Green hands

One of the primary goals of a facility cleaning manager is to provide the safest and healthiest environment possible for those served by and working within the facility. One way to do that is to adopt healthy and sustainable cleaning programs. But creating a sustainable program isn’t one and done. It’s an ongoing process and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. We often ask ourselves, “Where do we go from here?” To determine that, you must first recognize where you are currently.

Ask yourself, if you haven’t already started sustainable processes in your program, why not? What is preventing you from being able to do so? If you already have sustainable processes and products implemented, what is your next step? Where can you improve or make additional change?

Using available guides and resources — such as the Healthy Schools Campaign’s “5 Steps to Green Cleaning” or Green Seal’s LEED certification documents — is a great step to starting a program. For those with established processes in place, resources like these will help you figure out where you can take your program moving forward.

Create A Plan

When implementing anything new, you have to be prepared. Take stock of what you have, what you don’t have, and what you should have. Pull your team together, making sure to include staff impacted directly by the change, as well as team members from other areas. Consider members of the custodial staff, maintenance, board members, students, parents, customers, and even vendors, contractors or suppliers.

With a team in place, analyze and review the current conditions of your program. Discuss together where change could be beneficial and how it can be implemented. Even when you have a sustainable program, you need to review that program regularly to see where improvements can be made. Review procedures, purchasing options, training, and innovations or new technologies that have emerged.

There are many areas where sustainable cleaning and maintenance are possible. Look at as many of them as you can and be open to possibilities you might have never considered before. Some of the most common areas include: cleaning products, equipment and tools; floor care; ergonomics; lighting and energy; hands-free dispensers; indoor air quality; and design. Each area that you identify needs to be examined and discussed by the team both thoroughly and thoughtfully.

Whether starting new or growing an existing program, you need to look beyond the end goal — how your building looks and operates — and focus on a healthy and safe way to get there. For example, when analyzing cleaning chemicals, consider eliminating those which are harmful to staff, customers or the facility. This might include products containing acids, which can cause health issues, or those that can damage facilities if used improperly, such as bleach or bleach-based products.

Instead, find solutions that leave the facility safe and healthy. Follow guidelines from third-party groups such as Green Seal by choosing products that are certified safe not only in how they perform, but in how they are made.

Evaluating tools and equipment used in cleaning is equally as important. Replacing paper towels or cotton cleaning cloths with microfiber is a small step, and often less expensive in the long run. Replacing cotton mop heads with microfiber choices can also produce solid rewards and savings in time and cleanliness levels. Vacuums with low decibel output can reduce noise pollution. And having staff use squeegees to clean glass and mirrors instead of cleaning cloths can save time and create efficiencies.

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Adopting Ergonomic Tools, Training