The Swannanoa Journal: Green Cleaning

In partnership with Warren Wilson College’s Environmental Leadership Center, Xpress presents The Swannanoa Journal, short audio essays on regional environmental sustainability issues, written and recorded by WWC students.

Mopping floors, wiping down sinks, cleaning toilets; these are tasks that sound menial to some but that janitors perform daily. These are such an integral part of daily life that most people do not even notice they exist, but if you were to enter a restroom where a janitorial service had not been used, you would notice. Sanitation is essential, and maintaining sanitation requires a great deal of thought and effort.

Becoming environmentally friendly is something that many places are trying to achieve. Starting with the janitorial service is possibly the most efficient way. At Warren Wilson College the Building Services crew cleans most buildings while other crews clean up their respective offices. Tom Hodges, a Building Services supervisor says, “We come in ‘where the rubber meets the road.’ I keep my eyes open for new products and technologies that can help us improve our program and then do my best to acquire the best ones for our crew and campus.”

The Building Services crew tries to maintain cleanliness while being as environmentally friendly as possible. Bill Baunack, another supervisor, adds, “We have reduced the variety of cleaning chemicals that we use by about 300% in the 11 years that I’ve been here!” Baunack, adds, “We use Clean by Peroxy and G-Force, both of which are Green Seal Approved and very user and environmentally friendly.” Blue Skies, the college’s main cleaning product, was developed in part by Rodney Lytle, a Warren Wilson College alumnus. It was developed with safety for custodians and students alike in mind. Hodges says, “You could get away with drinking this stuff (not that I’m recommending it), and it’s lethal to HIV, Hepatitis B, and the common cold, amongst other [viruses].”

On a janitorial staff employed by a business, saving money is paramount, and often there is a mistrust of new products. In many industries people are slow to embrace anything new.  Hodges says, “For example, people have trusted the sanitizing power of bleach for centuries, so when I try to convince people that another product is just as effective without all the harsh side effects of chlorine many don’t believe it.”

Buying products that label themselves as eco-friendly is expensive, so Warren Wilson strives to be as environmentally friendly as possible while cutting down on costs. Many of the money saving practices Wilson employs can be performed by anyone.  These include: consolidating trash and recycling where possible, using chemicals that disinfect that are also eco-friendly and cost effective and reusing products and cleaning supplies where possible. Hodges recommends, “[Thinking] about packaging when you buy a product, think about how hungry you really are before preparing more food than you can eat. More waste means more garbage bags; the less waste on your part, the less cleaning on [the janitorial staff’s] part.”

Staying abreast of green cleaning trends is a complex mission. Those who are concerned about keeping a clean environment should heed Hodges advice when he says, “Do your research folks! The technology is a lot better than it was last century or sometimes even last year.” Hodges adds that “In terms of this campus, we are continually working to improve. You never ‘get there;’ you just keep moving forward—trying to find newer and better methods.”

Click here for more from the Fall Semester 2011 Swannanoa Journal.


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