7 Questions for the Green Clean Institute

After working for several decades in the custodial industry, from being a front-line custodian to owning and operating a 50-employee cleaning contracting services company, David Thompson was diagnosed with chronic asthma.

“There are certain things in our lives that tell us we need to make changes. Being a life-long custodian, I can definitely attribute my exposures to cleaning supplies as a major factor of my asthma,” says Thompson. “When I was diagnosed, I found myself researching safer ways of cleaning. This brought me to green cleaning.”

After finding the education-focused Green Clean Institute and taking their educational courses, Thompson was so passionate about the business that last September he became a shareholder, president, and CEO.

Here, we check in with this green cleaning convert on the fuel behind the fire at the Green Clean Institute.

1. Cleaning Green: What does the Green Clean Institute do?

David Thompson: We provide education that gives cleaning professionals and companies the knowledge to make educated choices about the ways they do their jobs. Because we focus mainly on front-line workers, and the effects cleaning products and procedures can have on their health, they can begin to make better-informed choices.

Green Clean Institute courses are offered both at live events and online through an e-learning platform. Once the courses are taken and an examination is passed, the individuals earn our certification. Certified individuals and organizations can display the federally trademarked Green Clean Institute Seal that denotes a verified level of understanding on subject.

The courses are available to anyone that is looking to demonstrate knowledge of proper green cleaning practices. Additionally, an organization such as a building service contractor or in-house cleaning department can get a firm certification—which is based on management within the organization completing an executive course and front-line employees completing the first-level technician course.

Cleaning professionals from all over the world have been certified through our courses online—Finland, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Nigeria. We also offer a Green Clean180 self-assessment to help companies evaluate their green cleaning products and practices.

2. Cleaning Green: How are you growing the Green Cleaning Institute?

David Thompson: I’ve taken what was originally an exclusively online program, and added live learning events. It’s a completely different, interactive learning experience that adds the ability to ask questions. I brought a completely different vision to the table by knowing the industry like I do. I’ve been a custodian, worked for different building service contractors, owned my own cleaning contracting services company, and worked with hundreds of organizations via supply sales. All of that experience has taught me that in-person learning is much more effective. We are offering something no one else in industry offers—information about cleaning delivered to the people who clean, from people that clean.

3. Cleaning Green: How big is your target audience?

David Thompson: At any given time we have 100 to 300 people with one of the 14-plus online courses in progress. The front-line technician course is, by far, the most popular. We are approaching 5,000 individuals that have received the certification and over 450 firms have also been certified worldwide. We require that individuals and firms alike re-certify every year via continuing education courses.

4. Cleaning Green: Why is your information important in today’s cleaning industry?

David Thompson: Commercial cleaning procedures and practices affect the health of the all that are associated with them. We provide fundamental education on how to choose healthier, alternative methods. Currently, our industry requires no certification or formal education on these topics. We are creating something that has not existed in this industry until now.

5. Cleaning Green: What are some of the major green cleaning practices you promote through your education?

David Thompson: We help people identify the cleaning products they’re using, what they are, and what they’re doing. Our flagship stance is that green is equal to health. If you recognize that cleaning green improves your health as a front-line worker, you are more likely to perform your tasks effectively, also making a positive impact on everyone else in the building.

We also teach awareness of cleaning processes. While we don’t pitch specific products or brands, we teach “best practices” for using industry technology. Because we are not financed by cleaning product manufacturers, this allows us the ability to be a true “third party.”

6. Cleaning Green: Can you give an example of one of your simple green cleaning steps?

David Thompson: One example is ammoniated glass cleaner, which is not a green product. Say you can’t change it in your job and maybe they have 100 gallons in stock—so, what do you do? We teach a green way to use a non-green product. Turn the nozzle on the spray bottle to a stream. If you don’t atomize the ammonia, you won’t easily inhale it. Also, stream it into a cloth and then use it—this “best practice” method will be less harmful to your own personal health and to others.

7. Cleaning Green: Why is cleaning with healthy, green products so important today?

David Thompson: The green movement has brought green cleaning front and center. We now have a lot of building service contractors that are working with a state or federal facility that requires them to have some type of certification and that’s what we provide. We also provide awareness about the fact that when people are cleaning, they are having an immediate impact on the personal health of a large number of people within the buildings they are providing services for.