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Green Knowledge + Green Practices = Green Cleaning?

The transition from traditional cleaning methods to mechanised cleaning has been long drawn with several client companies preferring to stick to age-old tools and products. Now, with the focus shifting to green cleaning to preserve human health and environmental quality, the transition, unfortunately, is again marked by ignorance, resistance and indifference. However, effective education, training and communication apprising employees why environment friendly products are being implemented usually help make the change and adjustment easier.“In India, for most clients, the need to know the mode of cleaning adopted to clean their premises seems unimportant. What matters most to them, is the cost and not the content,” says Subash Kshatri, Director, Stealth View Facility Services. “The administration and facility department in any client company may talk good about green cleaning, but when it comes to the ground reality of implementing the same, they are not too keen or bothered,” he laments. Not just the client companies, even well known service providers resort to acids and phenyl in cleaning applications. In fact, when a service provider’s contract value does not allow a healthy margin, he won’t make use of green chemicals which are slightly more expensive than the regular chemicals. In such cases, both the client and the contractor are to be blamed.

Talking of green cleaning, how many clients or contractors know what exactly green cleaning is all about? What are the green cleaning products? Or for that matter how many cleaning chemicals have the MSDS label on their containers which indicate the greenness of the solution being used? How many service providers or green product suppliers are educating clients about green cleaning?

It’s definitely not wrong on Yogesh Singh, Assistant Manager, Facilities, Patni Computer Systems Ltd, when he says, “We are not practicing green cleaning because the facility management companies are not well versed with the concept.” When the service provider has no proper knowledge or information about green cleaning how can one expect the client company to adopt green practices, especially in the IT industry? “We haven’t been approached by any FM company informing us of the new cleaning trends nor has anyone enumerated the benefits of going green to our organisation. The FM companies need to play a big role in promoting the concept of green cleaning because the clients already have too many things on their platter. I’m not undermining the importance of what the FM companies do, but since they specialise in the job, they should spell out the benefits of going green in such a way that no reasonable customer can ignore it.”

Rightly so, educating customers effectively becomes important if green cleaning has to become the mode of operation. Singh feels facility mangers need to train their frontline staff on how to use green chemicals so that when they propose the idea to the client companies, the myth that green is expensive is busted. “Green chemicals might appear costly today as per your commercials, but in the long run it is cheaper as it increases the lifespan of your utilities. If my furniture gets damaged by using a regular chemical, say its lifespan is 10 years. But, after using a green chemical, if it lasts for another five years, then why would I not opt for green cleaning? The FM companies need to sell the idea that green cleaning causes zero harm to employees, and I’m sure that no one in the IT industry will say no to it.”

Kshatri agrees that training the frontline staff is crucial as it helps equate the total cost of the cleaning process. “If a service provider is not keen to offer value addition due to contract commitments, he will not explore the market to understand if there’s a product which is green and its cost is in sync with a phenyl or an acid. You need to do an R&D and product development to understand the cost difference as all green chemicals (be it Minitek, Diversey or Chevron) work on dilution methodology. The knowledge of the right amount of dilution required can help assess the savings and the quality of delivery. Green chemicals are 20-35% expensive, but when you talk about using green chemicals appropriately, this gap reduces subsequently.”

Talking of savings, Kabita Das, General Manager, Spring Clean, a business of Paharpur Business Center, states that, ‘Green’ cleaning is helping the company save about र5,000 per month on cleaning chemicals for 50,000 ft2 or about र0.10/ft2. Green cleaning products are more expensive than other products. However, they are economical, as their consumption is less. Green certified recycled paper hand towels are surprisingly more expensive than normal ones. But, by their use, one saves trees by using recycled paper products. One should choose the right thickness measured in gm /m2 to get optimum consumption.

Cleaning power is very difficult to quantify because it is not only the chemical but also the process and the manpower. Despite having the option of choosing healthier solutions for all cleaning needs, Kshatri feels that on the whole, the industry is “indifferent in its approach” to green cleaning.

“I practise green cleaning wherever I provide housekeeping and washroom services. The cost is higher but I am sticking to it. I am using chemicals which are pH neutral to the nearest depending on the application. For instance, washroom cleaning cannot be done using a pH neutral formula, you need an acidic formula. For carpet and regular cleaning, I use enzyme-based chemicals of Vectair which are not only safe for the environment and for the cleaner using it but also for the person moving around that property. There are other green chemicals that are available in India. Minitek Industries in Andheri West is manufacturer of green chemicals. We also have Bio Products from the UK.”

Further, selection of green products should purely be based on the chemical composition rather than just the brand. A proper mix and match evaluating the chemical as per the requirement of that particular application should be the criterion for selecting any cleaning product.

At Paharpur Business Centre, a USGBC LEED (EB) Platinum building – first office in India under LEED for Existing Buildings (Operations & Maintenance), only ‘Green Seal’ certified products are used for cleaning. Kabita explains, “We use vacuum cleaners that are Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), USA, certified and are fitted with HEPA filters so that the dust and germs do not spread in the room. Use of energy efficient vacuum cleaners, brings down electricity bills although they cost more. The noise level measured in decibels is at about less than 60db, so the noise doesn’t affect the occupants.”

Cleanliness levels are maintained with frequent sanitization of knobs, telephone handsets and other utilities which are touched often.

Kshatri advocates that taking care of every detail is essential to meet green standards. The use of microfibre for regular household tasks like dusting and mopping ensures cleanliness and hygiene. “It’s unfortunate that the clients, including administration managers, are not aware of what microfibre is all about. I give them a set and ask them to feel the difference at home. Several of them have felt the phenomenal difference as against the traditional phenyl and acid use.”

Not just the products, Kabita points out that even identifying the procurement region is a very important aspect in green practices. “You should select products which are available locally to cut down on transportation cost. There are set criteria of selecting the vendors and the manufacturing units at our facility.”

Hence, having full knowledge of what green practices and products, be it a client or a cleaning contractor, can only lead to a path of green world.

 

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