Asumag 2466 Stephen Ashkin 2013
Asumag 2466 Stephen Ashkin 2013
Asumag 2466 Stephen Ashkin 2013
Asumag 2466 Stephen Ashkin 2013
Asumag 2466 Stephen Ashkin 2013

Green Cleaning: A Team Effort

March 1, 2013
Everyone plays a part when it comes to green cleaning.

The custodial green team is extremely important to success, whether starting a new green cleaning program or improving an existing one. The process itself has been well-defined. Assessment tools and awards programs are in place. Product manufacturers offer a wide range of products that meet performance requirements and are cost-effective compared with traditional products. And the distributors of cleaning products make the products widely available and can provide procedural and other training for custodial staffs.  

For those schools and universities establishing a custodial green team for the first time, it is important to begin by considering the game plan, which includes the scope of the program, as well as the members themselves. Although input from the members can inform the finalization of the scope and the specific projects they may undertake, management should consider any boundaries before establishing the team and inviting individual members.

Thoughtful consideration before beginning will help avoid an unnecessary disconnect between what the administration expects and the team’s ability to have the flexibility to pursue issues that are important to them.

For those with existing green teams, ongoing consideration should be given to the changes in the facilities themselves, staffing levels, products and vendors. In some cases, the scope of the green team will change; for example, expanding beyond just cleaning to incorporate initiatives on pest management, recycling, composting, energy, water and other activities. These expanding issues may require different skill sets or representatives from other departments who may be affected by the new programs.

Whether establishing a first-time green team or evaluating an existing one, one of the most important issues for a successful program is selecting the right people (players) for the team.

Far too often, the team simply is an offshoot of the organizational chart with representatives of custodial management, administration, as well as various departments and occupant groups within the campus or district.

Although this is a logical approach, it often does not consider whether the individuals are the right people for the assignment. An individual who once was an appropriate appointee may no longer have the time, interest or skill set to address the needs going forward.

One key recommendation is to clearly separate a member’s good intentions and passion for protecting health and the environment from his or her actual skills and knowledge. Far too many green teams in schools and universities include students, teachers, parents and other interested stakeholders who bring little to the table except for their interest and enthusiasm. These are important qualifications, but team members should bring skills as well.

It also is important to explicitly express the importance of the right skill set and the expectation that members of the green team are expected to get things done. This may seem obvious, but far too many members of green teams feel that they are on the team to oversee what others are doing and not involved directly with the solutions themselves. Using the team analogy, the most successful green teams are one composed of engaged players, as opposed to interested fans in the bleachers.

A good team made up of talented, knowledgeable and motivated players focused on executing a sound game plan ultimately will be the best winning formula.

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

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