Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Interesting Article (repost)

A Green Review

By Mike Sawchuk

The Canadian cleaning industry has been eager to understand
Green cleaning and, taking that an important step further, to
implement it in the facilities they maintain. Typically it is the
end-use customer who initially requests that environmentally
preferable cleaning tools, products and procedures be used in
a facility. But many Canadian cleaning contractors have taken
the first step by approaching their clients and suggesting that
Green cleaning is healthier cleaning, is more environmentally
responsible, and is the future of cleaning. This is definitely a
feather in the cap of the Canadian cleaning industry.

However, as I always tell our distributors, Green cleaning is
a journey: there is really no end point. As such, let us review
some of the principles of Green cleaning and address some new
developments in its evolution.

What is Green cleaning?

We can define Green cleaning as a cleaning process that is both
effective and protective of health and the environment. It is the

use of cleaning chemicals, tools and equipment, procedures,
and frequencies that work very well but have a reduced negative
impact on the user, building occupants, and the environment.

What makes chemicals Green?

Being able to clearly define what makes a cleaning chemical
Green is one of the hallmarks of the Green movement. At one
time people promoted environmentally preferable cleaning
products without anyone clearly defining what they are or, worse,
every manufacturer, distributor, or end user having a different
definition. The confusion likely stalemated the entire journey.
These days, a product is proven Green if it has been tested
by an independent, third-party organization and found to meet
specific standards.criteria established by credible certification
organizations such as EcoLogo™, Green Seal®, or DfE, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment
program.

What are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and why are
they an issue in Green cleaning?

VOCs are made up of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, chlorine,
and other compounds that vaporize or can form gases that are
released into the air. Essentially, they cause indoor air pollution.
They are found in all kinds of products from glue and paint to
carpeting and wallpaper. The big concern about VOCs is that they
can be harmful to human health, especially children’s health. For
a cleaning product to be Green certified, it typically must have no
or very low amounts of VOCs.

Are there Green-certified equivalents for all cleaning
chemicals?

The industry is getting closer to having a Green product for
every need. At one time, some leaders in North America’s
professional cleaning industry predicted that by now 80 percent
of the chemicals marketed would be conventional and only 20
percent would be Green. What we are seeing is the opposite is
true. About 80 percent or more of the chemicals most commonly
used for cleaning have Green-certified equivalents. Floor finishes
has been one of the few areas where some manufacturers are
still finding it difficult to develop a more environmentally preferable
equivalent that performs as well as and is competitive in price to
traditional alternatives. However, some finishes are now available
that are certified, are effective, and in some cases perform even
better than their conventional counterparts, although they are still
a bit more expensive.

Don’t all Green cleaning chemicals perform about the same?

The answer is a big NO. Do all conventional cleaning chemicals
perform the same? Again, the answer is no. Cleaning contractors
should put the different Green cleaning chemicals to a challenge
and see how well they perform in the locations they clean. Are
they cost effective? Are they easy to use? This is one of many
areas where a distributor who is known as the local “Green
cleaning expert” can really come in handy. He or she will likely be
attuned to the different Green products available and which work
best in which situations.

Are only chemicals Green?

Certainly not anymore. Floor machines are now available that
are effective using just water in many basic cleaning situations.
Others are designed so that the operator can switch between

chemical and water while cleaning, minimizing the amount of
chemical necessary, which it may be, especially when performing
more difficult floorcare tasks. Extractors are also getting Greener.
The Carpet and Rug Institute, through its Seal of Approval
program, has established fairly stringent criteria that require
carpet extractors to meet certain performance and moisture-
removal standards so that carpets dry faster. Typically, these
are low-moisture machines designed to help carpets dry within
approximately two hours. And lest we forget, vacuum cleaners
with HEPA or high-filtration filters are also a key component of the
Green cleaning arsenal.

What are bioenzymatic cleaning chemicals, and are they
Green?

Bioenzymatic cleaners are products specially formulated to
dispose of soils safely, economically, and rapidly. They contain
the necessary blend of specific enzymes and benevolent bacteria
to digest chemical and organic waste that would normally create
odors and feed germs. These microorganisms and enzymes, as
they do in nature, break down the waste, converting it into two
basic compounds: carbon dioxide and water.

Some of these are Green, and some are not. To determine
whether a bioenzymatic cleaning product is certified Green, look
for the certification label or marking of one of the certification
organizations mentioned earlier, as would be the case with any
Green-certified cleaning product.

Are bioenzymatic and biorenewable cleaning chemicals the
same?

No. They are actually subcategories of biobased cleaning

chemicals. As the name implies, a biorenewable cleaning
chemical is made from renewable ingredients such as corn, soy,
or other agricultural products. A bioenzymatic cleaning chemical,
as we defined earlier, is made from bacteria and enzymes that
not only clean a surface but also eat away at bacteria, grease,
microorganisms, and other contaminants. Because of this,
bioenzymatic cleaners are excellent for eliminating odors from
tile and grout areas and continue to work for as long as 80 hours
after they have been applied to a surface. Bioenzymatic cleaners
are a specific subset of biorenewable but, depending upon the
type and amount of surfactant and fragrance used, may or may
not meet the USDA criteria for Bio-Preferred. And again, for both
bioenzymatic and biorenewable, ensure the product is Green
certified.

Can lists of ingredients be found on all Green cleaning
products?

Not at this time. Some manufacturers such as Enviro-Solutions
do disclose 100 percent of the ingredients. But Stephen Ashkin,
President of The Ashkin Group and commonly known as
the “father of Green cleaning,” is advocating that all cleaning
products, Green and conventional, list all key ingredients.* With
this information in hand, users can select Green and conventional
cleaning products based on where they are used. For instance,
some products may not be the most suitable for locations where
small children are present but may work perfectly well in office-
type environments. Simply knowing what is in the product helps
users make more informed decisions, which can protect their
health as well as the health of the facilities they clean.

*Note that the full ingredients and formula must be disclosed to
the certification bodies.