Tried and true success stories of healthy and sustainable cleaning initiatives

How cool is your school? According to Sierra magazine, University of California, Irvine (UCI) is the coolest and greenest school in the country — for the second year in a row. In 2014 and 2015, UCI ranked first in the publication’s annual “cool schools” list, recognizing the most environmentally responsible universities. And the facilities management department at UCI worked hard to get where they are.

“We felt that it was important to implement a green cleaning program that would reflect the campus commitment to environmental stewardship,” says Aaron Uresti, senior superintendent.

As such, the department has adopted a low environmental impact cleaning program to minimize exposure to hazardous chemicals and anything that could adversely impact air quality, health, and the environment. Cleaning products are Green Seal certified and have been streamlined to a total of three for everyday use. And all hard surface and carpet care equipment is LEED compliant and/or meets Carpet and Rug Institute’s Seal of Approval.

The push began in March 2012 when custodial operations were moved in-house. The department launched their green cleaning program and invested in automated cleaning equipment for the first time.

“With the outside contractor, custodians were mopping and sweeping by hand,” says Uresti. “So we decided to introduce ride-on autoscrubbers, which help our green goals and assist in minimizing repetitive motion accidents.” Since the implementation, the department has increased productivity and seen a decrease in the number of staff injuries.

One of the university’s achievements Uresti is most proud of is the fact that 88 percent of its consumables purchases, such as chemicals, paper supplies and trash liners, meet third-party green criteria for all cleaning applications where a suitable product is available. The department also supports UCI’s 85 percent waste diversion rate by recycling used paper towels in restrooms.

In 2012, the green cleaning program contributed to a LEED EBOM silver award in Croul Hall, a three-story, 66,000-sq-ft building. UCI is currently going through the LEED certification process for six other buildings.

“There’s a big push to stay ahead of the curve on green initiatives, so we’re constantly looking at different ways to improve our program,” notes Uresti. “I think most schools are getting on board with this because it’s a better way to protect people’s health and safety.”

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