From modest beginnings in 2005, East Meadow School District’s green cleaning program has evolved into a source of pride to the district. During the past year, the program has grown in several areas, and the district has stepped into a leadership role, offering the benefit of its experience and serving as a role model to other districts nationwide. Shortly after his 2008 appointment, Director of Facilities and Operations Patrick Pizzo began meeting with the district’s green cleaning committee to explore areas for improvement and growth in the existing program at East Meadow. The district immediately took steps to replace all ammonia-based cleaning products with green-certified products and to replace products containing bleach. Last year, the district piloted bottle recycling districtwide and bottle/paper recycling in its administrative building. When students returned to classes this September, they found paper recycling efforts in all buildings.
The East Meadow School District considers the safety and well-being of students and staff to be of the utmost priority. Inasmuch as the district’s efforts are funded by taxpayers’ hard-earned money, the district is conscentious about its obligation to be fiscally responsible while ensuring the safety and well-being of students and staff. The use of products and equipment that reduce or eliminate the need for expensive and potentially harmful cleaning chemicals has enabled the district to realize substantial savings while simultaneously reducing its impact on the environment.
Director Pizzo meets regularly with all head custodians in the district. In addition to discussing custodial procedures and providing training in topics such as boiler maintenance, CPR and safety, vendors are invited to demonstrate new cleaning products and methods. One outcome of vendor presentations has been the introduction in several buildings of steam cleaners, which kill a wide range of bacteria and germs without using any chemicals. Last year, East Meadow changed over to hands-free soap dispensers with a green-certified foaming hand soap, packaged in sealed cartridges to prevent product contamination. The district has successfully discontinued the use of pretreated dust mops, replacing them with microfiber mops which are machine washable and do not require any detergent for laundering. Custodians have reported that the microfiber mops perform better than treated mops and leave no residue behind. Other procedures and strategies currently being implemented in East Meadow include:
-Preventive maintenance program for heating systems, raising air quality while lowering fuel consumption.
-Immediate halt to the use of weed killers, using rechargable line trimmers to limit weed growth on fields and walkways.
-Organic turf treatments for playing fields.
-Construction of plywood decoy dogs to deter geese from congregating on fields.
-Replacement of incandescent lighting fixtures with CFL bulbs in machine areas and boiler rooms.
-Installation of exterior LED lighting at East Meadow High School.
The facilities department invites input from custodial staff, administrators, and support staff, as well as parents and students. Pizzo meets regularly with PTA representatives at district safety committee meetings. When the account clerk in the Facilities Office suggested that the district could save money by switching to higher-quality toilet paper and paper towels constructed of recycled materials, along with dispensers designed to reduce waste, Pizzo made cost comparisons and invited a vendor to demonstrate the products to the cleaning committee and head custodians. Soon after, dispensers were installed throughout the district, at no charge. Feedback from custodians indicated less waste and cleaner bathrooms as a result of the change. When Pizzo’s secretary suggested purchasing recyclable batteries, the district’s green cleaning committee tested the batteries and ran a cost comparison, and the district is now in the process of replacing batteries with the recyclable batteries.
Recognizing its responsibility to educate students to be global citizens, the district integrates conservation of resources and preservation of a healthy environment into all areas of curriculum. The facilities department proudly shares in supporting education by supplying a variety of posters designed to remind students of the importance of proper hand washing to maintain personal health and prevent the spread of diseases. The facilities department works closely with teachers and administrators to provide information and resources pertinent to health and safety issues. Including students in the management of the recycling program has encouraged increased participation by all, ensuring success of the district’s recycling efforts.
Other innovative measures towards increasing green cleaning efforts in the district include:
-Comprehensive preventive-maintenance program for boilers, compressors, steam traps, air conditioners, etc., to reduce energy consumption and lower operating costs.
-Educational and training materials downloaded from the New York State Office of General Services website to a shared computer network for training of custodial staff.
-Low-VOC (volatile organic compound) products for gym floor finishing and painting.
-Green-certified floor waxes, which eliminate the need for floor-stripping products.
-Square pad floor scrubbers, which eliminate the need for wax on certain floors.
-Replacement of exterior lighting with LED fixtures.
-Degreaser for cleaning and deodorizing bathrooms. A hydro-carbon remediator, this product disassembles molecules in oils, germs, pathogens and odors by breaking and then digesting bonding esters between carbons.
-Replacement of conventional lubricants with a synthetic non-hazardous, food grade lubricant that is environmentally friendly and safe to use.
-Recycling of e-waste (computers, monitors, batteries, etc.)
-Soy-based stainless-steel cleaning product.
-Pilot use of biodegradable plastic bags.
Evaluation of the district’s green cleaning program is comprehensive and ongoing. Regardless of cost, the district will discontinue using any product that does not meet the high cleaning standards of the district. The facilities department maintains a database of all products used in the district, and the green cleaning committee continually assesses the effectiveness of all new products. Head custodians are invited to discuss any issues they have with products at monthly meetings. Recently, the district participated in an evaluative survey conducted by Grassroots Environmental Education, called “How Green is My Town?” and achieved a weighted score of 115.5.
East Meadow School District is proud to have received an Honorable Mention from American School and University magazine’s 2009 Green Cleaning Award Program. The district also has enjoyed recognition from Grassroots Environmental Education, and Pizzo recently participated in a panel discussion for the widely distributed “ChildSafe Guidelines” DVD.
Although the district has made great strides in providing a safe and healthy environment for its students and teachers, Pizzo is not satisfied with the status quo. Through the collaborative efforts of administration, custodial staff, vendors, teachers, students and parents, he hopes to continue exploring new options for simultaneously maintaining a healthy, clean environment for all, while minimizing the impact on the environment.
Program Information Number of students: 7,345 Square footage maintained: 1,340,020 Number of full-time custodians: 89 Annual cleaning budget: $604,950 Green cleaning team members: Patrick Pizzo, Director of Facilities and Operations; Dan Pletenycky, Head Custodian, Clarke MS/HS; Bob Callan, Head Custodian, Parkway Elementary; Mike Ewald, Head Custodian, Campo Center