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Green Cleaning: New Year’s Resolutions

Jan. 1, 2016
Tips for making your school cleaner and greener in 2016.

As the New Year begins there is an opportunity to reflect on the past and consider what worked, what didn’t, and how to make 2016 better. This is just as true on an organizational level as it is on a personal level. The following are some ideas to help make 2016 an outstanding year.

Training: Make a resolution to improve training for cleaning and other facility staff. In addition to basic training on the proper method for cleaning a restroom, floor and carpet care, and other common issues, develop programs on how the cleaning staff can reduce energy and water consumption as well. Resolve to have the best trained staff possible.

Event Preparation: Throughout the school year there are opportunities for the facilities department to showcase its importance, such as during Earth Day in April. Put together a team to develop a specific plan addressing green products, processes, what students can do, and other issues. Resolve to truly make the department shine.

Succession Planning: Most organizations do a good job planning for the retirement of its most senior members. But consider if other key staff members will be retiring in 2016 and plan accordingly. These people often have the most experience and institutional knowledge. So resolve to make sure their knowledge is passed to others.

Preparing for Weather Events: Review plans to address severe weather events. Every part of the country seems to be dealing with severe weather events such as hurricanes, tornados, rainstorms, flooding and droughts. While these events can’t be prevented, resolve to be better prepared than in past years.

Planning for High-Risk Areas: Not all areas of a building are the same in terms of risks to vulnerable occupants. For example, compared with lobbies and hallways, a nurse’s office or medical facility, food preparation area, wrestling mats and training rooms, and floors in classrooms where small children sit or nap on floors have increased opportunities to expose kids and athletes in ways that will harm their health. Specifically identify these areas and make a resolution to improve these areas and further safeguard student health.

Intentionally Innovate: The manufacturers of cleaning products including chemicals, paper, plastic liners, powered equipment, and other supplies are in a state of hyper innovation relative to Green Cleaning products. So resolve to establish a team to specifically work on innovative products. Perhaps pick a new product category each month, ask vendors to demonstrate their innovative green products, and let the team report on what works and what doesn’t. Without doing this intentionally, the program may be doomed to fall behind.

Green Cleaning Awards: Make a New Year’s resolution to get recognized and compete for an award. One of the best specifically for cleaning departments is the Green Cleaning Awards sponsored by the Healthy Schools Campaign, Green Cleaning Network and American School & University magazine. It is a great way to benchmark cleaning operations, identify opportunities for improvement, and be recognized among peer institutions.

Health: On a personal level, many resolve to improve their health. This year, consider a similar resolution for the entire cleaning staff. For example, the most common causes of on-the-job injuries for cleaning personnel are back and other musculoskeletal injuries resulting from activities such as lifting heavy items, emptying trash and even vacuuming. So put together a team to come up with some simple exercises focused on how best to spend 10 minutes at the beginning of a shift. Perhaps there are some former athletes in the department who would be happy to lead a group in some simple warm-up exercises. And it could be fun!

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