Tried and true success stories of healthy and sustainable cleaning initiatives

Mice, roaches and even bats were once par for the course at some schools in the Salt Lake City School District, Utah.

“At one high school we’d have thousands of bats in the building,” says Merv Brewer, assistant custodial supervisor. “On the first day of school, we’d open the doors and the bats would come flying out. They’d been roosting in the building since it was built, and we had learned to live with it.”

On a monthly basis, a professional pest management company sprayed pesticide in every building — until the school got wind of a potential integrated pest management (IPM) program. This common sense approach to controlling pests targets education and mechanical controls and uses minimal pesticides.

“Our director thought IPM was a healthier approach for our students and got the custodial department involved,” says Brewer. “Since 2008, we’ve had 37 targeted pesticide applications — down from 37 a month. That reduced our pesticide use by about 99 percent.”

Last year, the bat-infested high school reported only two bats in the building. And another school previously overrun with mice reported just four in the last year. Additionally, the district has saved $25,000 a year by monitoring, inspecting and reporting pest problems internally.

According to Brewer, the IPM program is one of the district’s most reputable green initiatives. They have been awarded IPM star certification three times and have received national, as well as international recognition for the program by the IPM Institute. Furthermore, through the Utah Custodial Managers Association, word of the district’s IPM program has spread to five other schools that have implemented their own programs.

Along with its IPM program, the district has adopted green cleaning that favors peroxide-based cleaning products, foaming spray heads to reduce the chance of aspirating chemicals, and nitrile gloves in place of latex to reduce allergic reactions.

“I call it cleaning for health, because that’s what we’re doing,” says Brewer. “We’re creating a healthier environment for everyone within the facility.”  

KASSANDRA KANIA is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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