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Lessons from the 2012 Green Cleaning Awards for Schools and Universities: 6 Winning Strategies for Green Cleaning

Written by  Stephen Ashkin

The Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities was created through collaboration between American School & University magazine, the Green Cleaning Network, and Healthy Schools Campaign. Each year, the award recognizes the efforts of schools around the nation with outstanding green cleaning programs. Through national recognition, it honors schools and their partners that embrace green principles and practices in their maintenance operations.

The following are the “lessons learned” from the winners of the 2012 Green Cleaning Awards for Schools and Universities. These tips may make an important impact on buildings, their occupants, and the environment—and most are feasible, readily available, and affordable. These six lessons provide all BSCs—even those that don’t clean schools—with valuable examples of how they can make their own operations more sustainable.

6 Lessons Learned
1. Products
In 2012, every winner used an assortment of green chemicals, paper, equipment, tools and other products, but so did every entrant. Thus, it is clear that green products are widely available, meet performance requirements, and are cost-effective. Innovations in this area included efforts to reduce product consumption by using those that have higher performance and greater durability. The use of microfiber products is expanding (although concerns are increasing about quality because of the lack of any product standards in this category). And there is growth in the use of devices that ionize, ozonate, electrolyze, and otherwise turn water into cleaning solutions.

2. Training
Every program provided training to custodians; after all, it is the law. But the winners went beyond the minimum OSHA requirements and those for new employees. Innovations included training custodians on how they can reduce energy, water and waste while increasing recycling and composting. The winners went above and beyond by engaging and providing training to students, staff, visitors, and other stakeholders on what they can do to create a cleaner, safer and more healthful environment.

3. Outreach
The winners worked to engage others through their schools, districts and campuses. Posters, newsletters, competitions, events, and social and traditional media helped make green cleaning and sustainability efforts clear, visible, and frequent. Innovations included garnering the “public” support of senior leaders in the school or university, as well as in the community, to give credibility and importance to the issue.

4. Teamwork
One of the more important lessons from the winners was teamwork that includes the entire institution and not just the custodial department. Schools and universities, large and small, urban and rural, are dealing with budget and staffing cuts. So working constructively with teachers, students, staff, parents, and others was a key to success. Innovations varied from those actually engaging students in cleaning to higher-level engagement on green teams to help administer, manage, and expand programs. Just imagine what could be achieved if schools elevated participation on the green team to the same level as being on the basketball or cheerleading squads.

5. Formula
Cleaning is a process, and the winners took the concept to the next level. They had a “formula” for everything, including the process of cleaning, selecting and reviewing products on an established basis, training of custodians, outreach to stakeholders, building the team, and more. This year’s winners scored high in all areas. Innovations in this area included clear and written processes and expectations, along with efficient execution that measured progress and identified opportunities for improvement.

6. Verification
Although it was common to find the use of independent third parties such as Green Seal, EcoLogo, EPA’s DfE Program and the Carpet & Rug Institute to verify product claims, the leaders did much more. For example, several of the winners used third parties such as Green Seal and ISSA to verify the performance of their entire cleaning program, including products, training, and management systems. Innovations in this area included the use of new technologies, such as ATP meters to measure soil on surfaces. The use of such measurement tools objectively determined how clean surfaces really were, so resources could be applied effectively in an effort to create and maintain buildings that are most conducive to learning.

For more information on the Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities and to see the list of 2012 winners, visit http://asumag.com/green-cleaning-award.

Stephen P. Ashkin is President of The Ashkin Group, Executive Director of the Green Cleaning Network, co-founder of Green Cleaning University, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, LLC – all of which play important roles in his efforts to move the global cleaning industry from green to sustainable. He is also coauthor of The Business of Green Cleaining and Green Cleaning for Dummies. For more information, visit www.ashkingroup.com.


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