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FM's Green Team Cleaning system makes the U healthier, safer, “greener” and more cost effective. The program’s new equipment, like microfiber products and backpack vacuums, allow the custodial staff to clean more efficiently, improve air quality and save money.
Until recently, microfiber products were not mass produced in the United States. Now that they are, switching to microfiber cloths, dusters and mops lowers the risks associated with harmful contaminants and allows FM to clean not just for appearance, but also for health.
Cleaning for appearance removes larger “visible” soil, while cleaning for health removes smaller “invisible” bacteria, dust and contaminates – the main contributors to unhealthy indoor environments. Made of extremely thin filaments of polyester and nylon, microfiber cleaning products grab more dirt, while needing less water and chemicals to clean. These extremely thin fibers create a larger surface area that expands cleaning, absorption and release capabilities. They improve indoor air quality by collecting and holding dust, dirt and allergens better than traditional cleaning products. Microfiber has been shown to reduce bacteria levels as much as 99%, which is three times more effective than traditional mops or cloths.
FM employs a color-coded system of cloths, which reduces the risk of cross contamination by identifying separate uses for each colored cloth. For example, all microfiber used to clean restrooms is red or accented with red, while offices, classrooms and other public areas use green microfiber for dusting and spot cleaning.
FM's new backpack vacuums also contribute to a healthier U. Traditional upright vacuums have been called “indoor air polluters” and shown to pollute the air up to 20 times more than allowed by automobiles. The backpack vacuums feature a unique four-stage filtration system which captures and contains soil, tiny dust mites, bacteria and other harmful particles, preventing them from being reintroduced into the environment and providing the U with improved indoor air quality.
Besides creating a healthier environment, Green Team Cleaning provides FM staff with lighter weight, ergonomic equipment that cleans more effectively. For example, microfiber mops weigh approximately five pounds less than conventional wet loop mops, making them less strenuous to use. They can also reduce the time that floors are wet and slippery by holding liquid without dripping, leaving only a thin layer of water on the floor. The result is quicker drying times and a reduced slip risk.
The backpack vacuums used by FM allow workers to vacuum more than twice the area in half the time, with less fatigue and body strain compared to using an upright model. The vacuums also avoid repetitive motions and minimize the “hunching over” often associated with upright and canister vacuums.
FM’s new approach emphasizes sustainable cleaning. Base cleaning chemicals were streamlined to just six, three of which are green seal approved, with a fourth in the process of gaining green seal approval. The remaining two are disinfectants which, by definition, cannot receive green seal approval.
These chemicals are received in concentrated form, then mixed with water to create the end-use solution. This process reduces the amount of fossil fuel needed to ship the product and eliminates excess packaging.
Chemical use is further reduced by the use of microfiber cleaning tools because they need less chemicals to clean effectively. Microfiber can also be laundered and reused hundreds of times, with a single cloth replacing more than 60 rolls of paper towels.
As if a healthier, safer and “greener” U wasn't enough incentive to implement Green Team Cleaning, the process also saves the U money. The ability to reuse and launder microfiber cleaning cloths and mops translates to an estimated 60 percent lifetime cost savings. The mops can also be laundered in standard washing machines, while loop mops have to be laundered in specialized washing machines at a higher cost or discarded.
The new backpack vacuums save the U money as well. They cost less than the upright units they replaced and the ongoing cost of ownership, such as repair parts and labor, is reduced by 66 percent. Backpack vacuum filters can also be emptied multiple times before being disposed of, while upright vacuum bags were a single use product.
The largest savings generated by Green Team Cleaning come from the increased production rates FM’s crews can attain by using microfiber, backpack vacuums and riding equipment. Under the old system FM custodians averaged just over 4,000 square feet per hour. In the new system they are able to clean an average of 4,500 square feet per hour. Even though FM had to reduce the size of its custodial staff, they are still able to keep the campus both clean and healthy. The program is anticipated to save the University more than $3 million per year.
Overall, Green Team Cleaning has allowed FM to clean the campus more efficiently, reduce its environmental footprint, provide staff with safer equipment and save money. Sounds like a winning solution.