Creating A Sustainability Plan

This is part two of a two-part article on the five steps of transitioning to a green cleaning program.

Four: Plan Development

After auditing your cleaning program, the next step is to lay out your plan for proposed changes. To do so, the assessment team will:
• Create a green cleaning policy: The policy includes the reason for enacting such a plan, clearly defines any terms used, and lays out the expectations of stakeholders.

• Create a timetable: When will changes be implemented and will new products or equipment be tested? If so, include the timeframe of when testing will occur, how results will be measured, and when and how results and feedback on changes will be gathered.

• Define the goal: For example, “In an effort to clean our facilities using products and equipment that have minimal negative effects on staff, guests and the environment, we will make every attempt to use sustainable products in the daily cleaning and maintenance of our facilities.” You can specify further by requiring products that are Green Seal certified.

• Approve and implement: Share the plan with the building occupants and the community, and gain the approval from the necessary levels, such as a school superintendent.

Before UW-Madison Housing moved forward with reducing traditional chemicals, we put together a plan to test how they performed against a water-based cleaning product. We involved our front-line staff and assessment team members by having them clean a bathroom using traditional chemicals one day, and then cleaning the same bathroom the next day using the water-based cleaning product.

Prior to and following the cleaning, we tested the surfaces by swabbing them and receiving numerical data on the cleanliness of the surface. As part of our plan, we tested different staff and in different buildings, collected the data, and then reviewed it with staff so they could see their results.

We then expanded our testing into common areas. Along the way, we updated the assessment team, the community, building supervisors, campus partners, vendors and the director and assistant directors of housekeeping. Once we had completed our testing, shared the results, gathered feedback and were ready to implement this change on a large scale, we had the support and approval needed to move forward.

Five: Tools And Resources

When undertaking an assessment of your program, there are several tools and resources available to help. Healthy Schools Campaign, for example, partners on a Green Cleaning Award. The award application process provides a complete guide to reviewing several aspects of your cleaning program — facility size, number of customers served, budgets, program description and, of course, a section to list out specific chemicals, equipment and paper products. Similarly, ISSA offers certifications in their Cleaning Industry Management Standards (CIMS) including the Green Building (GB) certification.

Also, do not overlook resources such as colleagues in neighboring school districts, colleges and universities in your area, and managers of facilities similar to yours. Any of these may be able to offer you the support you need in assessing and improving your cleaning program.

Moving to sustainable cleaning is not always easy and it takes time, but any step you take in changing your cleaning practices can make a huge difference. Together, we move forward.  

JODI KRAUSE is the Assistant Director of Housekeeping for University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Division of Housing. She is also a founding member of Healthy Schools Campaign’s National Green Cleaning Schools Leadership Council. Jodi is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

previous page of this article:
Steps To Transitioning To Green Cleaning