Once upon a time, "green" building practices, like green cleaning, were for cutting edge first adopters and dyed in the wool of environmentalists. But today, more and more people are beginning to realize that sustainable building maintenance practices are not only good for the planet, they are good for building occupants and the bottom line.
As a matter of fact, more and more people are starting to consider the "triple bottom line" when they are making business choices for their building. What is the triple bottom line? Think of the three P's: "people, planet, profit." Each of these three considerations is important to the overall health and sustainability of our companies, no matter what business we are in.
In other words, the choices we make have a bottom line impact on the long-term health of people, the long-term health of the planet and the long-term health of bottom line profits. As you will see, a green cleaning program can address all three facets of the triple bottom line.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is one of the leading voices in this move to marry environmental and social activism with conscious capitalism. As a matter of fact, the organization, which is the nation's foremost national coalition of leaders from every sector of the building industry, has a stated purpose to "promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work." Do you see the reference to the three P's in there?
USGBC's membership has swelled from 12 companies in 1993 to over 14,000 companies today. Companies like National Geographic, Microsoft, Thomas Properties, JohnsonDiversey and WAXIE Sanitary Supply work together to develop a variety of programs and services, and forge strategic alliances with key industry and research organizations and federal, state and local government agencies. With 14,000 companies in their ranks, many that read like a "who's who" of American business, USGBC must be doing something right.
One of the major accomplishments of USGBC has been to create a green building rating system called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The LEED Green Building Rating System is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings.
LEED was created to:
· define a "green building" by establishing a common standard of measurement;
· promote integrated, whole building design, construction and operation practices;
· recognize environmental leadership in the building industry;
· stimulate green competition;
· raise consumer awareness of green building benefits; and
· transform the building market.
LEED provides a complete framework for assessing building performance and meeting sustainability goals. A green cleaning program can make the biggest contribution to a LEED for Existing Buildings project, but no matter what type of LEED project your building is undertaking, green cleaning can make a positive contribution. A green cleaning program can assist with a high percentage of the total points required for LEED for Existing Buildings building certification.
Depending on how well your building performs, your project can be recognized with different LEED certification levels starting with Certified and then progressing up to Silver, Gold and then Platinum, which is the highest level of certification.
Take a look (and remember the three P's):
People - Green cleaning contributes to a safer and healthier work environment.
Planet - Green cleaning reduces environmental impacts from the cleaning process.
Profit - Green cleaning contributes to increased workplace wellness, productivity and performance.
Some other benefits of green cleaning for commercial buildings include:
· Contributing to increased tenant retention;
· Contributing to fewer complaints;
· Contributing to increased ability to attract new tenants;
· Contributing to green building certification; and
· Contributing to enhanced public image.
Some real life examples of extra customer value being created by LEED for Existing Buildings Green Building Certification include: The Joe Serna, Jr. California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) Headquarters Building in downtown Sacramento. The building achieved LEED-EB Platinum certification and reduced operating expenses from $1.87 per square foot to $1.16 per square foot and the National Geographic Society Headquarters Complex in Washington, D.C. This building achieved LEED-EB Silver certification and found that for every $1 invested in green building improvements, the building's market value increased $4.
There are currently several buildings in the greater San Diego area pursuing LEED certification -- are you one of them?
So, now you are interested in how these ideas can be applied to your building, right? Let's take a look at one of the credits in the LEED for Existing Buildings Green Building Rating System, as an example. To earn points for the Sustainable Cleaning Products and Materials credit, you will want to choose more environmentally preferable cleaning products for use in your building. The intent of this credit is to reduce the health and environmental impacts of cleaning products, disposable janitorial paper products and trash bags. You can help your LEED project earn up to three points toward LEED certification by using cleaning products that meet the Green Seal GS-37 standard, and disposable janitorial paper products and trash bags that meet the minimum requirements of the U.S. EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines for post-consumer recycled content.