University operations utilize green cleaning supplies

The three pillars of sustainability often call for balance and compromise between environmental, social, and economic prosperity, but such is not the case with green cleaning at UW-Madison.

In an effort to reduce harmful chemical exposure to UW staff, community, and the environment, the Physical Plant has been testing green cleaning products in several buildings on campus. New methods, including the use of microfiber pads instead of rags and paper towels, are included as part of the bifurcated trial.

The transition between conventional to green products went smoother than expected. Product changes can be a pain for staff – product performance may require additional applications or more vigorous cleaning methods – but these issues didn’t arise under the study. In fact, there have been no complaints about the new products and some positive response from customers who don’t have the same negative reaction to green products as they did to conventional ones.

While the final results of the study and employee survey won’t be available until later this year, initial reactions suggest that green products clean just as well, carry a reasonable cost, and reduce environmental harm. Other benefits include the versatility of the new products, meaning fewer chemicals need to be purchased. The green cleaners also arrive in a very concentrated form (reducing the costs of transportation) with a tamper-proof dilution dispensing system that leaves no room for errors in mixing chemicals to the safest and most effective concentration before use.

The products under study carry a Green Seal certification, a label backed up by the International Organization for Standardization, American National Standards Institute, and others. Green Seal maintains that certified products reduce toxic pollution and waste, increase the health and well-being of staff and customers, and minimize climate change.

Unfortunately, green products can’t do it all. Just as with other issues in sustainability, there is no silver bullet solution. For example, green chemicals cannot disinfect surfaces, so conventional chemicals will remain in our campus’ cleaning arsenal for those purposes.

The ultimate goal at UW is to use the least amount of the best products available to continue to provide clean, healthy facilities. If you’d like to see green cleaning products in action, you can visit 21 N Park, Grainger Hall, Agricultural Hall, Microbial Sciences, or the Wisconsin Institute for Medical Research.

If you like what you see, take your exploration to the next step and consider purchasing a green product with a third-party certification such as Green Seal the next time you’re out shopping. One step at a time, we can make the world a better place.

Article by Lea Zeise, WE CONSERVE