Green cleaning now a campus habit

February 9, 2010

Phyllis Wenrick, a custodian in Building Services, stands in Discovery Park’s Mann Hall by some of the bio-based, biodegradable products now used in Purdue’s green cleaning program. (Photo provided by Building Services)

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What started in July 2008 as a pilot program to test green cleaning methods in Discovery Park has now become a campus-wide endeavor.

Through the efforts of Purdue's Building Services, the West Lafayette campus has adopted a comprehensive green cleaning program that replaces cleaning chemicals with bio-based, biodegradable products derived from renewable resources.

"Previously we used products and technology that had been in use within our industry for more than 30 years," says Bob Morman, day general manager at Building Services. "These traditional cleaning products were blunt-force instruments. Today, we use finesse tools and products designed from an entirely different chemistry. Our green products are all third party certified, and they meet tough environmental standards that meet or exceed federal guidelines."

The green cleaning program aims to improve air quality, eliminate volatile organic compounds, reduce water pollution created by cleaning processes, and reduce the amount of solid waste generated. Purdue's program was recently recognized by American School & University magazine, the Green Cleaning Network and the Healthy Schools Campaign as the Best New Green Cleaning Program in the country for 2009.

The idea to introduce environmentally friendly cleaning processes grew out of a Big Ten and Friends Building Service Administrators Conference hosted at Purdue in September 2007. That led to a well-received six-month pilot program at Discovery Park in 2008. Building Services took the program campus-wide in February 2009.

During the pilot and now as part of the campus-wide program, Building Services has used bio-based products formulated from naturally renewable, sustainable resources such as soy, corn and sugars.

"Biorenewable products eliminate the need for petroleum-based raw materials and support American agriculture and forestry industries," Morman says.

The program also involves the use of dispensing systems that systematically dilute chemicals with cold water as well as special training for custodial staff on how to use the new products.

"Our floor mops are made entirely from remanufactured 2-liter soda bottles, and our mop handles are made from rapid-growing bamboo," he says. "Everything we order comes in recycled packaging and in concentrated form whenever possible."

Consumable products such as paper towels and plastic can liners are also an important part of the overall program.  They now meet EPA requirements for high post-consumer recycled content.

"Our staff feels empowered by their stewardship role," Morman says. "Our customers feel engaged with a process that delivers the clean, safe, healthy environment they expect and reduces Purdue's ecological footprint.

"Our Big Ten peers are expressing tremendous interest in what we're doing. Many of them plan to emulate key parts of our sustainability programs on their campuses. Going forward we plan to continue supporting our friends and peers with their efforts to go green, and in the process, multiply the impact of our efforts across the country."