Greening Extended Stay Housekeeping Services
By Rani Bhattacharyya Community Economics Extension Educator , University of Minnesota Extension- Center for Community Vitality | June 25, 2010
With the extended stay industry orientating itself increasingly towards the long term accommodation needs of the middle income travelers and families, property managers and owners are being held more responsible for the health of their long term guests. It's important that facility managers and owners account for their facilities housekeeping service impacts on guests because of growing public awareness concerning the harmful effects of cleaning chemicals and non-standardized cleaning procedures. Your guests may not understand that some cleaning solutions carry chemicals that can disrupt their endocrine or reproductive systems, but they will likely notice strong chemical odors or skin reactions after exposure to solutions not diluted properly.
Besides your guests, a secondary factor to consider is that many companies (sponsoring the business travelers using your facility) are beginning to conduct their own due diligence concerning environmental, social and economic responsibility by their local partners and service providers. The more capable and ready your facility is to assist them in operating in an efficient and environmentally responsible manner that keeps their business partners healthy; the more likely your client businesses will keep coming back and referring their partners and clients to your property. There also many families concerned about exposing young children and elderly to sleeping or living spaces where they could have high rates of chemical exposure. In selecting a hotel for relatives or other friends, many prospective referrals may bypass your facility for one already implementing green housekeeping practices because they feel the need to protect these vulnerable populations. When thinking about your facility in the long term, you should also consider your staff. A higher staff turnover due to illness and job dissatisfaction has a harder impact on extended stay operations than on standard hotels since your staff size is so much smaller. Besides housekeeping, your staff may also be tasked with other operations. Prolonging their exposure to harmful chemicals in the long run will only come out of your pocket, not theirs.
As the general public becomes more concerned regarding potential impacts from cleaning chemicals and procedures, you should keep in mind that there are many resources available to you though your state environmental protection office and local government authorities. Many of these programs offer pollution prevention training, awareness programs, and incentives for local businesses to adopt environmental polices and practices. The state level pollution prevention programs also have extensive experience in environmentally preferable purchasing. State lodging associations in recent years have also been working with local government agencies to develop lodging specific environmental programs. These partnerships can also provide training and information regarding environmentally responsible cleaning practices in the lodging industry. If you contract out your housekeeping services, there are also green cleaning trainers like EcoMetrical that can provide environmentally responsible cleaning training for your in-house or contracted service.
There are also extensive studies underway like those of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) concerning the effects of chemical exposure on vulnerable populations. These guides outline the routes of harmful chemical exposure and ways that such exposure can be prevented in living spaces and common areas. EWG also reports on the toxicity levels of various chemicals considered harmful to human health and the environment. It might also help to talk with standard hotel managers or owners who have implemented green housekeeping practices in your area to learn what resources they used to develop their program. A few aspects of housekeeping service delivery that extended stay property managers and owners may want to consider (where their service may differ from standard lodging operations) include:
- Standard lodging properties conduct 5-7 days a week cleaning, while extended stay may provide such services weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.
- Extended stay facilities may allow for interim cleaning by guests while standard hotels usually conduct housekeeping during off-peak hours of occupancy in guest rooms as well as common areas.
- Extended stay hotels may need to consider pet health in addition to human health.
While your service may differ greatly from each of these examples, they represent only a few of the ways that your housekeeping service can affect the health of your long-term guests and your staff. To prevent unnecessary exposure you might want to consider developing a policy or procedure for each of the areas listed below to protect the health of your guests and staff: