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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Sept. 26, 2008

Silently, scentlessly green . . . yet clean

by Erin Rosacker

"Smells clean" may no longer be an adequate indicator of a recent cleaning in campus buildings. As part of custodial services' implementation of a "green" cleaning policy, harsh chemicals and solvents are being replaced by less volatile products.

ISU's commitment to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification standards for all of its new buildings and major renovation projects played a big part in the development of a green cleaning initiative. Custodial plans are a part of that from the very beginning, with a cleaning program established at the planning stages of the project.

Facilities planning and management custodial services supervisor Dick Reckseen was instrumental in developing ISU's program. He said trial-and-error has been the approach toward piloting green products and equipment.

"We had some concerns when we first started, but most of the vendors have come on board with products that are very good," he said. "The early green products just didn't work. They were like trying to scrub a floor with water and hope you got all of the wax off. Now, some of them are even better than the ones that were more volatile."

Everyone benefits

Parts of the green cleaning program designed for ISU's newest buildings are being implemented throughout campus. Over the past year, many new products have been introduced.

The pungent smell of recently scrubbed floors and surfaces has been replaced by neutralized odors and less harmful -- but still effective -- cleaners. Reckseen said products free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) now are the norm in glass, heavy duty and floor cleaners.

"It has reduced the exposure of inhabitants and custodians to potentially hazardous chemicals," he said. "Over the long term, we could see that as a health benefit."

Cleaning supplies aren't the only products going green. Most of the paper towels, trash bags and toilet tissue stocked in ISU buildings exceed the minimum standards for recycled content.

"We've already made that switch and they're available to everybody campus-wide," he said. "We have to be forward-thinking as we move on with this initiative."

Microfiber cleaning products (such as dust cloths and mops) are being used in some buildings, eliminating the need for chemicals and cutting down on waste. Noise pollution also is being addressed. As traditional upright vacuums fail, they are replaced with backpack hepa- filtered models. Reckseen said the newest carpet spot cleaning machines also are significantly quieter.

Truly green

Only the custodial employees working with Morrill Hall -- ISU's first LEED®-certified building -- are trained in LEED® practices now, but as new buildings open, those numbers will increase. Training familiarizes employees with handling the products, but also educates them about the benefits of the standards.

But going green costs more, well, green. Reckseen said those dollars are built into the budgets for the new buildings that use LEED®-certified methods.

"The cost can be significant," Reckseen said. "Our vendors try to keep those costs down for the most part. Costs probably will be falling as it becomes more widespread."

As the green revolution gains momentum, Reckseen said new products, services and equipment continue to be developed.

"We are testing new green products all the time," he said.


"The early green products just didn't work . . . Now, some of them are even better than the ones that were more volatile."

Dick Reckseen