A former boss once told me that there are two types of people in this world, the motors and the anchors. The motors are innovators that embrace opportunity and have the drive to propel themselves forward. Surround yourself with motors and their determination will be contagious. The anchors, on the other hand, will hesitate, question and eventually just pull you straight to the bottom.

In this industry, custodial executives looking to raise their program to that next level have to surround themselves with other motors in the movement. And those leaders were all on hand at the inaugural Green Clean Schools Leadership Summit held last month in Seattle.

I was honored to be invited to this event, which was organized by Healthy Schools Campaign and hosted by the University of Washington. There, I sat amongst 90 professionals from the K-12 and university communities, as well as those representing the professional cleaning industry.

The two-day summit began with an inspiring tour by the building services department at the University of Washington. My group was lead by Gene Woodard, FCD advisory board member, Green Clean Schools Leadership Council member and UW director of building services. We were treated to presentations from departmental staff members who showcased color-coded white boards that are used to track employee challenges, ideas and successes; comprehensive composting programs; and the university’s MiniMax waste collection system, to name a few.

Following the tour, Woodard said, “This experience meant so much to my team, and really highlighted their great work, but I’m excited to see how this summit allowed them to engage with and inspire other schools and other advocates who want to make change in their communities.”

Advocating for greener and healthier cleaning initiatives was a common message throughout the remainder of the event. In addition to Healthy Schools Campaign and presentations from members of the Green Clean Schools Leadership Council, Steve Ashkin spoke passionately about the importance of growing the movement, while experts from the Department of Health, USGBC, Green Seal and EcoLogo all addressed current challenges, which sparked a group discussion from all attendees.

Although this group included, arguably, some of the biggest advocates for green and healthy cleaning in schools, even they experienced challenges in motoring the movement forward. Attendees agreed that education and training — the foundation of our industry — were the biggest struggles to promoting healthy initiatives. This primarily was due to poor communication with other departments, building occupants or even superiors.

Lack of communication was the cause of other challenges, too — proof of success and return on investment. Those then lead to another top-five hitch, acquiring an appropriate budget to grow a green and healthy program.

Although there are still struggles to overcome, I have no doubt that the leaders in attendance will be the motors that power ahead and find a solution to drive the green movement. And I can’t wait for the summit next year to see what they’ve come up with.