Special to Globe and Mail Update
Published on Tuesday, Jul. 13, 2010 5:00AM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 3:22PM EDT
Custodial Cleaning firm goes green as costs fall. Shift to sustainable methods pays off
One of the first rules in business is to listen to the customer. For Isaac Bazal, listening to customers not only helped him become more aware of environmental issues, it boosted his business’s bottom line.
Mr. Bazal is the president and owner of Vibraclean Corporate Housekeeping, a Mississauga-based company that cleans offices, warehouses, manufacturing plants and multi-residential properties. Mr. Bazal founded the business in 1988. Back then, he was the only employee. These days Vibraclean, which has 150 employees, is known for eco-conscious cleaning and counts Federal Express Canada, Siemens Canada and Hewlett-Packard Canada among its clients. The company uses Green Seal-certified products, whose eco-claims have been tested and verified.
Gone are the days when environmentally friendly cleaning products cost two or three times the price of conventional ones, Mr. Bazal says.
“We are at a very interesting intersection where the cost of these green products is getting cheaper. We’re at a point where they are equal.” In some cases, green products are cheaper than their conventional counterparts, he adds.
Vibraclean’s green shift kicked off four years ago, when customers began talking to Mr. Bazal about their desire to make their operations and buildings more eco-friendly. In particular, one customer was constructing a building aiming for LEED certification and as a result, required a green cleaning plan.
At the time, Mr. Bazal didn’t know much about environmental issues. “We started to read … and find out.” He learned about the cleaning standards for buildings certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program by the Canada Green Building Council.
He also found out that some conventional cleaning products contain volatile organic compounds, chemicals that can produce smog. He read about the transit-related pollution created when gallons of cleaning products are transported from factories. He learned about the waste generated when items like terry towels are thrown out. “It was eye-opening,” he says.
Mr. Bazal began to search for alternatives. He learned about the wide range of Green Seal-certified cleaning products, including general purpose, bathroom, glass and carpet cleaners. He found energy-efficient vacuum cleaners. He learned that microfibre cloths are more sustainable than paper towels or terry towels because they last much longer.
He also discovered Pak-It – tiny water-soluble pouches of cleaning products. Instead of transporting a gallon of cleaner to a site, Vibraclean can bring a few one-centimetre-square pouches of Pak-It and add water. Because the Pak-It product line has so little packaging, the line is EarthWise-certified.
When Vibraclean begins to use Pak-It products at a client’s premises, the “whole environmental footprint of the company, especially if it’s a large company, will change tremendously,” Mr. Bazal says. For example, when a FedEx warehouse, used for sorting mail, switched to Pak-It, the change ensured 428 one-gallon bottles would stay out of landfills each year and eliminated the need for 108 cardboard packing boxes annually as well. Vibraclean now uses Pak-It products at every client site.
Among the organizations that have used Vibraclean’s services is the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. Another is Daniels Corp., which is building a LEED-certified condominium in Toronto’s Regent Park. The builder hired Vibraclean to clean the structure. “We hope that as Regent Park develops to get more work of that nature,” Mr. Bazal says.
Vibraclean’s niche as a green cleaning company is paying off, he says.
“The more I’m spending with it, I see this as a very large competitive advantage, where companies are calling us and saying they want to work with us because of the practices that we’re bringing to the table,” Mr. Bazal says.
“I like to stay several steps ahead,” he says.
That means researching the latest environmentally friendly cleaning technologies, such as those from Activeion Cleaning Solutions, based in Rogers, Minn. The professional system, which Vibraclean is testing, converts tap water to ionized water thanks to a small electrical charge and an ion exchange membrane. Once the water is ionized, it easily attracts and breaks up dirt on surfaces. The water remains ionized for 45 seconds – enough time to spray, wipe and clean a surface. A low-level electric field applied to the water also kills germs.
The greener the cleaning technology, the better it is for Vibraclean’s front-line workers – and for the employees or residents who work or live in the sites being cleaned, he adds.
But the eco-benefits extend even wider.
“If you can reduce a company’s footprint and there is less waste going out, that benefits us all in the long run,” Mr. Bazal says.
And it doesn’t hurt his company’s bottom line either. These days Vibraclean is awash in more than one kind of green.