Does your club or fitness center need a new marketing niche for 2011? One of the most effective marketing tools available is the “greenness” of your facility.

People who join gyms, especially older people (the fastest growing segment of the fitness center population), are concerned about their health. They want to stay young and active as long as possible and know this is often best accomplished in a healthy, green environment.

One of the easiest yet most significant ways to begin your green journey is by transferring from conventional to environmentally preferable cleaning products.

“Gyms use way more cleaning supplies than other businesses, so cleaning is a good place to start,” says Tom Bishop, manager of a fitness center in Golden, CO.

The following are key steps in a typical club’s green journey:

  • Make it a top-down decision. A member committee at a private club with a large fitness center voted to begin greening the facility. Unfortunately, the club’s management never really got behind the project. Within a few months, the project was forgotten. For a facility to begin its green journey, this must be a decision made, supported and guided by top management.
  • Find a green knowledge source. Some large facilities hire a cleaning consultant to help them transfer to green cleaning. This is often unnecessary, but club operators do need to find a janitorial/sanitation distributor who also is a green cleaning expert. One way to determine if a distributor is a green cleaning expert is by the chemical product line that distributor represents. If the line includes only some green products, he or she likely is not an expert. However, if the distributor represents a line that can provide a green certified cleaner for every application, that person is likely knowledgeable about green cleaning and will prove an invaluable resource.
  • Understand green certifications. Although club managers can depend on a distributor who is a green cleaning expert, they should be aware of what the terms “green certified” or “proven green” mean—the product has been independently tested and evaluated and meets established green criteria for that product category. The certification organizations will be prominently displayed on the product’s label. Only select green cleaning products that have been certified and proven green by organizations such as EcoLogo, Green Seal or DfE.
  • Take a chemical inventory. This step likely will be handled by your distributor. All chemicals, paper products, even cleaning clothes must be inventoried based on where and how they are used. From here, the distributor will suggest green equivalents for these products. In virtually all cases, green or greener alternatives are available. For instance, microfiber cleaning cloths are almost always suggested to replace conventional terry cloth towels. The only exception when it comes to chemicals is disinfectants. At this time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will not allow a disinfectant sold in the United States to be labeled green. However, the distributor may have safer suggestions that can prove worthy.
  • Take an equipment inventory. Green cleaning involves far more than just chemicals. Are the vacuum cleaners used in the club HEPA-filtered? Have they received the seal of approval from the Carpet and Rug Institute? Are carpet extractors and floor machines low moisture? Green cleaning must be viewed as a system. At its core may be chemicals, but it is not complete unless all components, including cleaning equipment, are environmentally responsible as well.
  • Conduct training. Your cleaning professionals must be trained to use the green cleaning products. Part of the process is to explain why the facility is going green, and one of the most crucial reasons is to protect the health of cleaning workers. Additionally, when facilities transfer to green cleaning, it is a golden opportunity to work with cleaning professionals, teaching them not only how to use the green cleaning products but also the most effective cleaning techniques and practices.

To turn green cleaning into a marketing niche, managers should include the club’s green cleaning efforts in all marketing materials and discussions about their health clubs. After all, your gym is all about health—and so is green cleaning.

Mike Sawchuk has been involved with the janitorial/sanitation industry for more than 15 years. He is currently vice president and general manager of Charlotte Products and Enviro-Solutions, a manufacturer of certified-green cleaning chemicals, based in Ontario, Canada.