On Saturday, 28th March 2015, I was hosting some friends for dinner at my home, and as the clock hit 20:30, we switched off all the lights – it was Earth Hour. After an initial pause of silence, we engaged in a conversation about environmental responsibility; “I always buy recyclable packaging,” one of my friends noted, as he picked up a can of soft drink to check for the triangular logo on it. In an attempt to distinguish ourselves as considerate people, we all followed with similar comments, for example about switching off the lights when you exit a room, or turning off the tap while brushing your teeth.
Recyclable, green, biodegradable, sustainable, natural, organic, ecofriendly, are examples of the many terms associated with environmental responsibility, yet for all the fame this topic enjoys, its remarkable how little most people (myself included) actually know about it. Take for example, my friend’s comment about recyclable packaging – it’s great that people think that way, but buying recyclable packaging has limited impact if you don’t then recycle it!
In facilities management (FM), adopting green principles has been slower than one would hope. With increasing regulatory pressure and technological advances, we have, in recent years, seen a much stronger shift in that direction, and certainly, the talk is incredibly positive but often not backed by action. On many occasions, I’ve seen people in the FM industry claim that they are ‘green’ and that they use environmentally responsible processes/machines/products, only to find that the reality is far from the truth. It would be easy to blame this on disingenuous behaviour, but I believe there is more to it.
The real problem appears to be a lack of education – people are not sufficiently aware of the facts or are in some way misinformed. Going green is about every aspect of our consumption, and how it impacts our ecosystem and its inhabitants – interestingly, many seem to overlook the fact that failing to change our ways will kill off the human race long before it could impact the world. Going green isn’t even just about being considerate to our environment; it’s about respecting our own livelihood.
An overwhelming problem particularly chronic in this region is the misinformed attitude towards disinfecting and the odour of disinfectants. Disinfectants do not clean, their odour is toxic, and they often contain harsh chemicals that are directly harmful to us as well as our eco system. It’s an easy concept to explain, while the intention when using these products is to kill microbes, they are not capable of being selective and instead kill all good and bad life forms they contact.
The habit of excessive disinfecting is also responsible for creating antimicrobial resistance – a major global health problem. So, while there are important applications for them, they are typically misused. While antibacterial agents are extremely cheap, they do not contain cleaning properties, so if you rely on them to clean, you will almost certainly be using far more product, water and manpower hours than should be required to get the job done. Just by switching to a good cleaning detergent you will be able to use more efficient cleaning practices, which gives better results more quickly, with much lower water consumption, and will actually save money. Alternatively, if you use a good quality biotechnology product, which would not cost more, you could realise further ancillary benefits and savings, for example by reducing PPE costs, lowering absentee rate and generally boosting productivity.
To sum it all up, if you’re in FM and have been considering going green, you can now do so without increasing costs or reducing standards – if you feel otherwise, give me a shout! There’s a wealth of free information and advice out there - so step up to the plate, and join the green revolution in cleaning now!