Greenbuild Rap-Up; Green Cleaning at Google; and the Upcoming ISSA Tradeshow!

greenbuild 2016Greenbuild 2016, which ended last week was a terrific show, in fact one of their best ever. There was a great deal of emphasis this year on sustainability and there were several more exhibitors at this year’s show than in the past.
I was fortunate enough to moderate a panel discussion entitled Green Cleaning at the Googleplex, the corporate headquarters complex of Google, located in Mountain View, California.
Our panel discussed a number of Green and sustainability happenings at Google but most specifically, the fact that Google plans to create the healthiest workplaces possible to protect the health of its “Googlers” not only in their headquarters but around the world.
And I’m proud to say, one of the key ways they are doing this is through a Green Cleaning program. This is no small task. Google has over 50,000 employees; offices in more than 150 cities, spanning 60 countries; and operates 185 Google Cafes.
Plus, Google has a bus fleet that carries more than 8,000 riders every day, which adds up to over 90 million passenger miles spent on the shuttles in 2015. With Googlers spending so much time on buses, implementing a Green Cleaning program even for busses is considered part of the effort to protect their health and improve the ride (nobody wants a stinky bus).
And since everyone drives in California to go anywhere, that’s thousands of cars they managed to get off the freeway every day, along with a substantial reduction in the consumption of fuels and greenhouses gases.
It’s clear to me and those at the presentation that Google is taking Green Cleaning to the next level, and what they learn and how this evolves can be
shared in facilities large and small around the world.

Let’s Make a DEAL

Back at home, at the ISSA tradeshow in Chicago scheduled for October 25 – 28, ISSA will be launching a new program called DEAL, which stands for Distributor Efficiency Analytics & Learning.

I’m proud to have been working with ISSA on this project and eager to see it rolled-out at the tradeshow. DEAL is a comprehensive program designed to help warehouse distributors reduce operating costs.  It does this by helping them measure their use of energy, water, fuels, waste and other operating expenses; and uses proprietary analytics and training strategies to help them improve.
Plus, ISSA will be recognizing the pilot participants who are already helping us transform the entire industry as part of the opening keynote session!  Thank you ISSA!

Noteworthy Happenings at the ISSA Show

Of course there are a lot of great things planned for this year’s show and the seminars and presentations this year are, as usual,

Several events pertain to Green and sustainability topics. My own presentation is entitled, Sustainability: The (Surprising) Way to Make & Save Money.
Please join me…here are the details:
* Day: Tuesday October 25
* Time: 10:15 a.m. to 11 a.m.
* Where: Room S404a
I also want to encourage you to attend the following important events:
* Distributor Benchmarking session with Jonathan Adkins of ISSA, along with folks from EPA’s Energy Star and SmartWay Transport programs.  This program will be on Tuesday, October 25th from 3:15 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. in room S404d.
* The Healthy School Campaign will be having a Green Cleaning Forum on Tuesday, October 25 and Wednesday the 26th.  I will be giving the keynote address at the Tuesday lunch.
* The Green Sports Alliance – Greener Cleaning in Sport Facilities Workshop, Wednesday October 26 from 10 a.m. to noon.  The Green Sports Alliance is not only making sports venues Greener and more sustainable, but convincing sports fans around the world of the importance of Green and sustainability issues.  By the way, Justin Zeulner, Executive Director of the Alliance will be at my booth (#1172).  Please come by and meet him and learn more about this exciting organization.
* The EPA Safer Choice Awards program, Friday October 28 at noon.
* A tour of Chicago’s Soldier Field (where the NFL Bears play), which is a member of the Green Sports Alliance, will be held on Friday, October 28 from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
And, finally, everyone is invited to come by my booth at the show.  This year my booth is 1172. Please stop by and meet me and my team.
Hope to see you next week.

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Moving From Just Green to Sustainable Cleaning

Cleaning contractors should adopt green and sustainability initiatives, products, and procedures to help ensure they reach their own financial goals.


