Stephen ashkin

Earth Day

March 1, 2021
Beyond Covid, let’s celebrate cleaning, health and the environment

One of the lessons learned from Covid-19 is the importance of cleaning, disinfecting and hand hygiene at a time when students, teachers, staff and parents are all paying attention to the work done by our custodial teams to keep everyone healthy.

April 22 is Earth Day and represents a great opportunity to bring this awareness together with the growing interest that students have for protecting the environment. Schools should showcase the work that is being done to protect health and reduce adverse impacts on the environment.

Earth Day often is a celebration with guest speakers (perhaps done virtually this year), tree plantings, service programs, recycling events (consider a “dumpster dive” for fun) and awards ceremonies. How about recognizing the campus or district building with the greatest reduction in water or energy consumption, or with the best recycling rates? Those can be done even if the buildings are not fully reopened.

The custodial department should develop a simple plan so they, too, can participate in an Earth Day event. Options range from participating on a grand scale (a districtwide or all-campus event), or perhaps participating in multiple smaller events at individual buildings. Regardless of the overall strategy, the first step should be to get clearance from principals and department managers and then to meet with the “green team” (if one exists), along with cleaning product or services vendors to determine how they can help. 

Some specifics options include posters, tabletop presentations (show & tell), and information explaining the overall health and environmental impacts associated with cleaning, pest management, waste and recycling, and other areas for which the custodial department may be responsible. Just make sure those involved follow requirements for appropriate face coverings and social distancing.

Posters are inexpensive and can be easy to create, especially with the assistance of vendors. Posters that depict a school’s specific cleaning, pest management and waste/recycling activities are always interesting. Consider providing any specific “numbers” such as improvements in recycling or percentage of green cleaning products being used. That makes the message more tangible and specific to the building, district or campus. 

Calculators from vendors and the Environmental Protection Agency can translate specific usage information, such as the amount of recycled paper products, into the number of trees “saved,” reductions in water and energy used in manufacturing.

Use attention-grabbing headlines such as “Did you know?” or “You can make a difference in our schools and at home” to engage students and other occupants.   

Tabletop presentations can be used to showcase green products such as:

·        Green-certified cleaning chemicals, hand soaps and sanitizers

·         Janitorial paper made with recycled content, agricultural waste or rapidly renewable tree fibers

·         Equipment such as battery-powered high-efficiency and backpack vacuums

·         Tools such as microfiber cloths and mopheads made from recycled clothing

·         Devices that produce cleaning chemicals on-site

If possible, prioritize green products that create opportunities for what students can do in their homes, along with those that are interesting and encourage STEM.

If space exists, consider showcasing a large piece of equipment such as a riding scrubber or better yet, ask vendors if they can demonstrate their new robot scrubbers. Vendors are typically very helpful when given enough advanced notice.

Earth Day can be a great opportunity to showcase green cleaning and educate students, staff and others about what they can do to make their schools and homes safer while reducing the adverse environmental impacts.

About the Author

Stephen Ashkin | Executive Director

Ashkin operates the Green Cleaning Network, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational organization.

Sponsored Recommendations

Latest from Green Cleaning

Photo 303279963 © Olga Korshunova |