We were humbled and honored to host 90 green cleaning leaders at the first-ever Green Clean Schools Leadership Summit. The two-day meeting, which took place on the University of Washington’s picturesque Seattle campus, marked a pivotal moment for green cleaning in schools. Not only was the summit the culmination of a decade of hard work advocating for healthier cleaning in schools, but it also represented an opportunity for us to galvanize leaders from across the K-12 and university communities and the cleaning industry.
“This can be the group that helps us figure out how to move the entire green cleaning movement forward,” urged Steve Ashkin in his address to the packed conference room. It was particularly meaningful to partner with Ashkin for the Summit. Many people may not realize that Healthy Schools Campaign’s Green Clean Schools program actually started when our president and CEO, Rochelle Davis, teamed up with Ashkin to promote green cleaning within Chicago Public Schools over ten years ago. Since that time, we’ve helped push green cleaning legislation in multiple states, teamed up to develop the Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities and have met hundreds of amazing school leaders making greener, healthier choices in their schools.
On the first day of the Summit, attendees were treated to an inspiring tour by the building services department at the University of Washington, which is run by Green Clean Schools Leadership Council member Gene Woodard. Attendees were impressed by color-coded white boards that are used to track employee challenges, ideas and successes; paper towel composting in the restrooms and the university’s minimax waste collection system. Woodard enjoyed the attention his department’s innovative strategies were getting but was most happy about what the tour did for his team’s morale. “This experience meant so much to my team, and really highlighted their great work, but I’m excited to see how this summit allowed them to engage with and inspire other schools and other advocates who want to make change in their communities,” he said.
Summit panel discussions covered topics like workforce engagement, infection control, green floor care, engineered water, and the future of green cleaning. Speakers included school facility professionals, cleaning industry representatives, government officials and health experts. Rachel Gutter, senior vice president of knowledge at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools, spoke about the national state of green cleaning in schools. An expert from the Washington Department of Health and a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona talked about the science of infection control and cleaning in schools.
The summit ended with an engaged and passionate discussion about what the group, with the help of Healthy Schools Campaign, can do to support green cleaning at all schools, in every city in the country. The ideas we came up with as a group were bold and exciting. We plan to keep that momentum going.
“The conversations we’ve had here are shifting the work that we want to do,” said Mark Bishop, vice president of policy at Healthy Schools Campaign. “We’re going to reshape our strategies, use your ideas, get energized continue to improve how schools clean.”
Special thanks to Steve Ashkin from The Ashkin Group, ISSA, Kimberly Clark Professional, Sealed Air and UL Environment for making the Green Clean Schools Summit possible.