Asumag 2532 Stephen Ashkin 2013

Green Cleaning: Check Your Calendar

June 24, 2013
It may be time for an annual green cleaning review.

Many schools and universities spend years getting their custodial cleaning operation to the place where by all accounts it is doing well. The facilities look nice. Hard floors are shiny, and carpets are stain-free. Restrooms are well-stocked and odor-free. Classrooms, cafeterias, gyms, laboratories, administrative and other areas are neat, clean and organized. There are no complaints from staff and students. There have been illnesses, but they are within normal rates and not attributable to shortcomings in cleaning. The program is on budget. Green cleaning products have been introduced and accepted as normal practices. Staff turnover is not an issue.  So why change?

Perhaps change is not necessary, but for many, the number of students and staff will change. Facilities will change, if only because of age. Cleaning technologies change, as do budgets. Change is inevitable, and custodial programs at education institutions need to be prepared.

One of the best ways to help identify and carry out appropriate changes is to conduct an annual review or audit of cleaning operations. Two approaches work well for this.  

The first is to use an outside auditor, who often can be more objective; ask questions that internal people often take for granted; and bring experiences learned from working with others. Many suppliers of cleaning products have on their teams experienced people who can provide audits, as can independent consultants. Using a supplier often comes at no cost. But make sure it has the expertise and time to conduct a thorough review. Outside consultants are another option.

Another approach is to have internal staff use a standardized program such as the Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities sponsored by the Green Cleaning Network, Healthy Schools Campaign and American School & University magazine. In its seventh year, this simple award process is a good way to look at changes in key areas, involve staff and suppliers, and be recognized for leadership.

The award package begins with a review and updating of policies that affect the cleaning program. Now is a particularly good time to do this, as many education institutions have built their green cleaning programs around the requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance Rating System (LEED-EBOM), which is being revised and has several new requirements that affect policies.

The award application also addresses changes made over the past year, which is essential in identifying what, if anything, has changed or needs to be changed going forward. Other information addresses cleaning products, procedures and strategies used to reduce general health impacts, training, innovations, and evaluation methods and results. This year’s application introduces a new section to evaluate and report on the custodial department’s sustainability initiatives.

The awards program also is a good way to evaluate communications and engagement programs. Among the information that is required includes policies or processes used to engage teachers, students, visitors, staff; efforts to engage communications/community engagement; and an update of any recognition for the program or department, including any awards or other recognition that the program has received such as Earth Day fairs, EPA’s Tools for Schools award or the Green Flag program. For many, engaging and communicating about custodial operations can be as important as the cleaning itself.

The awards program can be a valuable evaluation and auditing tool that is easy to use by internal custodial staff or vendors. Nominations are due Sept. 6, and additional information can be found at 

Regardless of the approach, an annual review can help identify past changes and anticipate those required for the future.

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