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Green Housekeeping

Sandra Bowser has a full day. As a housekeeper at NC State, Bowser is tasked with cleaning the first and second floors of Sullivan Residence Hall, home to 713 students. This entails cleaning three offices, two laundry areas, eight common areas, 15 bathrooms, three elevators and 71 suites—all within eight hours.

“There’s a lot to do each day—this is a busy job,” she says, wiping down office chairs and returning them to their place.

But one side perk is the cleaning products and techniques used by Bowser and the 270-plus housekeepers across campus are kind to the environment. For instance, the general all-purpose cleaner Bowser uses for wiping down surfaces, cleaning carpets and mopping floors is an Orbio product and technology using only tap water, salt and electricity. This sanitizes all services, neutralizes 99 percent of germs and looks effective. As she sprays an electric-charged mist over windows, mirrors and picture frames not a streak remains. The microfiber mops she uses are more absorbent also and require less water.

“This creates a better environment overall for our students and staff, which is great.”

Big Benefits, Big Savings

Bottle of cleaning solution.

Even the cleaning technology at NC State is innovative. Housekeeping staff use an ionized cleaning solution.

At a recent training session at Harrelson Hall, Randy Reed, deputy assistant director, explains that NC State adopted its green cleaning program almost eight years ago with many new innovations added since. Already the program has gained national accolades—specifically the excellence in cleaning award from the Association of Physical Plant Administrators. NC State’s campus was rated an APPA level II campus, the best that can be achieved for an existing building. Reed describes the different ways in which the cleaning program is green: The campus uses vacuum cleaners with dual HEPA filtration which removes 99.9 percent of airborne particles and protects housekeepers from asthma and allergies.

“Remember the old days when vacuum cleaners puffed dust everywhere?” Reed asks the housekeepers. “Well, these vacuum cleaners are safer, quieter and won’t damage your hearing either.”

Additionally, the entrance mats outside all buildings are made from recycled materials and retain 40 percent more dirt than regular mats. But the bigger impact came from doing away with harsh chemical cleaners that can cause housekeepers dermatological problems and other health risks. The filling units for replenishing the cleaning solution reduce water consumption, stop waste and prevent employees from getting splashed with chemicals. Reed adds the system saves the university $48,000 each year and has helped significantly reduce illness in student areas. He adds that by going green, not only is housekeeping seeing less work-related injuries, the campus is cleaner and safer. It’s a win-win, he says, and when employees hear about the green cleaning program, they always seem impressed.

“We are proud of our cleaning techniques. It’s for the good of the university.”

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