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Cabarrus County Schools is going green this summer by equipping custodians with microfiber dust mops and chemicals that emit fewer fumes.

Administrators say Cabarrus County Schools is the first school system in the state to go 100 percent green with its cleaning products.

Joe Sides, facilities and operations director for Cabarrus County Schools, said strong-odor chemicals used to clean buildings over the last 30 years have increased asthma and bronchial problems drastically.

 “Going green will help reduce health problems,” Sides said. “It increases worker satisfaction, improves morale and reduces absenteeism in staff and students.”

And research shows decreases in absenteeism often leads to higher test scores, Sides said.

Nearly all of the nearly 150 custodians attending Wednesday’s system-wide training wore “Green Team” T-shirts in support of the school system’s environmentally friendly efforts.

Custodians, such as C.C. Griffin Middle School’s Priscilla Foster, said the move seemed good for everyone - students, staff and schools.

Jeffrey Caldwell was pleased with the environmentally-friendly floor stripper and wax he tested this year at Royal Oaks Elementary, noting it was more tolerable for a main office employee with bad allergies.

“This is the first year she has been able to stay in the building while we were stripping floors,” Caldwell recalled.

The floor stripper and wax previously used contained lots of ammonia and zinc, Sides said, but the green version tested this past year received good reviews from staff.

“A lot of our custodians said it was the first time they had gone home without a headache,” Sides said. “It doesn’t have any odor to it.”

Other green efforts are under way to help increase the life span of facilities and preserve the environment.

Cabarrus County Schools has tested waterless urinals at Mount Pleasant High School, Sides said, which has saved 2,000 gallons of water a month. The urinals will be installed at the new Cox Mill High School, scheduled to open in fall 2009.

Also, recyclable bins will be placed in every classroom to collect used paper.

Judy Mullis, principal of W.M. Irvin Elementary School, said adopting green cleaning procedures sets a good example for students.

“I think we need to provide a model for our children about what is good for the environment,” Mullis said. “We have Earth Day activities, but if they don’t see us recycling or using things that are environmentally friendly, then that negates what we’re teaching them.”

Ben Matthews, director of school support for North Carolina, was also supportive of the efforts Cabarrus County Schools is implementing.

“Clearly, we need to be doing all we possibly can to strengthen our environment,” Matthews said. “We need to ensure the safe management and storage of chemicals, as well as using chemicals that are environmentally appropriate.”