Green Schools
Green Cleaning: Seasonal Prep

Green Cleaning: Seasonal Prep

It may seem as if classes just started, but it is already time to begin planning for winter break. Now is the time: Get together with cleaning and maintenance staff, purchasing personnel, vendors and other interested people to plan for deep cleaning and maintenance, stock up on products for winter and provide training for staff.

It’s important to execute these tasks efficiently and effectively, but keep in mind that they also provide a great opportunity to investigate greener options. Make sure that all interested parties are involved from the beginning. With such a short window of opportunity, planning is critical.

Some specific areas to be considered:

Resilient floor care: Decide whether it is necessary or desirable to do a strip and recoat of resilient floor coverings or if a simpler and less intensive scrub and recoat will do the job. This will affect the need for stripping solution, as well as how much floor coating will be needed. But regardless of the ultimate decision, consider trying some "dry" stripping pads and machines. These are "greener" compared with traditional caustic stripping solutions and reduce the risk of injury to workers.

Wood floor care: Basketball and volleyball season will be in full swing, and there may be an opportunity to do a top coat of these wood surfaces. If a school is using outside contractors, now is the time to get on their schedule, especially if tournaments during winter break will significantly reduce the availability of the courts. And don’t forget to check with the athletic department for any changes to its schedules to make sure there are no conflicts.

Carpet care: One of the most potentially productive areas for green innovations is with carpet care equipment. Local janitorial supply distributors may help; some may have equipment that can be used on a trial basis. The number of machines available for demonstration purposes is limited, so reserve them soon.

Entry matting systems: This is an especially important issue for schools and universities in areas affected by seasonal changes. Consider acquiring new matting systems that are more effective at capturing higher levels of moisture from rain and snow, as well as for capturing the salt and sand that may be tracked in.

Snow and ice removal: If purchasing decisions have yet to be completed on snow and ice removal, this is the time to do so. Weather patterns have become unpredictable—some areas are experiencing warmer than normal winter weather, yet other areas may get colder weather with higher levels of snow fall. Thus, meet with suppliers and discuss inventory options, as well as greener products. Use of sodium chloride (rock salt), which is damaging to both concrete surfaces and vegetation, should be eliminated.

Equipment maintenance: It may be many months since scrubbers, burnishers, plows and other equipment have been used. For outdoor equipment, it also is time to winterize them. Don’t forget to check batteries; performance often declines when the weather gets colder. Schools using service companies for maintenance should make sure to get on their schedules.

Training: Winter break is an important time to provide training for custodial and maintenance staff. Meet with staff to identify needs for both new and experienced members, as well as training necessary for any new products or processes. Discuss needs with vendors, as well as neighboring school districts and universities, to identify all opportunities before completing schedules. Sharing training resources may reduce the burden for organizing such events, as well as improve training and the number of training options, especially for more specialized needs.

Ashkin is executive director of the Green Cleaning Network, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational organization. 

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