Not interested in resting on laurels, UGA officials were determined to continue pushing boundaries. UGA likes to set a standard for other universities, says Thomas, and that includes its efforts in sustainability and cleaning for health.

The university acted quickly when its primary cleaning products supplier, Athens Janitor Supply, Athens, suggested ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS). UGA officials immediately recognized that CIMS could help them standardize systems to more effectively manage the cleaning program. They were also eager to have a third party validate what they already believed: That UGA’s green cleaning program was top-notch.

Gaining CIMS certification is not easy and UGA turned to its distributor for help. Athens Janitor Supply has “ISSA Certification Expert” (I.C.E.) professionals who walked the university point-by-point through the CIMS Standard. They provided training and workloading, and helped define scopes of work and frequencies.

The school earned CIMS certification with honors for its “North Campus: Green Corridor” initiative in 2008 and changes to the entire campus in 2010. In 2012, UGA became the first university in the United States to earn CIMS-Green Building certification. It was the 2010 co-grand champion in “American University & School” magazine’s annual Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities.

CIMS exceeded all expectations. In addition to better customer service and improved productivity, the program helped the university document annual cost savings of $414,000. 

“Once you move from not having to purchase all the traditional products and instead just a few Green Seal-certified products, you get economy of scale,” says Thomas.

The university has also seen less time lost due to workplace injuries and recordable workers’ compensation claims. Lost labor hours decreased 73 percent from 2007 to 2010 — before and after CIMS.

In recent years, UGA has further reduced its chemicals and now uses only a green-certified peroxide cleaner and a neutral floor cleaner. Currently, the university is focused on improving its equipment. It’s been shifting to ergonomically supportive tools like backpack vacuums, choosing units with HEPA filtration, and investing in a large amount of engineered water equipment.

“We are being smarter about how we attack various areas and making sure we only introduce the equipment that’s needed for a space,” says Thomas.

Measuring Success

Certifications and awards aren’t the only way UGA assesses its Green Cleaning Program. Thomas prefers to rely on hard data to determine how well her department is performing.

“We look at the metrics behind the operation,” says Thomas. “I can’t emphasize how important it is to have data. It helps you decide where you need to spend your money or focus your time or work with your distributors to best serve your campus.” 

Thomas’ supervisors conduct weekly building checks and compare results to established benchmarks for frequency and scope of cleaning in all areas of campus. They also track everything from how many times their distributors make trips to campus to the spending levels in their various shops.

“Green cleaning is more than a philosophy,” says Thomas. “It’s a business-focused decision and you have to be able to show your taxpayers that you’re doing the best job with their dollars.”

Two years ago, UGA even hired a third-party assessor to review its metrics. 

“They went through every building to assess scope and frequency, and they talked to our staff and customers,” says Thomas.

The company offered suggestions for improvement, including purchasing multi-tasking cleaning equipment to boost efficiency. UGA is currently making that change.


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