GCA 2011 Higher Education Honorable Mention: University of Arizona Residence Life (with Related Video)

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University of Arizona Residence Life (Tuscon, Arizona)


Program Information
Number of students: 6,900
Square footage maintained: 2 million
Number of full-time custodians: 103
Annual cleaning budget: $310,000
Green cleaning team members: Jim Van Arsdale, Asst. V.P. of Student Affairs, Alex Blandeburgo, Director of Facilities Operations; Elizabeth Raso, Custodial Manager, Res. Life; Rafael Avalos, Custodial Service Supervisor, Res. Life; Liz Colvin, Custodial Service Supervisor, Res. Life; Marc Roszler, Custodial Service Supervisor, Res. Life

Six years ago, Residence Life began a green cleaning program designed to reduced our environmental footprint. We began by evaluating our current processes to determine where we could make the shift to make the most impact and still sustain the level of quality expected by our residents. To do this we broke down the process into five phases:

Research: On a number of areas including indoor air quality, VOCs in our chemicals, recycled materials and understanding the criteria for green cleaning.

Immediate impact: or “what can we do make an immediate impact at minimal cost.” We switched to microfiber. This reduced costs, cut down on water usage and improved the indoor air quality. This included microfiber mops, dust mops, rags and high dusters.

Equipment: Over the years, the custodial department had acquired a number of different types of vacuums and carpet extractors. We streamlined all of our vacuums and portable carpet extractors. Down to one type of HEPA vacuum for all 24 residence halls and are approved by the Carpet and Rug Institute. We also move to one type of extractor, which is also approved by the Carpet and Rug Institute. This shift improved air quality and helps extend the life cycle of our carpets.

Chemicals: When evaluating chemicals, we wanted to make sure that the chemical is sustainable and effective. Our custodial staff was a key contributor to the testing, evaluation and selection of the selected products.

Paper products: The final phase is paper products and liners. Initially, we switched to recycled liners for all of the office trash cans and are still testing the larger liners. We are now evaluating paper products.

Residence Life continually evaluates its procedures and processes to ensure sustainability remains one of our highest priorities.

The Department of Residence Life Custodial at the University of Arizona is committed to providing our residents with a clean and healthy living environment. Our commitment involves many facets, from our green cleaning procedures, green cleaning chemicals and staff training to evaluating our methods and testing new products while still maintaining as minimal impact to the environment as possible.

Our procedures and strategies are introduced to new staff on day one and continue throughout their employment through monthly training. There is a great deal of prep work that custodial does before the students move in. In addition to cleaning each resident’s room, the staff posts “Cover your cough” and “Wash Your Hands” signs through out the hall. Each of our halls has a hand sanitizer in the lobby, and our staff wipes down all “high-touch” areas twice a day.

Residence Life Custodial sets the bar with high expectations when comes to carpet care. Each custodian's schedule includes an assigned time to vacuum using vacuums with HEPA filters to ensure we do all we can to improve indoor air quality. We have two van-mounted carpet extractors and six portable extractors; they all have the Carpet & Rug Institutes gold seal. We track all carpet work performed to ensure all carpets are being properly maintained.

In our approach to training, we leverage all available resources. We select from a list of environmentally friendly approved vendors who are committed to sustainability. These vendors offer Residence Life Custodial a wide range of training topics from green cleaning procedures, safe use of equipment and chemical training and well as topics on sustainability.

Additionally, we have developed our own in-house training program. Know as “Standards Training.” It consists of 10 sections; green cleaning standards, customer service, safety & security, unique cleaning, water remediation, floor care, carpet care, specialty equipment, recycling and public areas. We combine classroom training in the morning with hands-on training in the afternoon. The class size is kept small so each person has one on one time with the trainer to fully grasp the expectations our department has for Green Clean. Each custodian is required to score 75 percent or higher on the test after each section of training. If they fail to score 75 percent, they have the opportunity to take the class over In addition, there is an annual refresher classes that staff is required to attend.

We approached the introduction to green cleaning to our staff in phases. The fist phase was equipment. There were several items we incorporated into our routine; microfiber mops, microfiber high dusters, microfiber rags using the eight-side system and a dual mopping system with a dirty water bucket. The second phase of green cleaning introduced was the chemicals, and it was our most challenging. We tested many products over a period of time to compare cost, product performance and packaging (is it recycled or can it be) to verify VOCs. We’ve added two auto scrubbers since implementing our green cleaning program and have eliminated over 15 different chemicals. We keep the amount of chemicals we introduce to the building minimal, such as leaving stone and masonry unpolished.

Evaluating our methods and progress is ongoing to ensure we are minimizing as much of a negative impact on the environment as possible. To measure feedback, from both employees and students, we use an electronic survey system that students fill out and quality assurance inspections are conducted on a monthly basis for each custodian. These inspections help us answer a number of questions; is the employee using the products correctly, are the products lasting and performing the way they should, etc. Additionally, we work closely with our maintenance department to see what impact our new products and or equipment have on our residence halls as a whole.

Overall, we’ve have experienced a great deal of success with green cleaning/sustainability. Our staff and residents have embraced the direction we’re moving in and appreciate the opportunity to learn more about helping the environment.

Engaging others in the responsibility of green cleaning and sustainability is challenging, largely because of the size of our organization: we have 24 residence halls spread out across a large campus, and the students come from varied and diverse backgrounds. Additionally, Residence Life has a sustainability coordinator who is responsible for the education and training of students living in the residence halls.

Close coordination and collaboration between Residence Life Custodial and the sustainability coordinator is key to engaging our community residents Residence Life Custodial provides green cleaning kits to each hall that are stored at the front desk. These kits include a microfiber cloth, green-certified multipurpose cleaner and gloves. We also hung posters in the halls that remind students to consider the environment when they clean their rooms and to utilize the green cleaning kits that are available.

For visitors, we provide hand sanitizer dispensers in all public areas. We also post “cover your cough” and “wash your hand” signs in public areas for visitors to see.

Green cleaning is part of the required training each custodian must attend when they are first hired, and it is reviewed quarterly. In addition to green cleaning training, staff is educated on the Residence life recycling program and their personal role in ensuring its success.

Our relationship with the community and our commitment to sustainability is widely recognized. During student move out we encourage residents to recycle/donate unwanted furniture, clothing, books, electronics and non-perishable food. The Salvation Army and community food bank are valuable partners in this program. This program has yielded great results in the past by keeping tons of items out of the landfills and giving people in the community an opportunity to receive these items.

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