Going green is nothing new to Portland Public Schools (PPS). The custodial team has been using green cleaning supplies for more than a decade after making the switch in 2001, but the district, which serves more than 47,000 students, continues to make impressive strides. With the introduction of new materials, an adopted Process Cleaning program and most of all, a staff that works as a team and cleans for health rather than for shine, we were thrilled to announce PPS as the Silver winners of the 2012 Green Cleaning Award.
Every year, the Green Cleaning Award winners demonstrate best practices around green cleaning, galvanizing their school communities around the idea that all students, faculty and staff deserve a healthy place to learn and work. The annual award, presented by American School & University magazine, Healthy Schools Campaign and the Green Cleaning Network, recognizes schools with excellent and innovative programs on cleaning for health without harming the environment. Winners are judged based on the five simple steps to green cleaning outlined in HSC's Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools.
Portland had many challenges to face at the start of the year, as many districts do in these trying economic times. According to Director of Facilities Operations Thomas Adams, the district had to cut the number of custodial staff in half, meaning more work and more space to cover in less time. Adams and his team made cleaning for health their priority, and adopted the trademarked, standardized Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools method to increase productivity without compromising cleanliness or student health. They have incorporated certain items into the process, including a spray-and-wash vacuum cleaner for bathrooms, and microfiber, which Adams says has been a much better fit for a common task like window-cleaning than the traditional rag-and-water job.
But it’s more than about the process. It’s about the people. Adams said a cornerstone of his green cleaning program is the training and team building, and in particular cultivating the mindset of his custodial staff. Custodians are often the most underappreciated employees of a school system, and Adams has empowered his team to recognize and see the value in their work. And for good reason: as the people in charge of cleaning, they play an essential role in a healthy and successful school environment. He said employees see themselves as part of a team who care deeply about what they do. Cleaning the school is not merely seen as sanitation duty, but as customer service. And that attitude and sense of validation and commitment leads to better results, a healthier, greener school and a stronger team.
And for the team, the commitment to a healthy school doesn’t end with the clean-up. Adams said he and his staff are planning on rolling out an initiative to encourage more diligent handwashing throughout Portland Public Schools, including signs in the bathrooms and coordinating efforts with teachers and school nurses.
We at HSC congratulate Portland Public Schools on the well-deserved recognition of its achievements! Learn more about green cleaning with our Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools.