Catawba College became a little greener recently. On Monday, August 25th, the institution's housekeeping staff began using green cleaning products in nine buildings on campus.
But adoption of the green cleaning products did not just happen, it evolved as housekeeping staff tried various green seal products and made their own assessments about which would do the best job. These staffers also participated in green cleaning training sessions and often reassessed their own ideas of what constitutes "clean."
"When they first started the concept of green cleaning, they (housekeeping staff) didn't think the products would work. They thought they had to have bleach and needed that smell to signal an area was clean," explained Catawba's interim housekeeping director, Mike Brackett. "The idea now is that if you walk in a bathroom and don't smell anything – it's clean. Many standard products that we had used in the past just overwhelmed you with their smell. But the more the staff learned, the more receptive they were to the green cleaning products."
Brackett said that when the evaluation process began, several companies which sell green cleaning products visited campus and demonstrated their wares to housekeeping employees. These companies gave housekeeping staffers an opportunity to test their products and provided them with sessions on green cleaning.
"The effectiveness of the products was considered first," Brackett said, "and the cost of the products was considered second." In the end, the housekeeping employees were unanimous in their selection.
In order for a cleaning product to be "Green Seal" certified, it has to be manufactured in an environmentally friendly way, with manufacturers conserving energy in the production process, using less packaging and less fuel to transport the finished products. The Green Seal cleaning products are also packaged in highly concentrated forms and come with an automatic dispensing system which mixes the product to the proper solution ration, taking away the guess work.
"With the old chemical cleaning products, mixing was left up to the employee and some had the idea that the stronger the solution they mixed the better the cleaning," noted Brackett. "In truth, however, all products are designed to work at a certain ratio and if you mix it stronger than you should, you compromise the effectiveness of the product."
The nine buildings where green cleaning products are now used include seven residence halls – Fuller, Purcell, Goodman West, Goodman East, Graham, Pine Knott and Hollifield, along with the Center for the Environment and the Cannon Student Center. In each, the green cleaning process begins from the outside in.
New entrance mats made of recycled tires and floor mats made of recycled plastic are in place in each of the nine buildings. "The less dirt and outside particles you bring in, the more efficient the green cleaning products are," Brackett noted. "These mats hold more dirt and trap more dirt and water from traffic coming into the buildings."
Brackett sees the green cleaning products initiative as just one of many in place on campus that are making Catawba more environmentally friendly. Using the green cleaning products will compliment the efforts of Catawba's Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling and aid the institution as it attempts to fully participate in the President's Climate Commitment initiative and in a planned EPA Peer Audit (through the N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities' Region IV) in the fall of 2009. Brackett's colleague, David Najarian, in the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling calls it "covering all of the bases."
"This is the first time that I've implemented a green cleaning program," Brackett explained. "At a couple of places I've worked, I tried to institute some environmentally friendly products."
Although there is an initial start-up cost for implementing the green cleaning program, Brackett expects to see a 40 percent overall reduction in cleaning products costs as Catawba makes the move to implement the initiative in all 36 buildings on campus. "As the budget allows, we'll be bringing other buildings online," he said. "We have to use up the other chemicals that we've already paid for, but my goal is by next semester to have 80 percent of all of our buildings online with green cleaning."
Next semester, Brackett also has plans to offer a green cleaning training session for Catawba faculty, staff and students. That session will outline how to do green cleaning properly and with what recommended products and benefits. To that end, he will research products offered for sale by local grocery stores and other retail outlets and make a list of recommended green seal certified cleaning products that he can share.
"My hope is that my staff as well as other faculty, staff and students will start using these products in their homes. When I hear them talking about that, I'll know that an initiative we started on campus has rippled out into the world."
Brackett, who joined Catawba July 1, was born in Andrews, N.C. and attended Chowan College. He holds an advanced building trades certification from Haywood Community College, is certified by the International Executive Housekeeping Association and the International Sanitary Supply Association, and is also a certified water restoration technician. He was previously employed for 10 years as housekeeping foreman at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Asheville, has worked as housekeeping supervisor for UNC-Asheville, and was regional director of operations for America's Cleaning Concepts, a contract janitorial firm that cleans banks.
PHOTOS: Green Cleaning at Catawba