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Green Cleaning: Apply Yourself

Green Cleaning: Apply Yourself

Preparing a Green Cleaning Awards Program entry can pay unforeseen dividends.

Each year it gets more challenging to maintain a healthy, high performing facility. One simple and successful strategy to keep up with the challenges is to participate in the Green Cleaning Awards for Schools & Universities. Now in their 8th year, the Green Cleaning Awards for Schools & Universities, cosponsored by the Healthy Schools Campaign and Green Cleaning Network, make it easy for school staff and vendors to highlight their successes.

There are several benefits to the program. Obviously, winning the award represents a feather in any department’s cap. The award comes with a beautiful photo layout in the December issue of American School & University. Perhaps more importantly, the application process can be used as an audit of a green cleaning program. The review can identify what has changed since last year, what hasn’t, and lessons learned. It encourages community engagement with cleaning personnel, students, staff and the community at-large. Plus, by having cleaning personnel participate in the application process, it ensures their buy-in to recommended improvements.

The application begins with some basic information so that schools and universities of similar size, student count, staffing levels, budgets, etc., can be compared. The second section reviews the actual cleaning program. It begins with a simple description of how and when the program was started, who was involved, and related information.

The next section is key, asking for a simple description of the institution’s green cleaning program. This is facilitated by outlining several possible aspects of the program. Thus the outline can be completed with a few sentences on each of the outlined topics. Each topic is optional, allowing for as much or as little detail as the entrant wishes to provide:

  • Cleaning procedures and strategies used to reduce general health impacts. These can include strategies for the use of disinfectants, strategies to encourage handwashing, timing of vacuuming or carpet cleaning, use of recycling programs to reduce waste, etc. -- all issues that should be reviewed annually.
  • Types of training provided. An annual review of the effectiveness of training is always important, especially if it can unearth areas where more training would be helpful.
  • Innovations, including any noteworthy strategies, products, or equipment. This review creates an opportunity to determine if the innovations were successful and to begin planning for new opportunities.
  • How the green cleaning program has been integrated into broader school-wide sustainability efforts.
  • Evaluation methods and results. What is metrics is the school tracking and how?

The next section addresses efforts to engage others in the responsibility of green cleaning:

  • Policies or processes used to engage others (teachers, students, visitors, and staff) in green cleaning. Dust off those 3-ring binders and review policies, training materials and communications pieces.
  • Community engagement. As visible entities, it is valuable to consider how the facilities department is involving the school community, as well as the community at-large, in the green cleaning program.
  • Recognition. This is a chance to “toot your horn” with any awards or other accolades the green cleaning program has received, such as Earth Day fairs, EPA Tools for Schools award, etc. And some awards should be shared with others.

The final section is a review of the products, sanitary paper, cleaning equipment and other supplies. This section can be done by the vendors and it creates a great opportunity to identify products for replacement, how to reduce the number of products, cost and other related issues.

Begin today with a quick review of the application and discuss it with your vendors. They should be glad to help as you can recognize their efforts as well. The application is due on September 12th and in many respects, everyone is a winner who participates.

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