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The Cost of Sustainable Green Cleaning

Does cleaning in a green sustainable manner cost more or less than cleaning in what might be referred to as the standard way? Good question.

What I’m Seeing
A transition is taking place from the standard way of cleaning to what is commonly referred to as green or sustainable cleaning. This normally refers to at least the use of green chemicals and possibly green equipment and processes. The more advanced thinking companies (and better customers), along with health care, education and government are demanding or expect that their cleaning contractor will at least use green chemicals. Many companies now want to see a more comprehensive package of services that includes green equipment, processes along with support for their recycling program.

Costs and Savings
Ten years ago, contractors would charge 10 – 20% extra for this premium level of service and rightfully so, as it was a new type of service and the products did cost considerably more than standard products. Today it’s a different story. Almost every chemical company has a line of green products and most of them work pretty well and don’t cost much or any more than other products on the market and it’s pretty much the same for what is considered to be green equipment. The cost might be a little more, but the difference isn’t much and there are often hidden cost saving achievable from the use of green equipment and processes. These cost saving include a reduction in overall chemical usage, higher productivity and less frequent scheduling of labor intensive periodic tasks related to floor and carpet care.

Another big issue is cost saving related to trash removal and recycling, trash is normally dumped daily, or on a set schedule or when the receptacle gets full to a certain level. When it comes to recycle, in most locations dumping the recycle happens far less frequently than the trash, so labor savings is possible if more paper goes in the recycle bin than into the trash can. This also results in a substantial trash removal cost reduction for the customer, as they often get paid for their recycled materials vs. paying to haul away the trash. In a large facility this can be a savings of $50,000 or more per year.

Everybody Wins
The reality is that everyone wins when you do green cleaning. Costs are less for the building owner and the contractor, employees don’t have to work as hard, the work environment is healthier and together we all protect the ecology of the earth.
More saving can be found if advanced green cleaning processes are implemented in a facility: this includes such things as chemical free cleaning, elimination of finishing, stripping and burnishing of hard floor surfaces, low moisture carpet cleaning, the use of micro-fiber cloths and mops, bucketless mopping, robotic and riding equipment, day cleaning and composting.

No Hard Numbers
It’s difficult to put an exact amount on savings or costs related to sustainable cleaning as there hasn’t been a lot of factual data collected because the cleaning industry isn’t very good about benchmarking or analyzing its costs. In many cases the companies with the factual data are privately held and don’t share this information as it gives them a competitive edge over the competition.
One study I heard about at the BOMA convention a couple of years ago was done by the Hines Interests in Houston, TX, that related to green chemical costs in several million square feet of high rise office space over a 5 year period. The end result was that when they switched over to green chemicals, cost went up slightly for the first 6 months and then went down 20% – 30% and remained at that level for the balance of the study. The bottom line was at least a 20% cost savings in cleaning chemical costs that were attributable to the use of green chemicals in their facilities. Several other factors to consider include energy saving attributable to day cleaning, reduced water usage and a related reduction in sewer costs.

The premium customers that a professional cleaning contractor wants to have are moving towards the expectation that their service provider will use the safest products and processes available and they don’t expect to pay extra for this level of service. In the eyes of the more advanced companies, if you don’t use green cleaning processes and products you are seen as being outdated and not on the cutting edge of technology and cost savings. There appears to be a marketing advantage, and a substantial cost savings possible that a contractor can add to the bottom line by implementing a comprehensive green cleaning program in their business and accounts.

Engineering the Work for Profit and Quality
The ongoing challenge today is to track your costs and continually make adjustments in the way the work is done to improve the process and profit on each account, without a loss of quality or a negative impact on the level of service. This goal is achievable when backed up with accurate accounting, bidding, work loading, training, management and quality assurance.