Green Cleaning: Facility Care

by Chris Vuturo

Our facility would like to move toward greener cleaning practices, but are green products as efficient as traditional products?

The "Business Cleaning Sustainability Study" recently conducted by Procter & Gamble Professional revealed that 90 percent of respondents believe sustainability is important for their business. Green is definitely a hot topic across all industries – but only 42 percent report being very or extremely well informed about it.

Implementing sustainable practices in any facility can be incredibly confusing, in part because everybody has a different definition of sustainability and how it can be applied to their business. Therefore, we need to first understand what "green cleaning" is.

Green Begins with Clean
While looking clean is important, we clean areas and surfaces for one main reason: to reduce the risk of human exposure to potentially harmful substances. In the care facility setting, this is a crucial objective to help keep patients safe, healthy and comfortable. Let's consider restroom cleaning as an example. True, aesthetics are an important aspect of cleaning because it signals the cleanliness level of the facility. However, a cleaning program should be designed to “clean for health” as the first and foremost objective. When cleaning professionals strive to get rid of soil and germs, it also reduces the possible transmission of bacteria and viruses that can cause infectious diseases. At the same time, this will also impact the aesthetics of the facility.

"Green cleaning" is the process of getting rid of certain pathogens with products and techniques that do the job as well as traditional products and approaches, AND have reduced environmental impacts in comparison.

The AND is important. We have a saying at P&G Professional, “if it isn’t clean, it isn’t green.” If a product does not do the basic job of getting rid of dirt, grime, soil, etc., then no matter what green aspects the product claims to have, it’s not driving overall sustainability.

Many businesses agree. The study found that despite the interest in environmentally-responsible products, product performance is by far the top decision-making factor for purchasing products (61 percent).

When a product does not clean properly, you may end up using more of it. That adds up to more energy and water in production, more packaging for the waste stream, more gas for transportation, and often more labor as people compensate with elbow grease, to name a few.

A good first step for implementing green practices in any facility is to understand how manufacturers think about developing products. At P&G Professional, we follow strict standards to ensure human and environmental safety, and develop products that do not require a trade-off between sustainability and the driving of performance and value. We incorporate sustainability considerations into the design of all of our products, packaging and operations. More than 4 billion consumers use P&G products every day, so there is nothing more important to our company than assuring the safety of our products for our consumers and the environment.

The Importance of Proper Training and Use
Picking products for greener cleaning practices, however, is only half the story. Current findings show that the way a product is used is often more important than production methods in determining environmental and social impacts. You may have the best cleaning product in the world – but if it is not used properly on the kind of soil it was designed to clean, then it will likely not work well. 

One of the most impactful steps you can take is to make sure your staff is well trained. Ensure your staff understands which product to use for each area and problem. Show them how to be efficient – using the right amount of product to get the job done, not less (which could create rework) and not more (which wastes). Above all, make sure your staff is aware of all guidelines in the safe handling, use and recycling of products and packaging. If your staff can get the job done right the first time and minimize the amount of product used, you can improve your environmental footprint, realize cost savings and facilitate a number of supply chain benefits. 

Understanding what’s in the product, the science behind it, and how the product should be properly used are the real drivers to a healthy, sustainable work environment. If you want more information on starting and implementing a green cleaning program in your facility, we recommend reading Green Cleaning for Dummies by Stephen Ashkin and David Holly, to learn the basics on this topic.