Montgomery County Public Schools' (MCPS) Division of School Plant Operations (DSPO) began its transition to green cleaning in 1997 when it changed from oil-based wood floor finish to a water-based product. However, high standards for evaluation and approval of cleaning chemicals to be used in the school system long have been evaluated by a certified industrial hygienist, certified hazardous-materials managers, and occupational safety and health experts in the Department of Systemwide Safety and Environmental Services/Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) team. Factors that are considered are low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), non-carcinogen chemicals, low concentrate, flammability and exposure control. Any cleaning chemical to be used in the school system is evaluated by staff prior to its use. The product evaluation team in the DSPO also conducts effectiveness testing on products prior to use in schools.

The DSPO began using concentrated, Green Seal-certified (GSC) products in recyclable packaging in 2006. DSPO was able to replace five other products with the introduction of one GSC product.

Changes in the type of custodial equipment began in 2002. The DSPO purchased energy-efficient battery-operated scrubbers that dry floors faster, uses only clean water to capture dust particles from hard floor surfaces to prevent dust from being released into the air and changed from using mops and buckets. As a result, productivity doubled. In 2005, DSPO purchased high-speed burnishers to replace buffers. These burnishers are safer; are equipped with skirts and vacuums so they operate more cleanly, eliminating dust; are energy-efficient; eliminate the need to use a spray buffing chemical; and reduce the frequency of floor polishing. Consequently, productivity increased while the impact on the environment was reduced. To replace less efficient upright vacuums, brooms and dust mops, DSPO purchased backpack vacuums, which are certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute. Indoor air quality and the longevity of air filters was improved through the use of these vacuums, as they capture and retain more dust particles through a four-stage filtration system.

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Program Information

Number of students: 142,000

Square footage maintained: 23,462,694

Number of full-time custodians: 1,333

Annual cleaning budget: $58,263,320

Green cleaning team members: Joe Lavorgna, Director, Department of Facilities Management; Dianne Jones, Director, Division of School Plant Operations; Larry Hurd, June Achamorfaw, John Colmes, Building Service Trainers

Story of Innovation

TRAINING: The DSPO requires that all building service employees complete 24 hours of basic skills training, which includes instruction in green cleaning procedures and safety. Employees responsible for mechanical systems are required to complete 160 hours of mechanical skills training. Online safety training focuses on the use and storage of chemicals.

Learn about other Green Cleaning Award winners.