IzzitGreen recently caught up with Michael Gottlieb, Managing Partner for Advanced Green Solutions (AGS), to learn about the world of commercial green cleaning: its worth and its challenges. Based in California, AGS is one of the top 20 fastest growing providers in the MilliCare network. MilliCare is an international commercially-focused carpet and textile care provider with a robust sustainability story centered on the use of its proprietary Dry Care technology. The network works throughout the world and maintains the US Green Building Council headquarters as one testament to depth of the organization’s sustainability. Through my conversation with Michael, I learned about the advantages of choosing a green cleaning provider and considered it was an easy sell. I was surprised to learn that eco-friendly office cleaning doesn’t always sell itself, even with these seven convincing reasons.
1. Provide Better Business Environment through Improved Air Quality
Ahhhhh. To breathe easily at work is priceless. Cleaner air at your business can create a safer, more enjoyable work environment for your employees and a superior experience for your customers. Fresh, clean air has been shown to boost workplace productivity by as much as 10% and green building owners can promote these and other environmental benefits to prospective tenants to add value to real estate. Cleaner air can come from MilliCare’scarpet cleaning system that has been shown to improve indoor air quality by as much as 99% by removing pollutants from your carpet. A proper cleaning helps keep volatile organic compounds, mold, bacteria and other potential allergens out of your air. So, take a deep breath and get back to doing what you do best.
2. Save Money and the Earth with Reduced Water, Energy and Carbon Emissions
Typically water usage is a substantial environmental cost of traditional carpet cleaning methods, but a dry-centered method uses 99.5% less water than water-based cleaning systems. To put it another way, MilliCare’s dry system saves an average of 50 gallons of water for every 10,000 feet of carpet cleaned over traditional water-based methods. The bottom line: less water usage means a lower water bill for your business.
Additionally, green cleaners can help you lower your energy bill and reduce your environmental impact. In fact, hot water extraction methods use up to 319% more energy to clean the same space as MilliCare, which translates into 77% higher emissions. Using a dry method can save you 85% on your electricity bill. To understand just what an impact this can have, MilliCare’s international network cleaned more than 400 million square feet of carpet in 2014 and saved more than 17 million gallons of water, more than 2.5 million kilowatt hours of energy and more than 1,500 tons of carbon emissions! Michael offers an example, “We do a year-end report for many of our clients, and for one client last year we saved them about 3,300 gallons of water, 2,300 kilowatt hours of energy and about three-quarters of a ton of carbon emissions. And that’s for one client.” That’s a huge impact. Michael comments, “A lot of people only think of green as installing photovoltaics or changing the light bulbs or adding low flow water filters. All of that is terrific and a necessary part of sustainability, but we feel like we can plug into any facility and provide significant savings for them.” Who doesn’t want lower operating costs and to reduce their environmental footprint without having to invest in your facility?
3. Save Money with Less Waste and Lower Replacement Costs
A long lasting carpet starts with fibers that stay clean and strong. All traditional cleaning methods leave behind water and soap residue that weaken carpet fibers and attract additional soiling, causing them to become dirty again more quickly. A dry-method applies an eco-friendly polymer that clings to soil in the carpet but not the carpet itself. When the polymer is vacuumed away, clean and smooth fibers are all that are left. Longer lasting carpets not only dump less waste into landfills, but they also lower operating costs, as you don’t have to replace your carpet nearly as often. In fact, with a proper, sensible maintenance program MilliCare can help extend the life of a carpet by as much as a third to help you maximize the value of your carpet investments.
4. Boost your Progress or Keep your Promise to LEED Certification
Using an eco-friendly carpet and textile cleaner can support 4 of the 6 LEED Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance categories: Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality. AGS can even assist with your LEED renewal. Whether you already have a LEED certified building or you’re working toward certification, a strong supporting cleaning partner is an increasingly importantstep as the USGBC raises the bar on LEED certification. AGS goes a step further with personalized data, “A lot of our clients on the commercial side have committed to sustainability, either they are Energy Star rated or LEED certified buildings so we provide them with reporting when we service their facility.”
While LEED certification is incredibly valuable as anenvironmental initiative, it can also provide several other benefits. Becoming serious about running a greener business can deliver social and financial rewards. Depending on your local government participation, you could be eligible for tax credits, tax breaks, reduced fees, grants and/or low-interest loans, not to mention, the long-term cost savings and admiration of your customers for your commitment to green.
5. Get Back to Work with Fewer Disturbances and Saved Time
Tired of waiting around for your just-cleaned carpets to dry? Sick of scheduling building cleaning at awkward times to avoid a disturbance? With a dry-centered method your carpet is ready to use as soon as your cleaners are done. Plus, who wants to worry about cleaning when you’ve got a business to run? Michael says, “Floor care is often not at the top of people’s priorities … until they have a problem. Problems can be expensive and disruptive, especially if you have to replace your carpet unnecessarily. We protect your carpet and take the issue of floor care off your plate and we do it in the least disruptive way possible. You just come into work in the morning and the only thing you notice is clean carpet.” Your journey from dirty to clean without needing time to dry is invaluable to your busy schedule. Plus, if you’re a smaller business, hiring a professional green cleaning service can save you time and energy, leaving you to dedicate yourself to running your great-green business.
