University Goes Greener With Cleaning Chemicals

Facilities Department Motivated by Health and Environmental Concerns

Jun. 2, 2010

UT Dallas is taking cleaning to a whole new level of green.

In an effort to improve the health and safety of custodial staff, Facilities Management is replacing its cleaning chemical supplies with safer, more environmentally friendly green cleaners. The cost is higher but should level off over time.

Custodial Services Supervisor Bron Clayton said the move protects the health of staff members and facilities users.

“While cleaning bathrooms and other facilities, my staffers are exposed [to solvents] continually. Long-term inhalation of the fumes could carry serious health risks,” Clayton said. 

Cleaning chemicals used at UT Dallas facilities fall into several product categories, including:

  • Bathroom and tile cleaners.
  • Dusting aids.
  • Fabric protectants.
  • Floor polishes/waxes.
  • General purpose cleaners.
  • Glass cleaners.

While traditional chemicals perform well on their intended targets, they can cause respiratory illnesses and other problems among people exposed to them – and among other creatures in the environment. 

When Clayton conducted research to develop a list of green cleaning products, however, he ran into a problem.

“Halfway into this thing, I noticed that companies could label any product ‘green’ without it being substantially different chemically from the original product. It could get the green label because it’s a pump spray instead of an aerosol, or it’s packaged in a carton instead of plastic bottles,” he said.

Green Seal – an independent nonprofit organization that Clayton studied – identifies, certifies and promotes environmentally responsible products and services.

“Their standard means a product reduces toxicity, waste and exposure to harmful chemicals,” he said.

“These green products cost more. Staffers will have to apply more elbow grease and take more time to clean. But in terms of fewer absences from work and better health, the savings could be significant over time,” Clayton said.

A number of green tools and techniques are also being disseminated among cleaning staff:

  • Microfiber cleaning cloths replace feather dusters.
  • Microfiber cloth flat mops offer the widest coverage possible and perform better than traditional cotton mops.
  • HEPA filters for vacuums meet the Carpet & Rug Institute's Green Label Program standards.
  • Folding and re-folding cloths provides more cleaning surface area and maximizes use of cloths.

Media Contact: Haywood McNeill, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4997, hmcneill@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu
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green chemicals on a cart

Building attendants Espiritu Benitez (left) and Luisa Sanchez load a cart full of green chemicals.

 

More UT Dallas Eco-News

UT Dallas has joined Oncor’s Take a Load Off, Texas, a free educational program to reduce energy use and expenditures through efficiency improvement projects.

UT Dallas scored its second-best finish ever in RecycleMania, the annual college recycling contest. The University finished fifth nationally for most paper recycled per capita, 19.7 pounds per person. The results were posted April 23 on the RecycleMania website.

The University generated nearly $10,000 of revenue from its recycling efforts over an 18-month period ending Jan. 31, according to Jessica Ko, an accountant in Facilities Management. Just over half the money goes to fund University scholarships, and the remainder goes toward staff development. Ko said she expects that revenue stream to grow in 2010-11.

The Staff Council reports raising $3,440 for the Staff Scholarship Fund from its recycling of ink and toner cartridges since December 2007, and more than $775 of that was raised since February of this year.  Staff Council Fundraising Committee representatives cite the recent completion of a storage building for the accumulated cartridges as one of the keys to their success.

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