Clean and Green

Clean and Green When Outsourcing

Extending your company’s environmental efforts into contracts for cleaning services is a challenge. Purchasing may be mandated to select the lowest bidder. Then, the contract goes to the cleaning service using the least expensive products which are generally more toxic, flammable and corrosive-all words that flag opportunities to reduce pollution. What to do?

Start with MSDSs

When contracting out cleaning services, require material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for all materials brought on site. “I review the MSDSs to find out if the cleaning contractor plans to bring anything really nasty into our sites,” said Jim Oukrop, health and safety administrator for Health Partners’ 30 health care facilities. Once when reviewing MSDSs, Oukrop flagged an unacceptable spot cleaner and gum remover. “I required the contractor to switch to an alternative that was not full of VOCs [volatile organic compounds] for this type of cleaning.”

Try Alternatives

Test “green” cleaners to ensure they are effective. When testing, educate people about the health and environmental benefits of the alternatives so they can be comfortable with any changes.

Mark Galloway, St. Paul City Hall Annex building superintendent, has worked with his contractor to test numerous alternative cleaners. “Tenants complained that they couldn’t smell or see the disinfectant,” said Galloway. Although odors can indicate harmful fumes and dyes are unnecessary and may be allergens, people were accustomed to them as signs that the space was cleaned.

The Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Guide reviews cleaners (section 10.2) and provides environmental and performance rankings for products tested for the State purchasing contract.

Get Specific

When soliciting contract proposals for janitorial services, specify the names of environmentally preferable products or ask for their equivalents. Or, you can specify general criteria, such as no ignitable chemicals, to guide vendors in choosing cleaners. Once you’ve selected a contractor, periodically follow up with them to assure environmentally preferable products are being used.

This information originally ran in the 2001 Winter issue of the Source.