Green Cleaning: Mid-Year Mindset

The mid-year winter break can be an opportunity to catch up on numerous cleaning and maintenance projects: floor stripping and refinishing, recoating gym floors, freshening up residence halls, renovating bathrooms, minor repairs and maintenance — the opportunities to incorporate green practices are endless.

Some quick suggestions to make it easy to specifically “green” some of those cleaning activities:

  • Avoid reinventing the wheel

    Time is tight, so there is not a lot of time for research and deliberation. Thus, pick a “roadmap” to guide your purchasing decisions. The three best for schools and universities are the “Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools” from the Healthy Schools Campaign, “Volume 4 on Operations and Maintenance” from the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, and the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Existing Buildings Rating System.

    Each of these “roadmaps” offers a prescriptive list of standards that can be used to purchase green products. They contain consistent information so education institutions can feel confident in knowing that these are the consensus standards from the “green community.”

  • Talk to “existing” suppliers

    Ask your current distributor, suppliers or service providers to do a quick audit on how they compare with the “roadmaps” and what they can do to help meet those requirements. You might be surprised at how many of these products your current suppliers stock, or from a services perspective, how easy it would be for them to acquire green products.

  • Develop a simple plan

    Education institutions use dozens of products for maintenance activities, including chemicals, janitorial paper and dispensers, vacuum cleaners, floor machines, pressure washers, plastic liners, cans, mops, buckets and entry mats. Consider a simple strategy of having suppliers break the products into three “buckets:” the first is for those products that either reduce cost, hold the line on cost or result in only a minimal increase in cost; the second is for all those things at the other extreme that require a significant capital investment, such as purchasing a riding floor scrubber; the third bucket is for all those products in the middle. This simple formula makes it easier to lay out a plan.

  • Act

    Remember that green is a journey. One of the most important keys to an effective green-cleaning program and efficiently managing your winter break is employee training. Suppliers are likely to have numerous requests for training and other support services during this period, so make sure you get on the schedule now.

Thanks to Tom Lindner, executive director of plant operations for Broward County (Fla.) Public Schools, for his assistance with this month's column.

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

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