To launch the pilot program, the K-12 custodial staff utilized two green-certified products for daily cleaning and one restaurant-grade, no-rinse sanitizer for cafeteria tables and chairs in all schools except for two. In those two schools, we used engineered water in place of all cleaning products and a sanitizer in the cafeteria. That allowed us to further reduce the amount of chemicals used in daily cleaning practices.

We also switched to using tap water to effectively remove floor finish and prepare the floors for finish application. This process has been used on vinyl tile, marble, terrazzo, concrete and other floor types. It has significantly reduced employee slip and fall hazards and cleaning costs, and it also provides a healthier environment for summer cleaning.

Training And Evaluation

Training is an important part of any green cleaning program, including ours. At the district level, the school custodial and maintenance staffs receive more than 20 training hours throughout the year. Education covers cleaning procedures, equipment, indoor air quality, recycling, chemical storage and disposal, bloodborne pathogens, worker safety, and soft skills topics from in-house and vendor partner trainers.

Additionally, the custodial team actively communicates with the District School Nursing Department to provide information on how to assist in specialized targeted cleaning in schools and classrooms, in an effort to reduce student absenteeism related to asthma care plans. The department has a 24 to 48 hour window to respond to indoor air quality or moisture complaints, which follows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Tools for Schools toolkit clean-up procedures.

At the University of Georgia, more than 200 custodial staff members received a certificate of completion for successfully finishing the two-week training ‘re-boot’ for green cleaning. We utilized a vendor partner who was an OSHA-certified trainer, a professional leadership skill-building vendor, and in-house trainers to cover the same topics listed for the school district. We also developed an additional platform for leadership skills for our custodial crew team leads. These additional soft skills are essential to develop emerging leaders for promotion and encourage retention of staff.

But training doesn’t stop once education is completed. Evaluation procedures are important in order to assess the success of a training program, as well as continuous improvement guidelines.

In both programs, we utilized in-house and vendor partners to make monthly, quarterly and annual facility assessments. Those include the use of ATP (adenosine triphosphate — a process of rapidly measuring actively growing microorganisms through detection) meters, customer surveys, visual inspections and computerized inventory use analysis.

The most important factor of an evaluation tool is positive feedback and training. The use of several forms of communication from in-house trainers, vendor partners and customers is instrumental in fostering a culture of seeking effective results, rather than blaming the staff.

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