6. Supports Healthier Employees and Lower Insurance Costs
By using a green cleaning service that has committed to dispensing with many toxic chemicals, you can harbor a safer business environment for your employees and customers. Some cleaning products have been shown to contribute to eye, skin and respiratory irritation as well as asthma, allergic reactions, and with longer exposure even reproductive problems and cancer. Reducing chemicals from your cleaning approach can greatly reduce the potential for harm by minimizing everyone’s exposure through ingestion, inhalation and skin exposure. For example, AGS just launched SHINE Hard Surface Care, Michael explains, “A lot of the processes that we use for different areas allow us to completely dispense with any chemicals and every case where we can, we use Green Seal certified products. . . For ones that can’t certify under Green Seal, for example, certain disinfectants won’t qualify under Green Seal, we seek to minimize their use in the facilities we maintain or eliminate them altogether. For example, we can strip a floor without using a single chemical. If you’ve ever been in a building where the floors are being stripped, you know how unpleasant that can be.”
Many insurance companies recognize that using an eco-friendly cleaner reduces toxic stress on our bodies. Green-certified cleaning products are made from less toxic compounds that cut down on indoor air pollution and contaminants in the water and solid waste streams of a business, which translates to an all around healthier and safer environment. Some insurance companies may even offer a discount on a company’s health insurance premiums with proof of a contract with a green cleaner.
7. Provides Better Service at Competitive Prices
As consumers are recognizing the many benefits of more eco-friendly products and services, prices are plummeting across the board. According to Jason Luke, Associate Director of Custodial Support Services at Harvard University Medical Center, “In the past, green cleaning products were more expensive, but that is not the case anymore. At minimum the decision to use green cleaning products will be cost neutral. A strong case can be made for cost savings, but this largely depends on what one is switching from.” Often part of a greener cleaning approach involves cost savings by replacing a pre-prepared traditional cleaning product with a highly concentrated more eco-friendly cleaner.
Similarly Michael explains, ”Cost is always a factor. . .generally everyone assumes that when they hear green, that generally we’re going to be more expensive. But we’re extremely competitive on price, we have to be because if you are not economically sustainable than you won’t be environmentally sustainable.” AGS understands that it has to be competitive on price and exception on service to continue growing its business because the reality is that green is not a top priority for most businesses, not above the bottom line at least. But, green service providers often provide superior service and experience as a by-product of focusing on their environmental impact. Michael elaborates, “A lot of times sustainability is just being a little bit smarter and more thoughtful. . . .There are just much better ways of doing things today, than how people have always done them. You just have to be open to change”
Eco-Friendly Office Cleaning is a No-Brainer Right?
From their beginnings in 2011, Michael at Advanced Green Solutions wanted, “to challenge some of the pre-conceived notions that persist with being green: that it is complicated and expensive and that you have to sacrifice service or quality in order to operate sustainably.” Nevertheless, he recognized his ambitious mission especially in the service world where the issue of sustainability is incredibly complicated. “There’s a lot of green washing out there and a lot of the folks that are established in the industry have co-opted sustainability in their marketing and their branding but they have only modestly incorporated it into their actual practice.” Thin green claims and a higher price leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. “Frankly we find that with most of it, even the more sustainable operators out there, if you start to peel back the layers on their story it gets pretty thin, and they usually charge a premium to be green. None of that really flies for us.”
There is a very real and persistent notion that something must be sacrificed if a company goes green, and AGS has to constantly fight through that misconception. Michael, elaborates, “Because we do things differently than what people are used to seeing, we do have to spend a lot of time educating people, showing them what we do, sharing with them who we’re working with already to reassure them that we do what we say. Delivering on what we promise is paramount for us. You would be surprised how few service providers believe in that – green or not.”
California’s drought has pushed water conservation to the forefront and providing a safe work environment for employees should be a priority considering that salaries are usually a business’ biggest operating expense but saving water or providing a cleaner healthier work environment is often one of the last things that AGS discusses with prospective clients. Sustainability often is not a priority for many people, even in eco-minded California. Michael relates, “Most people are so busy and the things that we’re addressing are almost things they don’t want to have to deal with or think about. The issue ultimately is where green fits into the hierarchy of priorities for our clients, and truth be told even with clients that are really committed to sustainability, green is not the first issue on their list.”
Despite these obstacles and perceptions Advanced Green Solutions adapts and powers forward. AGS has figured out how to be a resource for businesses at either end of the sustainability spectrum and to thrive. Michael explains, “For some clients we are that low hurdle, first step toward sustainability. We introduce them to sustainability in an easy way. And then for other clients who have really committed to sustainability we’re one more tool in their tool belt that compliments and enhances what their green commitments.” It’s not easy for businesses to dig through everything and figure out what works and what doesn’t, and who’s sustainable and who’s not. Luckily for them in the green commercial cleaning space at least, AGs has done that homework for them and can deliver on the pillars of sustainability, value and service.
Your space, your staff and your customers are what make your business great. If you want to run a greener business, you can replace your light bulbs and recycle your printer paper, or you can make a significant environmental difference and change the way you run your facility. That means finding truly sustainable service providers.
It might be scary, it might make you worry about quality, and you might doubt you can afford it. But it’s not, you shouldn’t, and you can. It’s for the benefit of everyone, including your business.
About Advanced Green Solutions
Based in Van Nuys, California, AGS provides top of the line green commercial cleaning services and strives to supply, “Simple, easy to use services that everyone can understand, that are deeply green, save people money, and give them better results and service.” Along with carpet and textile services, the company provides a zero-waste moving service – Rent A Moving Box – and in 2014 it launched an eco-friendly hard surface maintenance program –SHINE Hard Surface Care – which offers the latest floor care technology and products to offer a more sustainable, less disruptive and more cost effective alternative to traditional floor care. So far in 2014, AGS has saved on behalf of its clients more than 51,000 gallons of water, 7,100 kWh of energy, 2.4 tons of carbon emissions and kept more than 5 tons of waste out of landfills.