at your property.

So what are some of the ways we can partner with our clients and make meetings Greener and more sustainable? Among them are the following:

  • If attendees are flying to the meeting, provide the client with airlines that offer direct flights to the meeting city; direct flights tend to use less fuel and contribute fewer greenhouse gas emissions
  • If possible, provide group transportation for attendees to get to the hotel; provide the client with information on how participants can travel to the property using public transportation; another option is to arrange for attendees to carpool from the airport to the meeting
  • At the start of the meeting, have the meeting host or a hotel representative discuss with participants that the property is very focused on protecting the environment and asks the cooperation of all attendees. This gets everyone in a Green and sustainability frame of mind from the start and can prove very effective.
  • Encourage the client to select badges made from recycled materials, which are also recyclable; offer to order these for the client
  • Make sure recycling trash cans are strategically placed throughout the meeting area
  • Trash cans should be labeled “wet trash” and “dry trash.” Dry trash cans do not need plastic liners, which are usually not made from recycled materials
  • Do not provide paper napkins, paper or plastic glasses, plates, or utensils; provide the real McCoy
  • Select decorative items that can be re-used
  • If placing flowers, select flowers that are in season and locally grown; this way they do not need to be flown in from somewhere else in the country, consuming fuel and releasing greenhouse gasses
  • Serve water from pitchers; do not provide plastic bottles
  • Make everything digital. Using the hotel’s wireless system, encourage the client to provide all items that would typically be delivered on paper to be delivered electronically to the attendee’s computers, tablets, phones, etc.
  • Encourage all participants to take notes digitally; if paper is supplied make sure it is made from recycled materials
  • Printed material should be on recycled paper using vegetable ink; it’s often a good idea to note these attributes on all printed material. Once again, it encourages attendees to do their part in protecting the environment
  • All food should be provided by local suppliers; stress “eating green.” It’s healthier and has a reduced environmental impact when compared to meat
  • Before and after the meeting, clean the room using Green-certified cleaning solutions
  • Turn on heat or A/C and lights about 30 minutes before the event and turn everything off right after the event; if it is possible, take advantage of daylighting – for instance a morning meeting would be in a room facing east to make use of sunlight – that can help reduce energy needs.

Stephen P. Ashkin is founder of the Green Cleaning Network, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating building owners and suppliers about Green Cleaning and president of The Ashkin Group a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry. He is considered the “father of Green Cleaning,” on the Board of the Green Sports Alliance, and has been inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame (IGIHOF).


Trump’s Impact on Green Cleaning

One of the most frequent questions I get now in my travels is what I think will be President Trump’s impact on Green Cleaning. While I am always open to answer all questions, I try to shy away from political issues because my focus, as always, has been to advocate for all the reasons Green Cleaning is necessary to protect health and the environment.

To me, it is not a political issue. It’s a health issue no matter what party or people in government entities are in power at the moment.

However, with the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord on the Environment and the substantial reduction in the funding of the Environmental Protection Agency, I decided the time had come to address these questions more forthrightly.

But before I do, I must add that whether we agree with him or not, the President has every right to make his own decisions on whether to stay on or withdraw the U.S. from the Accord.

As to some of the questions I am frequently asked about this issue, below are just a few:

Will the Federal government continue to purchase environmentally preferable cleaning products?

For now, the answer is yes, and it is yes for a basic reason: many of the purchasing contracts the U.S. government has signed with jansan suppliers will continue for another one, two, or more years. Those contracts will be honored.

Will state and local communities as well as school districts continue to purchase Green Cleaning products?

In most cases, state and local government bodies, as well as school districts, are placing more emphasis on selecting environmentally preferable products, not less. As of July 2015, ten states and the District of Columbia, have enacted laws requiring green cleaning products and methods to be used in schools. Ten years ago, only one state, New York, has passed such legislation. We can expect these numbers to grow and in schools specifically, where parents, teachers, and administrators increasingly believe it is necessary.

