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Sustainability Talk II: Steps for Eliminating Downstream Waste [with INFOGRAPHIC]

We’re back for part two of our trash talking, the focus of our Earth Month series. In part one, we looked at upstream decisions you can make to eliminate waste, through source reduction or sustainable purchasing practices—basically making smart decisions about the products you purchase before they even enter the building. Today we’re looking at downstream initiatives for waste reduction. This includes recycling, composting and reuse strategies. 

While most of us call it “trash,” the technical term for garbage is municipal solid waste, or MSW. This covers everything we use and then throw away, such as product packaging, bottles, food scraps, paint, old equipment—basically anything you put in your trash can. While many facilities have recycling programs in place, the EPA estimates that 75 percent of the waste stream is recyclable, but that we only recycle about 30 percent of that total. 

Approximately HALF of the 254 million tons of trash generated in the U.S. each year comes from businesses. All that trash has to go somewhere, and the result is growing landfills. This is just one startling graphic from Fast Company that shows just how much of the U.S. is covered in landfills. 

Downstream MSW reductions can be made through some fairly simple steps within your facility. If you’re not already using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to track your rate, energy and water use over time, that’s a good place to start. This will allow you to measure the success of your programs and see what’s working — and what’s not.

Here are three categories you can use for separating downstream waste:

Reuse: When you can’t eliminate waste at the source, look for alternative uses for products. For example, you might be able to use materials received for inbound shipments for outgoing shipments. You might also be able to partner with a local business that can reuse your waste, such as plastic bottles, old buckets or equipment. 

Recycle: Recycling not only helps reduce the amount of virgin materials used in the manufacturing of goods, it also supports jobs in the recycling industry. Common types of recycling include single stream (all items go into the same bin and the recycler handles sorting), paper and cardboard, source separation (sorting materials at the facility) and eWaste (electronic waste). 

Compost: Organic waste, such as certain types of food scraps, yard waste and even some types of containers can be composted and used as a fertilizer. If you have an onsite cafeteria or if you work in the hospitality industry, this could be an excellent waste diversion strategy. 

As we mentioned in part one, a good first step to identifying ways to effectively reduces your MSW is to conduct an audit of your current waste stream so you have a benchmark for your program. If you don’t have a recycling program in place, start small by focusing on items such as paper and/or plastic. More advanced programs might look at options for composting food waste, which help reduce the amount of methane gas emitted from landfills. 

Reducing MSW isn’t just about limiting material going to the landfill, it can also be good for business. Millennials want to work for employers committed to sustainability. People want to do business with sustainable brands. If you’re not recycling at work, let Earth Month be the month you begin your program. Good luck!

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Sustainability Talk, Part I: Understanding Source Reduction

Waste. It’s something we think a lot about in the custodial department because, well, that’s a big part of our job. In recognition of Earth Month and Earth Day (April 22), we’ll be focusing on waste and ways that we can better eliminate waste through waste management strategies, such as source reduction. When fully implemented and with full employee engagement, an organization has the resources in place to become “zero waste.”

A waste management strategy typically includes two key parts: 1) Sustainable Purchasing, which focuses largely on the upstream decisions you make on sourcing and source reduction, and 2) Waste Management, which focuses on the downstream decisions you make related to waste disposal. Throughout each element of your waste management program, employees should be engaged. When employees are engaged, your program has better odds for success. For part one of this two-part series, we’ll focus on the sustainable purchasing or the “upstream” part of your waste management program. It’s something ManageMen has been committed to  since 1992. 

Similar to how we kick off any new (OS1) implementation, an audit is a great way to gain an understanding of your current waste stream. During an audit, you will look closely at the types of waste your building generates, and then see how much of each type of waste is recovered for recycling, or sent to a landfill. 

An audit will consist of four basic steps:

  • Planning: Identify what you want to achieve from the audit. Include key stakeholders throughout the organization to let them know what you’re doing and why. You’ll also want to gather the necessary materials for the audit, such as bins, protective equipment, etc.
  • Collection: Collect the waste and store it in the appropriate bins in a pre-determined location. Waste can be collected and sorted on the same day, or over a period of time, such as a week. 
  • Sorting: This is the messy part. Go through the waste and sort the materials into various waste receptacles. This might include recyclables, compostables and trash. Record your results by measuring the number of items or the weight of each receptacle. 
  • Analyzing: Analyze the data. What does it tell you about your current waste management program? What are the opportunities for improvement?