About a year ago, researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, began a study to understand rents and occupancy trends in commercial office buildings in the United States and Canada. Altogether, they analyzed data from 2004 to 2013 that covered 148 buildings in Canada and 143 buildings in the United States, which comprised more than 58 million square feet of office space. When comparing green buildings to traditional (i.e., non-green/not sustainable) buildings, they found that:

  • Rents in green and more sustainable buildings were 3.7 percent higher.
  • Occupancy rates were 18.7 percent higher in Canada and 9.5 percent higher in the United States.
  • Tenant renewal rates were 5.6 percent higher in both countries.
  • In Canada, tenant satisfaction was reported to be seven percent higher.
  • Energy consumption per square foot was 14 percent lower in U.S. green buildings.

While the researchers conducted the study to help building owners and managers understand green building trends, it holds a particular significance for cleaning contractors. The bottom line is that contractors should adopt green and sustainability initiatives, products, and procedures to help ensure they reach their own financial goals and also secure their survival in the professional cleaning industry of the future.

What Makes a Green Cleaning Contractor?

Becoming a green cleaning contractor comes down to four elements:  selection of cleaning products (specifically chemicals), procedures, equipment, and plastic liners.

It once was difficult to identify what products could be considered green, but that issue virtually no longer exists. Many cleaning products undergo independent testing and evaluation to achieve third-party certification. These items will bear a “seal” of certification from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice program (formerly Design for the Environment), GreenSeal®, UL Environment, and other third-party organizations.

Similarly, equipment such as vacuum cleaners and carpet extractors that earn the Seal of Approval from the Carpet and Rug Institute can be identified as green. This certification illustrates they have met specific criteria ensuring they perform well with minimal impact on the environment. Manufacturers have developed cleaning systems such as some spray-and-vac machines, floor machines, microfiber products, automatic dilution systems, and more for use in green cleaning initiatives.

Environmentally preferable cleaning products and equipment are essential to a green cleaning program, but the proper use of these products and the incorporation of green cleaning best practices are also essential. Programs such as the Cleaning Industry Management Standard-Green Building (CIMS-GB) program from ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, have developed criteria to help contractors clean green. Such standards include the following hallmarks:

  • Instituting a written green cleaning program and implementation plan.
  • Providing cleaning workers with proper training on how to use green cleaning products and equipment.
  • Communicating with cleaning workers and building users regarding the green cleaning program’s implementation and its benefits.
  • Addressing the special needs of a facility; for instance, facilities that serve vulnerable populations, such as young children or the elderly, may need specialized green cleaning plans.
  • Validating cleaning results using tools such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) monitoring systems to help ensure that soils and other indoor pollutants have been removed.

Sustainability and Cleaning Contractors

Let’s define the concept of sustainability because it has evolved throughout the years. The old definition involves the use of natural resources in such a way that they will still be available for future generations. However, it now refers to the three Ps of sustainability: people, profit, and planet.

If we take a closer look at these three components, we realize that they mean cleaning contractors must create a culture of sustainability within their organizations. In a sense, this is a value proposition indicating what the company stands for, and it indicates that those working for the firm put sustainability first, are continuously looking for ways to reduce consumption, and use natural resources such as fuel and water more responsibly and efficiently. A culture of sustainability also includes:

  • Developing a company vision and sustainability plan (preferably in writing), which includes the reason for implementation, why it is important, and what employees need to do to help support it.
  • Inspiring all workers to make sustainability a key concern both at work and at home.
  • Rewarding accomplishments that promote and improve a cleaning company’s sustainable performance.
  • Measuring and monitoring sustainability improvements within the company and for its clients.

The Profitability Factor

Green cleaning contractors who promote sustainability within their own organizations and client bases can use these characteristics as differentiators—and market them accordingly.

Additionally, green and sustainable cleaning contractors employ cleaning products that are generally safer to use, which can help reduce workers’ compensation claims. Many green cleaning products are designed to last longer, perform at a high level, and ultimately improve customer satisfaction, all of which can result  in money in the bank.

And by treating workers more fairly, green contractors can reduce turnover rates as workers become more focused on the company and customer satisfaction. This can contribute to greater profits and cost savings—a perfect combination for cleaning contractors and any other business.

Stephen Ashkin is chief executive officer of The Sustainability Dashboard Tools LLC. The Sustainability Dashboard is a reporting system that measures and monitors energy, water, and fuel consumption to help reduce environmental impact and cost. For more information, email

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Green Cleaning in Prisons

Interview with Stephen Ashkin on how to Bring Green Cleaning to Correctional Facilities

Because there are likely many correctional facilities in the U.S. that have not adopted a green cleaning program, Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group, provides suggestions as to how to start and implement such a program in your facility. “But first we must clearly understand that green cleaning requires a “top-down” approach. This means that top administrators must be behind the strategy in order for it to be successful.”

