Protecting Lake Michigan through Smart Cleaning Choices

Congratulations to Grand Valley State University (GVSU) on winning the Grand Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities! The Allendale, Michigan-based university serves about 25,000 students across 4.1 square million feet of indoor space. From waste diversion to water minimization, this small program is doing big things when it comes to green cleaning.

“I’ve been with Grand Valley for eight years,” says Ed Wierzbicki, GVSU Facilities Supervisor. “I’ve noticed that a commitment to sustainability and green practices is a culture that runs through the executive administration all the way down to the custodial staff.”

For Wierzbicki, taking on green initiatives has been a relatively easy buy-in. That’s in part because of the university’s proximity to Lake Michigan and the attention to water conservation in the region. It’s also because the university is only 56 years old, including many brand-new buildings. In fact, every building that has been built on campus since 2004 is LEED-certified. “These new buildings offer many opportunities from the very beginning of the design process for us to bring in new procedures for our green cleaning program,” says Wierzbicki.

When the university switched from a traditional floor care regime to the use of a square scrub technology that strips surfaces using a dry, chemical-free method, there were almost immediate results. Since these machines were introduced in 2015, there has been a 50-70 percent reduction in water and chemicals used. The biggest impact can be seen in the reduction in frequency of chemically stripping the campus’s VCT floors. In 2010, the campus used almost 480 gallons of chemical stripper. In the past three years combined, they used only 45 gallons.

“This technology combined with the use of surface prep pads have maintained a high-quality appearance without the chemical use and man power associated with traditional floor care procedures,” says Wierzbicki.

Efficiency is a term that gets used a lot in green cleaning circles. It can mean anything from making sure you’re using energy-efficient lighting to choosing ergonomic equipment that maximizes worker efficiency. At GVSU, efficient practices are everywhere, even behind closed doors. The facilities department recently implemented a campuswide organizational methodology for its custodial closets. Now every custodial worker will find the exact same equipment and products in the exact same places in each and every custodial closet they encounter, no matter the building. This not only makes the worker’s job a lot easier and saves time, but it also reduces chemical usage and streamlines supply ordering.

Next, the facilities department implemented a Lean Management process, a unique management philosophy based on continuous improvement and efficiency. “It is part of the department culture to depend on each other for support and to be a problem-solving, forward-thinking management team,” says Wierzbicki. “Our custodial staff is also tasked with that same responsibility, to contribute ideas and solve problems that will benefit the students and the GVSU community. It works because collectively we have all the same interests in mind: providing a clean, healthy, and safe environment for Grand Valley.”

About the Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities
The Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities is the only award dedicated solely to recognizing schools and their facility leaders for the tireless work of promoting clean, healthy and sustainable school buildings. Presented by Healthy Schools Campaign, American School & University magazine and the Green Cleaning Network, it highlights schools with innovative, health-focused and environmentally minded cleaning programs. Judging criteria are based on our 5 Steps to Green Cleaning in Schools.

Applications Available this Fall!
Applications for the next round of awards will be available in the fall. Sign up for our newsletter to be notified when the application is posted. We look forward to learning about your green cleaning program!