New Year, New Goals

Four recommendations to make your school cleaner and greener in 2015.

Each year there are several opportunities to review, refresh and improve existing cleaning regimens while also setting new plans and goals for the cleaning program. A new calendar year is one of those opportunities. Here are some recommendations to help start the New Year right.

1) Evaluate Your Cleaning Plan. There are lots of reasons for re-evaluating your cleaning plan, be it changes in staffing levels, building occupancy, renovations or additions, or a new administration with changing expectations.

Develop a simple three-section plan covering possible changes through the end of this school year, how to green the deep cleaning and restorative cleaning programs that will be conducted over the summer, and an outline for the new school year that begins in the fall. 

Include a clear list of questions that need to be addressed. How will budgets be met? What levels of cleanliness must be maintained? Is staffing sufficient? Are the right products being used? There is no right or wrong way to the plan review, but it is important to know if your cleaning program is on track and, if not, to make adjustments as soon as possible.

2) Conduct An Audit. Auditing the buildings you clean is one of the best ways to evaluate your cleaning plan. One great tactic is to ask the vendor of the cleaning products you use (or are considering using) to conduct such an audit. 

Two standardized tools that can help are the APPA Custodial Effectiveness Audit and the Green Cleaning Awards for Schools and Universities nomination application. Both are free and easy to use. If conducted annually, these audits will reveal measurable trends and improvements.

When asking vendors to conduct the audit, don’t forget to ask for recommendations relating to green product options and cost implications.

3) Improve Training. There are a variety of reasons training programs should be constantly evaluated and improved, including changes in the number of workers, changes in the average experience level of the staff, language barriers, union issues and more.

Review the feedback from last summer’s training programs and make plans for improvements. Vendors are typically willing to do much of the training, but it is important to get good trainers. Discuss this with internal trainers and the vendors to determine the best sessions and trainers. Ask for references from other trainings they have done.

A good training program should be conducted in the appropriate language(s), includes plenty of hands-on-training, and incorporates pre- and post-session testing to determine if the workers learned the materials.

4) Test Something New and Innovative. The cleaning industry continues to introduce new green innovations in every category and a cleaning program that isn’t innovating is falling behind.

Setup a team with the explicit goal of testing new green products, be they new green cleaning chemicals; devices that turn tap water into a cleaning solution; paper products with a higher percentage of post-consumer recycled content, or made from rapidly renewable tree fibers or from agricultural waste; new hands-free dispensers for toilet tissue or paper towels that reduce consumption; plastic can liners that are properly sized to the containers and have a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content; or high efficiency equipment. There are lots of opportunities for improvement.

Vendors are typically willing to setup the demos and will do the work. Just don’t forget to ask for both a cost analysis, as well as environmental benefits compared to the products being replaced.

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

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