Small Business & Startups and Sustainability

Cleaning businesses offering more green alternatives

Participating in sustainable practices has become more cost-efficient.

February 15, 2019
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Cleaning products
Employees with GRBS have used “green chemistry” products when cleaning for about the last 15 years. Courtesy Revel Marketing

With a plethora of research done on the positive effects of going “green,” companies in Grand Rapids are following suit.

Cleaning companies are continuing to offer more green alternatives.

Karin Wysocki, president of Grand Rapids-based GRBS, said one of the reasons going green has become more popular is the products have become more cost-efficient.

She said when green products were first introduced in the U.S. in the early 2000s, the price points were about 25 to 30 percent higher than they are now, depending on the type of items used.

Wysocki, whose company has been around for more than 100 years, said its cleaning services are provided to school districts across the state, including 25 school districts in West Michigan.

In an effort to keep the environment clean, she said she began using green chemistry about 15 years ago.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate hazards of chemical feedstocks, reagent, solvents and products.

“Essentially, the concept was these are going to be less harmful to the environment as well as less harmful to people who come in contact with chemicals, because over time, they may have concerns with respiratory issues and have allergic reactions to them,” Wysocki said.

Elaine Meyers, owner and president of Meyers Cleaning Service in Jenison, said her business also uses some environmentally friendly products.

“We do use some of the green products that we feel are effective and cost-efficient to use,” Meyers said. “In some instances, we are required to use what the customer desires for their facility.”

Another reason the term “green” has become more popular over the years is due to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED is a green certification program for building design, construction, operations and maintenance.

Orion Construction’s Nick West is the project manager for the construction of the headquarters of Kids’ Food Basket at 1919 Leonard St. NE, which is expected to be LEED certified upon its completion.

He said there is a trend of more buildings becoming LEED certified because the building codes have changed.

“Since LEED has become more popular, building codes countrywide have adopted a lot of the LEED practices,” he said. “So, what we are seeing now is the minimum requirement for a building is what would have been a LEED element in the past. They’ve just elevated the minimum requirements for new construction to better utilize the same practices for the longevity of buildings.”

LEED certification is a points system that is based on the project’s location, water, energy, construction materials and indoor quality.

“So that would be carpets that don’t have a certain amount of oils or paints that are water-based and more environmentally friendly,” said Jason Wheeler, public relations coordinator for Orion Construction. “Generally, for a LEED project, we get locally sourced materials whenever possible in order to reduce travel cost, maximize natural light for buildings and window placement, install water catching systems that recycle rainwater, and LEED lights and high-efficiency HVAC.”

West said the Kids’ Food Basket project was designed with a LEED Silver level goal in mind, to ensure at a minimum there is a LEED certification level achieved.

To acquire that certification, he said Orion will be using a lot of windows for daylight, automatic electricity sensors, recycled material for carpets and steel so it is much more sustainable instead of using raw materials.

As building codes have changed over the years, West said the cost for building LEED-certified buildings has decreased.

“The cost disparity is not as much as it used to be with so many standard LEED practices being beholden to the expectations, but LEED does have a cost premium for utilization but not nearly as severe as it used to be,” he said. “It is intended to provide a long-term benefit.”

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