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Clean Team becomes Green Team

UMKC moves toward environmentally friendly housekeeping

The nice "clean" smells are gone; but in their place is an environment that is not only clean but healthy. Welcome to 21st century housekeeping.

With a Sustainability Team in place and a willingness to embrace new ideas, Campus Facilities Management (CFM) has been lightening its carbon footprint. CFM tries to reuse instead of toss wherever possible.

Mowers have been modified so grass clippings become mulch for the lawns. As encouragement for clean commuters, UMKC faculty, staff and students have access to ride sharing connections and borrowed bicycles through Clean Commute.

According to Corey Key, former head of Building Services and Grounds, the lack of a pleasant aroma is the only obstacle to the acceptance of unscented cleaning supplies by the housekeeping crews.

"Like most of us," said Key, "they connect a floral or pleasant chemical aroma with cleanliness. My task is to convince them that if we don't smell anything, the unpleasant odors are gone and the products are doing the job."

Encouragement has come from many areas. At all levels of government, there are environmental directives about procurement, and businesses and schools have heard the message. An added benefit is that insurance companies are offering lower rates to customers using green products. They are safer and the risk of personal exposure and chemical hazards are greatly reduced.

As the market for sustainable products becomes more competitive, companies are developing PowerPoint presentations, videos and sophisticated brochures proclaiming their business practices as economically, socially and environmentally sound.

Velda Robins, interim manager of Building Services, estimates that UMKC's housekeeping staff has been looking for ways to go green for the last three years. New products were tried - high-traffic areas became test zones for various cleansers, polishes and mats made from recycled plastic. Manufacturers kept making improvements and adding incentives, conducting seminars and proposing new concepts like team cleaning. Under Key's leadership, said Robins, the crews began phasing out products for their greener alternatives.

"We have microfiber towels, which are not disposable and will stand up to repeated washings. Soon all the bathroom towel dispensers will be automatic. They need little maintenance and dispense towels one at a time. We have made ergonomic changes, too. Crews have lighter-weight equipment and tools that require less force to use," said Robins.

Key and Robins agree that, despite some initial reluctance to give up the familiar, cleaning crews have been enthusiastic.

"The products do a great job of cleaning, shining and disinfecting," said Robins. "You can't argue with that."

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"The products do a great job of cleaning, shining and disinfecting. You can't argue with that."

Velda Robins
Interim manager of Building Services

Velda Robins, interim manager of Building Services, supports UMKC's sustainability efforts.

Green cleaning products help create a clean and healthy environment.