From here, Ashkin says the following steps are needed:

Build a green cleaning team. This would be made up of staff and preferably inmates. The team’s key goal is to guide the green cleaning initiatives forward.

Audit the facility. How is the facility cleaned now? What is the view of administrators and staff of the overall cleaning of the facility? Are there indoor air quality problems? What training has been provided for staff or inmates that perform cleaning duties? How new and advanced are the cleaning tools and equipment used in the facility?

Develop a plan. Once the audit is complete, the team must analyze the information to determine the best procedures and opportunities for adopting green cleaning initiatives.

Transfer to Green Cleaning products. While we will discuss this in greater detail later, this step includes such things as transferring to environmentally preferable cleaning solutions; vacuum cleaners with enhanced filtration systems; floor machines that have vacuum or dust-control systems to capture dust as they are used; microfiber cleaning cloths, etc.

Provide training. Treat the transfer to a green cleaning strategy as an opportunity to train staff and inmates involved with cleaning on the most efficient and effective cleaning techniques.

Encourage feedback. There is no end point when it comes to Green Cleaning. As such, encourage feedback from staff, administrators, and inmates. The program must continuously evolve in order to reach its goal of creating a healthier facility.

Green Cleaning and Engineered Water

Green cleaning solutions have changed a lot in just the past few years. While there are now many green cleaning chemicals, what is now taking center stage in the green cleaning movement is cleaning that uses no chemicals whatsoever. Referred to as “chemical free” cleaning, or more appropriately, engineered water, these systems have proven very effective at thoroughly cleaning surfaces and removing soils without the use of any traditional cleaning agents.

One example of this that some prison administrators may be aware of is the use of automatic floor scrubbers that employ what is termed electrolyzed water. Essentially, what this system does is electrically convert tap water into highly charged acidic and alkaline water. As this blended water comes into contact with soils, it helps dissolve them, breaking them up into microscopic particles that can be wiped away.

While these machines can be used for cleaning floors, another technology has been introduced for cleaning fixtures, walls, counters, and almost all other surfaces. Referred to as aqueous ozone, these systems use electricity and oxygen to create ozone. The ozone is then infused into plain tap water, creating aqueous ozone, which helps eliminate germs, odors, stains, mold, mildew, and other contaminants on most any type of surface. After use, it changes back to water and oxygen.

“The features I like most about aqueous ozone cleaning systems is how they promote sustainability,” says Ashkin. “They eliminate packaging needs, the need to transport large amount of cleaning chemicals all over the country, reduce fuel needs, which helps reduce greenhouse gasses.”

In case the use of ozone for cleaning is raising a few eyebrows, we should explain there are four different types of ozone.

Stratospheric ozone is six to 30 miles above the Earth’s surface and helps reduce the amount of harmful UV radiation from reaching the planet.

Tropospheric ozone is ground level ozone. This type of ozone may contain a number of pollutants, volatile organic compounds, and other potentially harmful particulates. Smog or haze is a form of tropospheric ozone.

Ambient ozone refers to the ozone we breathe, typically outside. Ambient ozone is monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and as long as it is within a certain range, it is considered safe.

Aqueous ozone, sometimes called liquid ozone, is the cleaning system we are discussing here. “Because no chemicals are used with this technology, there is a cost savings,” adds Montag. “And as far as being green, aqueous ozone is sometimes referred to as ‘greener than green cleaning’ so it fits in well with a green cleaning strategy.”

Reimaging Prisons

Since the 1980s, many U.S. states have created “tough on crime” laws. While these have helped incarcerate more people – the U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics reports more than 2 million adults were incarcerated in American prisons as of 2013 – these laws have failed to rehabilitate prisoners. Within three years, more than half of these inmates are expected to be back in prison.

“It’s time to reimagine correctional facilities,” says Ashkin. “We don’t know if adopting a green cleaning program and the other green initiatives discussed here will turn things around. But what we do know is that it can lead to a healthier indoor environment in correctional facilities, which at the very least, gives more U.S. prisons the chance to benefit from the healthier indoor environment that Green Cleaning can provide.”

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