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Save Money and the Environment

Get started by following these six practical sustainability strategies

Save Money and the Environment

The professional cleaning industry is increasingly pivoting toward sustainability. This shift is driven by a growing awareness of environmental issues and the realization of the economic benefits of eco-friendly practices.

A cornerstone of this transformation is the concept of dematerialization, which involves reducing the overall material footprint by buying less, opting for smaller materials (whether this means products or office space), and choosing items that are long-lasting and efficient. My column explores the benefits of dematerialization and details six sustainability approaches the cleaning industry can adopt, emphasizing informed consumerism and technology utilization.

1. Buy less

Dematerialization is a crucial strategy in reducing the environmental impact of the cleaning industry. By purchasing fewer and smaller items, companies can significantly reduce the imbedded energy and impacts resulting from the manufacturing, operation, and disposal of the product or material. This approach involves selecting concentrated cleaning products that require less packaging and transport, high-performing tools, and lightweight equipment. It  also involves choosing office and warehouse spaces that are not too large for the organization’s needs.

2. Consider quality, durability, and repairability

Investing in high-quality, long-lasting cleaning tools and equipment might entail a higher upfront cost. However, this strategy leads to significant savings in the long run due to improved performance, as well as reduced replacement and repair costs. This approach also lessens a company’s or facility’s environmental impact by minimizing its equipment disposal and replacement frequency. Opting for tools and equipment that can be easily repaired—rather than replaced—further extends equipment life and reduces waste.

3. Choose second-hand and refurbished items

Embracing used or refurbished items—especially computers, furniture, and even cleaning equipment—is another key sustainability practice. By purchasing second-hand computers and other electronics, cleaning companies can reduce e-waste and the environmental harm associated with manufacturing new equipment. Moreover, this approach is often more cost-effective, providing access to necessary technology at a fraction of the cost of new items.

4. Prioritize sustainable transportation

Selecting used and fuel-efficient vehicles is both an environmentally and financially prudent decision. For businesses that require travel, using fuel-efficient or hybrid vehicles along with encouraging employee carpooling and public transportation can drastically reduce carbon emissions and fuel costs. Leasing vehicles can also be a sustainable option, offering the flexibility to upgrade to more efficient models as newer technologies become available.

5. Leverage technology to reduce travel

The use of technology, particularly virtual meeting platforms, plays a significant role in reducing the need for travel. By conducting meetings with clients and staff online, cleaning companies can significantly cut down on emissions and expenses associated with travel. This not only benefits the environment but also saves time and resources.

6. Practice informed purchasing

The cleaning industry is a frequent target of greenwashing: the practice of companies marketing their products and services as ecofriendly without providing proof of substantial environmental benefits. Cleaning industry professionals must critically assess claims and certifications to ensure that the advertised sustainable practices genuinely contribute to environmental preservation.

Reap the benefits

Adopting these six sustainability practices provides both financial and environmental benefits. Financially, companies and facilities can expect lower operational costs due to decreased material consumption, a reduced need for fuel and transportation, as well as fewer expenses for equipment replacement and maintenance. Environmentally, these practices lead to reduced waste, lower carbon emissions, and a smaller ecological footprint, contributing positively to sustainability efforts in our communities and across the globe.

Stephen P. Ashkin

President, The Ashkin Group

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in green cleaning and sustainability. He can be reached at [email protected].

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