Green Cleaning Adds to Sustainability Practices
By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
March 26, 2008
When Judy Koski started working in housekeeping 37 years ago, some of the
cleaning solutions being used were so strong they burnt the soles of her shoes.
Today, the department is in the process of going green.
In fact, for the last several years, Koski, Gene Gargano and Jean Mitchell,
managers of housekeeping facilities, have been experimenting with products
that are healthier and less damaging to the environment, trying to find those
that can get the job done. Until recently, the products haven’t been
But an increase in demand for green cleaning supplies has led manufacturers
to improve their solutions, Koski says, making it easier for UNH to make the
transition and helping to align cleaning methods with the university’s
“Once vendors noticed we were willing to test green products, we were
inundated,” Koski says. “We have a couple that we really trust
and they’ve been a big help in choosing the best products.”
Research has shown that some popular cleaning solutions have harmful effects
on the people who use them as well as the occupants of the buildings in which
they are used. Complaints such as eye and skin irritation, and coughing are
common. More severe reactions include asthma, cramps, vomiting, and chest pains.
There is also the worry that such toxins cause cancer.
Koski tells of one UNH worker who had been having nose bleeds regularly but
didn’t make the connection between cleaning products until she began
using a green shower cleaner and the nose bleeds stopped.
UNH has replaced window, floor and shower cleaners with Green Seal-certified
or Eco-label products that are natural or plant-based. Only the disinfectants
aren’t green and that’s because, so far, there aren’t any
that are nontoxic.
Green Seal is a nonprofit company that promotes environmentally friendly products.
They have established a set of standards that, when met, allow a product to
be Green Seal-approved. According to Green Seal, a green cleaner is one that
reduces the impact on the environment at every level. Ecolabeled products provide
the same assurance.
One of the areas where Koski says real progress has been made is with floor cleaners.
Green solutions had been tried in the past but they didn’t work. Now
UNH housekeeping is using a Green Seal certified product with satisfactory
results both in effectiveness and health benefits.
“The fumes from the products we were using before were so bad for employees,” Koski
says. “And the dirty water went down the drains. Now we’ve got
something that does the job without affecting people.”
Judy Fahnestock of the Office of Sustainability has been working with Koski
and the other housekeeping managers in the transition to green products. There
is also a green cleaning committee.
“There can be a disconnect between offices,” Fahnestock says. “I’m
here to see how we can help each other. It’s definitely a process.”
Fahnestock is looking into having some of UNH’s buildings Green Seal
certified, a procedure that also works as a self-assessment tool. Kingsbury
Hall will likely be the first building up for certification as housekeeping
has been using green cleaning products there since the new building opened.
In addition to the green solutions, housekeepers are using microfiber rags
and mops, which require fewer, if any, chemicals and far less water. The mops
also save work because there is no need to dry mop first.
What’s more, the use of microfiber mops in the gyms has led to the elimination
of oil-based sprays that were previously applied to the mop heads to ensure
they collected as much dirt and dust as possible.
“Now they’re not using anything and they’re picking up twice
as much dust,” Koski says.
Since making the switch to green cleaning, Koski says there have incidents
where people have questioned whether their area had been cleaned because they
didn’t smell anything.
“Sometimes people not noticing can be a good sign,” Fahnestock