Campus News

Building excellence: Green cleaning program wins two national honors

Debby Mapp

The green cleaning program, implemented by the Physical Plant’s building services’ department five years ago, has been recognized by two national organizations.

UGA recently became the second institution of higher education in the nation to earn certification with highest honors from the Cleaning Industry Management Standards, which gave UGA high marks in a recent recertification of the green cleaning program. The university also was recertified with honors for meeting CIMS, and the Athens campus was awarded the Green Building distinction.

“The on-campus assessment inspector spent three days in late October inspecting our business management process, interviewing numerous campus department heads/contact staff members who are our customers, inspecting numerous campus buildings and interviewing our custodial staff on safety and cleaning procedures,” said Kim Thomas, assistant director of services for the Physical Plant.

UGA was also recently named the co-grand award winner in the college/university category of the 2010 Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities. The award is sponsored by American School and University magazine, the Green Cleaning Network and Healthy Schools Campaign.

The green cleaning program has turned cleaning and disinfecting UGA buildings into a precise science. Campus buildings are now cleaned with only three products and advanced tools like microfiber cloths.

“It’s easy to think of UGA as huge, but what that really means is 9.7 million square feet of cleanable space,” said Thomas. “Academic classrooms, meeting rooms, conference rooms, research labs, hallways, restrooms-all the stuff you walk by and you never really think about unless it doesn’t look good-we do all of that with about $19 million which takes care of salaries and supplies.”

Green cleaning at UGA after a pilot program in Old College produced great results. Now, with the rest of campus participating, not only does the air inside UGA buildings smell as fresh as the air outside, but illness due to harsh chemicals has decreased and the university returns a yearly savings of about $1.3 million.

But that’s not all.

As part of the program, the Physical Plant created a Building Services Academy that trains every member of the department-even supervisors-on how to clean using new tools. The mandatory two-week academy also teaches workers about their role in public health and sustainability as well as exposes them to programs to resources to help earn their GED diploma or associate or bachelor’s degrees.

“We go over what we want and how we want them to do it. There’s a mechanical process to cleaning, and there’s a safe way to do it,” Thomas said. “People may think it’s just like cleaning your house, but it’s really not.”