tree of knowledge representing green cleaning in schools

Four key areas managers should focus on when launching a green cleaning program

The key to launching a green cleaning program is seeing through the weeds in order to get started.

When I first started exploring a green program at Folsom Lake Community College, it was hard to make any headway. Then I attended an event put on by Healthy Schools Campaign in 2015 and I knew that although I had a lot of work ahead of me, I was on the right track.

Making the informed choice to move forward is both the hardest and simplest decision you will make in your green cleaning program. There are ups and downs throughout the process, and although the downs can be daunting, the ups will motivate you to keep the course. Eventually, there will be far fewer pitfalls and more frequent successes to celebrate. To avoid potential pitfalls, it’s best to steer clear of the following mistakes.

Getting Buy-in

Getting buy-in from both leaders in your district and the custodial staff on the front lines is so important to the success of a green cleaning program. Gaining their support should be your first step. From my experience, this is also the simplest part of getting the program going.

When presenting the idea to district leaders, bring a proposal that includes green cleaning facts and figures — maybe even a graph or two. Hard numbers in defense of a program change will assist in gaining approval. I, for one, had to write up the return on investment report showing what I hoped to achieve with a change to self-generating cleaning chemicals.

The next step can be very rewarding but fraught with potential conflict. Yes, I am talking about an actual change in what products the front line custodial staff uses on a daily basis: paper products, trash liners and chemicals.

Change is hard, especially when it’s for a product you’ve used five days a week for years. Think of how many times your custodial staff has received  training on how to use specific products (but as soon as the training is completed and you are out of the room, they go right back to the way they have always done it). Staff will now — with the clarity of someone with an eidetic memory — recall everything about the past training to argue against the change being proposed.

The best way to get buy-in from front-line workers is to put together a work group of positive staff that come into something new with an open mind. The group can be as small as two to three people, as long as it is enough to help influence the others on the positive changes.

Once the plan is in place, you have identified who the players are, and you have gotten the approval to move forward, the real work can begin.

The change over will be slow at the start, but the main goal is that everyone knows the plan — the who, the what and the why.

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