Green Cleaning: Here to Stay

At a meeting with the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar international corporation and his senior staff, I discussed green cleaning. The meeting may either parallel what school facility managers are experiencing, or foreshadow the near future.

Like most CEOs, this person did not have cleaning (much less green cleaning) on his “top 10 things to do” list. It probably wouldn't even make his list of top 100 things. However, he was genuinely interested, and he had been exposed to the topic through the media, conferences and word of mouth.

After spending some time learning about the basic concepts, he commented, “I want to protect the environment and take care of our people, but is it profitable?” And then he asked perhaps the most important question: “Is it here to stay, or is it just a passing fancy?”

This question was critical to him. Although he has considerable resources at his disposal and could do practically anything he wanted with them, squandering those resources on a fad could amount to a waste of time and money, which could be extremely damaging to the company.

So I shared with him just a few of the most recent events that illustrated the point that green is here to stay:

  • Live Earth, a 24-hour live-music event galvanized rock musicians and celebrities from around the world. It was attended or listened to by a reported 2 billion people (many of whom are students in our nation's schools and universities).

  • The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents more than 1,100 mayors, unanimously supported a green schools resolution at its 75th annual meeting. The resolution cited the critical need for more healthful and productive places to learn and urged Congress to provide funding for K-12 green school demonstration projects. Make note of the collective purchasing power of 1,100 mayors and more than 100,000 K-12 schools.

  • Illinois recently passed new legislation requiring green cleaning in schools. Illinois is the second state to pass such legislation (New York was the first, in 2006), and other states are sure to follow.

The CEO walked away pleased with the meeting, convinced that green is a real trend and that his company needs to respond immediately. In the near future, a key administrator at your school or university may ask you about your green program.What will you say?

If you've been waiting for direction to move forward, you instead may find an urgent demand that comes with a question about why you haven't taken action on your own. Take on the initiative now, and implement a plan on your terms so that when people inquire about green cleaning, you have it under control and can demonstrate leadership.

Green cleaning may not have been on their “to do” list, but it definitely should be on yours.

Ashkin is executive director of the Green Cleaning Network, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational organization. [email protected]

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