WWU Academic Custodial Services (ACS) began its green cleaning program nine years ago. In 2000, ACS reduced its chemical cleaning product inventory from 60-plus non-sustainable products to three main daily-use products, all of them green-certified. It eliminated the use of solvent-based products in 2001 and eliminated all petro-chemical based products in 2003. In 2002, ACS started using microfiber products for all wiping, dusting, dry and wet mopping, as well as finish applications.

All cleaning products are dispensed in closed-ratio portioning systems. Staff training in product usage process and safety takes place twice a year, led by the ACS cleaning educator. The ongoing ACS goal is to clean without any chemical products, using only water and or dry steam vapor for all standard processes. Recently, ACS has been using "electrolyzed" water-sprayer units and auto-scrubbers, which use only water to clean and sanitize. ACS has returned to using a quaternary ammonium disinfectant cleaner, in limited use, on disease transfer points only, reducing any possible affects of using "quats." ACS regularly tests and evaluates new product lines.

ACS uses only CRI-certified upright/backpack and wide-area vacuums and were early users of high-filtration backpack systems. Vacuuming is performed on a schedule in which areas lower in the buildings receive more frequent attention, and frequency of service deeper or higher into the building is reduced. ACS also uses barrier matting at entrances to assist in preventing materials from entering the buildings and concentrate vacuuming at the entry areas.

ACS reduces health impacts and improves client workplace quality by eliminating the use of products with high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It cleans and damp wipes with water and microfiber cloths to avoid leaving health-affecting residues.

In concert with the student health center, it has partnered a high-profile handwashing campaign, placing notices on restroom mirrors to promote healthful hand care. ACS also has spearheaded the use of foam hand-sanitizing stations in the student health center and in all general computer labs. In response to the threats from H1N1 and MRSA, ACS is preparing to reduce the health threat by installing hand-sanitizing stations outside of all general university lectures and classrooms.

In 2008, ACS began using touchfree cleaning systems for all restroom, shower room and locker room cleaning, in line with its MRSA prevention program. At present, all restrooms are cleaned with the system every two weeks, and all shower rooms are cleaned daily. The goal for 2009-2010 is to have all restrooms undergo "deep clean" once a week, and the university is allocating more resources to accomplish that.

Many of the materials discarded at WWU are diverted from the landfill waste stream. In 1976, the Associated Students created the AS Recycle Center, a student-owned and -managed operation. Under the supervision of a full-time staff coordinator, about 3,800 pounds of plastics, aluminum, tin, steel, wood, paper and cardboard are collected each day, amounting to more than 1 million pounds of recycled materials a year. A 2007 waste audit showed only 3 percent of landfill waste from academic buildings composed of recycled materials. Last year, the Office of Sustainability joined with the Air and Waste Management Association to complete a waste audit of four major buildings and one outdoor area. The results were posted online on the campus sustainability Web page.

Reducing waste and increasing reclamation of recyclable materials in residence halls has been addressed by creating the Resident's Resource Awareness Program (ResRAP) through WWU's Office of Sustainability. In coordination with the AS Recycle Center, ResRAP employs the use of peer educators with an acute awareness of campus sustainability practices. These volunteers, known as "EcoReps," promote a conservative consciousness regarding waste, reuse, reduction and recycling. The AS Recycle Center promotes waste-reduction campaigns such as America Recycles Day, Earth Day and the national recycling competition RecycleMania which provides venues for students to engage the institutional process of waste management.

WWU Facilities Management is spearheading a new recycling program in academic buildings, which will collect recyclables in centralized hallway stations. Custodial staff will empty the centralized bins and sort recyclable material into collection bins in the lower areas of the building. This process will mesh with the WWU "Zero-Waste" program, which includes newly labeled "landfill waste" collection bins, as well as mini-can waste receptacles for deskside recycling.

In 2008, ACS began a paper-towel composting program, which removes all used restroom towels from the waste stream daily. These towels previously were a non-recycled material.

As of June 2009, the ACS Website has been redesigned to put a face to the department and to make information regarding green products, staffing levels, cleaning frequency for each space cleaned in academic campus, and other data available online.

Team training is large part of green cleaning operations. All new ACS hires receive a 60-day training and orientation program. Student workers are tested with a final exam, which all must pass with a grade of 80 percent or better. ACS has established an SOP/staff training program that deals with process in every task on a shift-by-shift basis and for interim maintenance projects. ACS practices team cleaning in all assigned buildings. ACS has also begun to use the CMI basic and advanced cleaning certification for all team leaders, as well as non-supervisory staff. ACS also is developing metrics for team production and green equipment evaluation.

Job inspections are scheduled weekly, augmented with spot inspections and random walk-throughs. ACS is establishing the use of ATP meters to assess the levels of bacteria on surfaces, address sanitation issues and provide data regarding cleanliness.

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Program Information

Number of students: 14,000 (FTE)

Square footage maintained: 1.8 million

Number of full-time custodians: 50 staff, 25 student aides

Annual cleaning budget: $190,000

Green cleaning team members: Tim Wynn, Director of Facilities Management; Michael B. Smith, Departmental Supervisor; Don Bakkensen, Building Services Manager; Greg Keeler, John Timmerman, Heather Dodd, Roberto Lim, Team Coordinators; Coastwide Labs, Waxie Sanitary Supply, Janitorial Product Distributor; WWU Office of Sustainability, Community Group

Story of Innovation

GREEN FOOD SERVICES: WWU Dining Services recycles 100 percent of post-consumer food waste originating from dining halls, amounting to more than 150,000 pounds of food waste per year. A tray-less dining program initiated in the dining halls four years ago has decreased food waste by 45 percent.

Learn about other Green Cleaning Award winners.