What impact will this current administration’s actions have on Green Cleaning in general?


If this were happening a decade or more ago, the Green Cleaning movement would be vulnerable and its future uncertain. But at this stage of the game, with all the time and resources the professional cleaning industry has put into the development of environmentally preferable cleaning products, as well as customer demand for these products – which has always been the driving force for Green Cleaning – I do not see any turning back. The selection of Green Cleaning products is now “modus operandi” in all types of facilities and all types of organizations.

What is your advice to building managers, jansan manufacturers, distributors, and cleaning contractors about the future of Green Cleaning?

My advice is this: continue continuing on. Let’s say a manufacturer or a distributor decides to no longer make or market environmentally preferable cleaning products. This will open new opportunities for those manufacturers and distributors still focused on Green Cleaning.

Further, much of my work involves working with building managers and jansan manufacturers, and I have simply not seen any movement away from Green Cleaning.

And if we look at what some of the leading companies in our country are doing – Google, Apple, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sacks, Adobe, and Microsoft – we see these companies increasingly supporting the use of environmentally preferable cleaning products. In addition, they are also becoming much more focused on developing sustainability strategies as well. Very often, they are turning to their janitorial contractors and distributors to help them with these sustainability initiatives.

It cannot be denied we are going through a somewhat trying period with environmental issues and some of the actions of the Trump administration. However, I view all challenges, including this one, as an opportunity and I suggest that our industry do the same. As Napoleon Hill said, “Every adversity contains, at the same time, a seed of equivalent opportunity.”

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, and the professional cleaning industry’s leading advocate for promoting sustainability. He is also CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which offers a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report and improve their sustainability efforts. He is the coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies

Ashkin Reflects on Brazilian Cleaning Industry

“The people I met in the Brazilian cleaning industry are smart, and very focused on moving the industry forward.”

 Bloomington, IN – August 18, 2017 – Stephen Ashkin, well known as the “father of Green Cleaning,” and the jansan industries leading advocate for sustainability, has just returned from speaking at the largest professional cleaning trade show in South America, hosted by Abralimp, the Brazilian cleaning industry trade association.

Held at the Expo Center Norte in Sao Paulo, Brazil, more than 12,000 people attended the event, making it comparable, at least in attendance, to ISSA trade shows in North America.

Ashkin’s presentation focused on Green Cleaning and the growing opportunity for sustainability – protecting the environment; economic sustainability; and social equity – within the jansan industry in Brazil, a country of over 200 million people.

“What struck me most is how much the people attending my presentation were [so] eager to learn,” says Ashkin. “The people I met in the Brazilian cleaning industry are smart, very focused on moving their industry forward, and I look forward to working with them over the coming years.”

Among of the items Ashkin discussed in his presentation were the following:

  • Defining Green Cleaning and the importance of consistent messaging, along with the need to prevent greenwashing
  • The importance of Green certification; “purchasers must have confidence that the products selected for Green Cleaning are verified to have a reduced impact on users and the environment; this helps both suppliers and purchasers”
  • The key components of Greening cleaning such as chemicals, paper products, liners, floor pads, powered equipment, and other materials needed to create healthy buildings
  • Staying up-to-date regarding innovations changing the U.S. cleaning industry and how it might impact them
  • Ways to use Green Cleaning as a differentiator when it comes to marketing their businesses

“I also encouraged attendees to ‘find their passion,’” says Ashkin. “Whether that passion is for children’s health, the environment, or another reason.”

To accomplish this, Ashkin concluded his presentation with the following quote from Pope Francis in this predominantly Catholic country:

“All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements, and talents.”

Green Cleaning is one way to be that instrument.



About Stephen Ashkin and The Ashkin Group

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 helps facilities monitor and measure their use of natural resources. He is known as the “father of Green Cleaning” and the professional cleaning industries leading advocate promoting sustainability. He is also coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies


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