WMU among four schools in nation recognized for sustainable cleaning

Contact: Deanne Puca
Photo of WMU's College of Health and Human Services building.

WMU's College of Health and Human Services

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University is one of just four educational institutions in the country and the only one in the state to be recognized for sustainability in its building custodial practices.

WMU's Office of Facilities Management completed a yearlong effort to become Green Seal certified for its commercial and institutional cleaning services. The GS-42 certification involves extensive documentation and an on-site visit by Green Seal, a nonprofit organization that uses science-based programs to empower consumers, purchasers and companies to create a more sustainable world.

"This journey included figuring out the most efficient and sustainable way to clean, and we used our College of Health and Human Services as the model," says Steve Gilsdorf, director of WMU's Department of Building Custodial and Support Services.

The path to certification

Included was formulating a green cleaning policy, getting standard operating procedures in order, perfecting a training plan for new hires as well as ongoing training for team members, and reducing waste and the use of chemicals. The department also utilizes cleaning products, equipment and processes that reduce the exposure of building occupants and facilities management personnel to potentially hazardous chemical, biological and particulate contaminants, which adversely affect air quality, human health, building finishes, building systems and the environment.

Two major changes that occurred in WMU's processes were the switch to an aqueous ozone, or water-based, cleaning system which allowed the University to basically eliminate daily chemical cleaners, with the exception of disinfectant, and a change in floor care procedures that allowed WMU to eliminate the use of floor stripper and finish, according to Gilsdorf.

"Employees are more engaged because it allows them to understand their importance in the big picture for the University, because the University has adopted Green Seal as a strategic goal," he adds.

WMU is the first higher education institution in the Midwest to earn this certification, and shares the honor with Harvard, University of Maryland and University of Virginia.

"This is a significant achievement for this team and our University. Our facilities management team is proud to obtain results that are in alignment with the WMU Strategic Plan," says Peter Strazdas, associate vice president of facilities management. "A lot of people were engaged with policy and product changes, and they educated 167 custodians who clean 54 primary buildings every day. This certification validates the cultural shift to a more sustainable campus environment with our cleaning practices and products."

For more information about the certifying organization, visit greenseal.org.

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