This final step outlines the shared responsibility of various players in the push toward green and sustainable initiatives. For example, when the district replaced the restroom dispensers, we had it written into the agreement that the distributor would offer the used dispensers to other school districts, instead of adding them to the landfill.

We partner with vendors that share our goals. Our business partners have also attended local community meetings and Board of Education sessions, and they visited schools to encourage green cleaning processes. Involving various players in the process provides them with a better sense of why it’s important that educational facilities incorporate sustainable practices.

At the university level, many of the partnerships revolve around the Reuse Program. As part of this program, the University of Georgia Services Department partnered with the Environmental Safety Division, as well as a hazardous chemical removal vendor, to develop and implement a cleaning chemical product exchange program with other Georgia schools and universities that wanted to reduce their toxic cleaning chemicals. This program resulted in the reuse of more than 400 cases of usable cleaning products, instead of negatively impacting the waste stream. It also allowed for conversations to take place with other schools on why it is important to adopt sustainable cleaning practices.

We have made great strides in our green and sustainable programs in Georgia, but it wasn’t without great effort. Incorporating these “5 Steps to Green Cleaning in Schools” has certainly helped simplify the process. 

KIMBERLY THOMAS is the Director of Facilities Work Management at the University of Georgia — Facilities Management Division. She was formerly the Executive Director of Plant Services and Custodial Operations for the Clarke County School District from 2011-2017. During which, the department was named winner of the Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities in 2015 and received a Green Cleaning Award Honorable Mention in 2014. Her department has also received recognition for its commitment to green cleaning and sustainability from the Healthy Schools Network, Environmental Protective Agency – Georgia state office, and U.S. Green Building Council – Georgia division. Kimberly serves on the Green Clean Schools Leadership Council of Healthy Schools Campaign and is a member of USGBC-Georgia.

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