GCA Grand Award Higher Education: University of Rochester–River Campus and School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York

Program Information

Total number of students: 4,800 (undergraduate); 1,200 (graduate) 

Total square footage maintained: 670,574 sq. ft. (SMD); 3,502,737 sq. ft. (RC)

Total number of custodians: 71(SMD); 103 (RC)

Total annual cleaning budget: $3,925,550 (SMD); $6,070,312 (RC) 

Green cleaning team members: Larry Weidner, Dir. of Med. Ctr. Env. Svcs.; Barry McHugh, Asst. Dir. (RC); Christopher Licata, Ops. Mgr. (SMD); Dorrene London, Housekeeping Supervisor (RC); Wesco, Hill & Markes, Corr Distributors, Eastern Maintenance Co., Janitorial Prod. Dist.

The University of Rochester River Campus and School of Medicine and Dentistry have had a green cleaning program for nine years. Though efforts have been in place for quite some time, a Sustainability Task Force was created in 2007, which eventually led to a University Council on Environmental Sustainability. The mission of this council is to “conduct an annual review of the University’s progress in environmental sustainability initiatives in operational and academic areas; to establish and maintain communication vehicles for conveying the university’s sustainability initiatives; and to recommend new sustainability initiatives that the University might undertake.” The mission has consistently included a green cleaning program.

The University Council on Environmental Sustainability includes about 25 individuals, spanning from faculty of undergraduate and graduate programs, undergraduate and medical students, deans, directors of campus planning, finance, facilities and services, student activities, dining, as well as the provost. This wide array of individuals has contributed to the success of the green cleaning program.

As the University of Rochester moves forward, sustainability and green cleaning are always goals. All cleaning products are either Green Seal-certified, EcoLogo-approved, or must meet minimum VOC levels as stated by CARB (California Air Resources Board). CARB is one of the standards used for cleaning product selection when going forward with LEED certifications at the university. The university continually strives to move forward with the new technologies of green cleaning and is constantly adapting to adhere to our mission of a clean and healthy environment through professional and courteous service.

The University of Rochester Environmental Service departments at both the River Campus and the School of Medicine and Dentistry (RC and SMD) continually aim to reduce negative general health impacts. For example, in all public restrooms, signage has been posted for proper hand-washing technique. Most cleaning products at the SMD are not aerosolized; instead the product goes directly onto a cloth. The products on the cleaning carts are labeled, and all material safety data sheets are on the carts. At both the RC and SMD, they have a dual-stream system for collecting waste and recyclables. Throughout both campuses are trio bins, which include a bin for paper and cardboard; a bin for plastics, metals and glass; and a bin for trash.

Each employee that is hired as an Environmental Services Worker (ESWs) at the RC and the SMD is trained on the green practices and procedures of the university. They are taught about the green cleaning products and the appropriate time and manner they are used, basic proper disinfection, infection control, ergonomics, and best cleaning practices. ESWs have one week of training, which involves hands-on experience and a final exam. They are taught area-specific cleaning, procedures, supplies and equipment. Newly hired ESW are taught from the New Employee Training Packet, which they are able to access after training on the Environmental Services Web page. Their work is evaluated weekly by scheduled and unscheduled visits by their supervisor in order to ensure that they are using the clean products in a clean and sustainable manner. There are also annual training updates for infection control, hazardous materials, safety and ergonomics. In addition, ESW are trained by a factory representative when they learn to use a cleaning machine. Because the university’s employees come from diverse backgrounds, there is an icon-driven, picture-based manual on cleaning procedures so that there are no language barriers.

River Campus has installed single-use oxo-biodegradable plastic bags used for discarding feminine hygiene products, known as the Scensibles System. They provide an easy alternative to flushing feminine hygiene products down the toilet, diverting these items from going into the sanitary sewer systems and polluting coastal areas as well as preventing sea turtles, birds and fish from ingesting sanitary items and destroying their digestive tracks. Stone and terrazzo floors were previously coated with a floor finish and stripped 2 to 3 times a year. Now, at the SMD, these floors are polished with diamond disks and high-speed equipment that gives an ultra-high-gloss shine. At both the RC and the SMD, machines are used that electrically convert water into a cleaning solution that cleans effectively, improves safety and reduces environmental impact. This has significantly lessened the number of chemicals needed for cleaning. At the SMD, all vacuum cleaners and large machines are equipped with HEPA filtration and fall below 70 decibels to help minimize sound pollution. All floor scrubbers and auto-scrubbers at the SMD are fitted with specialized brushes that last 1 to 2 years as opposed to disposable floor pads. The RC and the SMD are both able to launder cleaning supplies instead of purchasing disposable ones. Instead of disposing of unwanted furniture and other items at the RC, items are either repurposed or donated.

The River Campus also recycles and composts on campus, and its Environmental Service Workers are responsible for collecting landfill waste, as well as recyclables and putting them in the proper containers for county waste removal. All products use dilution control when possible to cut back on the number of plastic containers, packaging and transportation impact.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to use the customer service number to address any cleaning concerns. Anyone can call this number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and the concern will be addressed. If an individual has any questions regarding sustainability and recycling, the University of Rochester has a Web page that also has the contact information for the Recycling Coordinator. In addition, supervisors perform daily, weekly and monthly checks to verify cleanliness standards are achieved. Building service inspections are done quarterly. These inspections are done on paper as well as on electronic tablets.