New green cleaning system began as student research project

By University Communications
October 5, 2016
Custodian Sandra Banks uses a microfiber towel and green cleaning product to clean windows in Harvey Hall. A green cleaning program has been implemented in about 60 percent of campus buildings.

Photo: Custodian Sandra Banks uses a microfiber towel and green
cleaning product to clean windows in Harvey Hall. A green cleaning
program has been implemented in about 60 percent of campus buildings.

One of the main missions of University of Wisconsin-Stout is to educate its students in a way so that they can make the world a better place.

Recently, a graduate did just that. In the process, he also is making UW-Stout a better place.

Jeremy Janiak was majoring in sustainable management when he wrote his capstone class project on the advantages of using certified green cleaning products. At the time, he was working as a supervisor in Custodial Services on campus.

More specifically, Janiak did his research on whether UW-Stout should consider using such products. He found multiple advantages — environmental, health and cost — and that several other UW System schools already had made the change.

Jeremy JaniakIn 2014 Janiak earned his bachelor’s degree, partly on the strength of his capstone project, and continued his work as a Custodial Services supervisor at UW-Stout.

In less than a year he put his research to work and, with support of university administration, implemented a green cleaning program in 2015.

The changes affect academic and administrative buildings, where 32 custodians clean about 1.45 million square feet, about 60 percent of the university’s space.

“I’m happy with how it’s gone. It’s reduced our overhead and simplified the process for staff,” Janiak said. “It’s been very well-received.”

Using Green Seal- and EcoLogo-certified products, custodians’ routines have undergone significant change. Gone are premixed cleaning products, up to 25 of them. They’ve been replaced by four main products that are mixed by custodians at a dilution station.

Gone are paper towels. They’ve been replaced by microfiber towels, which are laundered and reused. The microfiber towels are color-coded so that they are reused in the proper areas, such as green for general cleaning and red for restrooms.

Custodian Sandra Banks mixes a cleaning solution at a dilution station.Gone are most cleaning products with harsh chemicals, such as bleach, fragrances and dyes and others that came in aerosol spray cans.

Some people have wondered if a green cleaning solution can be as effective as traditional cleaning products. “The effectiveness can be the same. It’s not necessarily the chemical but the dwell time — the amount of time the solution needs to sit there — for it to be effective,” Janiak said. “The key is consistency across buildings and staff applications.”

Although Janiak hasn’t yet been able to track all the cost savings from the green cleaning program, he said the reusable towels even with laundering costs saved UW-Stout about $10,000 since implementation.

UW-Stout also is saving shipping costs because fewer products are being ordered and the concentrated solutions come in smaller containers, he said.

University officials are considering a green cleaning program for the other 40 percent of campus space, which is made up of residence halls, dining halls and the student center, according to Justin Fults of University Housing.

Sarah Rykal, campus sustainability coordinator, is excited about the green cleaning program, one of many initiatives instituted across campus in the last several years that promote sustainability and environmentally conscious practices.

“The green cleaning program is better for the environment, better for health and better for our budget,” Rykal said.



Middle Photo: Jeremy Janiak

Bottom Photo: Sandra Banks mixes green cleaning products at a dilution station in Harvey Hall. The new program reduces use of harsh chemicals and aerosols, reduces waste and saves money.