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Janitorial contractors take steps to go green

John Seelmeyer

Janitorial companies in northern Nevada slowly are paying more attention to the use of environmentally friendly products and practices, but the change is coming slowly.

The hangup? Janitorial products designed to be environmentally friendly often are more expensive than traditional products, and building owners generally don’t want to pay the extra.

The pressure to go green often comes from tenants that rent space in office and commercial properties, says Brittany Diehl, who manages 10 properties in her role as assistant director of property management for Nevada Commercial Services Inc. in Reno.

“It provides a better working environment for the tenants,” she says.

Much of the recent attention to green janitorial practices, she says, has come from the widening popularity of the LEED green-building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Those standards include specific criteria for janitorial systems isolating janitorial closets and providing them with their own venting, for instance and also encourage janitorial contractors to use environmentally friendly products.

And green construction sometimes demands green maintenance.

As The Glenn Group remodeled its office at 50 Washington St., for instance, it decided to use soy-based concrete stains on its floors.

Those decisions, in turn, sent Russ Zito, the president of Pro Clean Maintenance in Reno, the building’s janitorial contractor, on a search for floor-finish products that not only would be effective on the soy-based stains but also would meet environmental standards in their own right.

Another question that sometimes concerns janitorial contractors is whether crews will need to change their work habits to use green products.

Matt Zito, who oversees field operations for Pro Clean Maintenance, says the firm was relieved to find a straightforward product to clean floors at The Glenn Group.

“They’ve made it real simple,” he says. “The applications are basically the same.”

But Diehl says janitorial crews often need education about environmentally sensitive products, as well as the philosophy behind their use, when building owners ask for green janitorial services.

Even janitorial companies that haven’t yet fielded many calls for the use of green products and practices think growing demand is just around the corner.

Jani-King, an Addison, Texas, franchiser of cleaning-service business, has been planning for several years to roll out green services, says Vaughn Parks, the company’s master franchiser in Reno.

Now, he says, the company is accelerating those plans and will increase its marketing of green services in coming months.

“I don’t really think too many people are thinking about it,” Parks says. “But we’ve had a few clients ask about it.”

The options for green maintenance have grown quickly with the advent of new products, says Jeff Goodman, operations manager at A#1 Chemical Inc., a Sparks supplier to the janitorial and building

maintenance industries.

Those products, he says, range from environmentally sensitive cleaning chemicals to biodegradable paper cups and fast-food packaging.

“It’s definitely more available now than ever,” Goodman says, and the growing popularity of the “Green Seal” designation by the non-profit Green Seal Inc. of Washington, D.C., is helping business buyers find the environmentally friendly products they want.

Still, Goodman says, many green cleaning products are more expensive than their traditional cousins. That’s daunting to companies that are looking to go green only as a marketing strategy, he says, but companies that are committed to the process are willing to pay a little more.

One organization that’s made the commitment is Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center.

Hospital cleaning crews, for instance, have converted to the Twist ‘n’ Fill system developed by 3M to dispense cleaning chemicals. The system reduces employees’ exposure to concentrated chemicals and improves the safety of storage, says Sister Roselli Tria, the safety officer for Saint Mary’s.

The hospital also has moved to use of microfiber mops that dramatically reduce water consumption.

The new mops required some retraining of employees and careful attention by supervisors, she says, but

Saint Mary’s has a powerful incentive to make the change.

“We’re taking care of God’s creation,” she says.