Contact your local solid waste administration for additional audit materials and resources. 

A Little More about Using Less

Source reduction through sustainable purchasing practices is an effective waste reduction strategy. Sustainable purchasing means buying products in a way that not only considers the cost of the product, but the environmental, social and health impacts. In the cleaning industry, there’s been a lot of focus on sustainable purchasing practices (e.g. looking for products with third party certifications, renewable resources and local sources). But when it comes to source reduction, we have a lot of room for improvement.

Source reduction, or waste prevention, means finding ways to accomplish the same amount of work while using less product and generating less waste.

According to the EPA, source reduction means “purchasing durable, long-lasting goods and seeking products and packaging that are as free of toxics as possible. It can be as complex as redesigning a product to use less raw material in production, have a longer life, or be used again after its original use is completed. Because source reduction actually prevents the generation of waste in the first place, it is the most preferable method of waste management and goes a long way to protecting the environment.” 

What does this mean for you? A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Buy nice, or buy twice. Oftentimes, when you purchase cleaning equipment and supplies based on price, there’s a good chance that you will end up having to replace the product sooner than you would have to if you would have purchased a better quality product the first time around. 
  2. Consider the packaging and system. We like the PortionPac system because it eliminates redundant supplies, allowing cleaning departments to reduce their cleaning product assortment by as much as 40 percent. It does this with pre-dispensed chemical that users simply pour into their containers. 
  3. Simplify through standardization. When an engineered approach to cleaning is deployed, you are better able to streamline products and procedures, ultimately reducing waste.
  4. Engage employees. Encourage employees to identify ways they can help reduce waste or reuse items throughout the facility. This will improve the overall success of your effort.
  5. Avoid purchasing hazardous materials when possible. Enough said.

The theme for Earth Day this year is “End Plastic Pollution.” Of the 9.1 billion tons of plastic produced in the world, an estimated 6.9 billion tons is waste. As we kick-off Earth Month, let’s look at source reduction strategies we can use to reduce the amount of plastic used in our operations. 

(OS1) Green Certified and Green Programs of Excellence Announced

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We are thrilled to announce the organizations who have earned their (OS1) Green Certified Program Awards and/or the (OS1) Green Program of Excellence Awards for the 2011/2012 Audit Season. Winners will be presented their official award plaque at the 11th Annual Simon Institute Symposium in New Orleans, LA next week. To see a complete list of who earned these prestigious awards, please click on a link below:

 

Green Certified Program recipients showing their awards at the Simon Institute Symposium - 2011

About the Awards…

(OS1) organizational certification is determined by our (OS1) Audit criteria, on a building-to-building basis, within a cleaning organization. Currently, there are approximately 340 different factors we look at that cause any building to be clean.  We audit what is going on at the actual site, as well as, the management of that site.

(OS1) Green Certifed Awards are presented to facilities that have submitted to the (OS1) Progress Audit and earned at least an 80% score or higher. Programs that earn a 90% or higher score, earn the (OS1) Green Certified – Program of Excellence Award. A facility that achieves this certification is successfully managing their (OS1) Program. At this level, an (OS1) organization is reducing environmental risk and the probability of unwanted effects. Specifically, (OS1) Green Certified Programs and (OS1) Green Programs of Excellence can demonstrate the following:

  • Cleaning for Health first and then for appearance
  • Disposing of cleaning wastes in a environmentally responsible manner
  • Increased worker safety and awareness
  • Increased level of sanitation of building surfaces
  • Responsible and proper removal of pollutants from the facility
  • Reduction of chemical, particle and moisture residue
  • Minimization of human exposure to pollutants

Cleaning for Health at The University of Texas at Austin

A control cabinet at The University of Texas of Austin holds approximately three months of chemicals used to clean the buildings on campus.

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By Bobby Moddrell – Custodial Services Division
The University of Texas at Austin

 

For the past decade, the Custodial Services Division of The University of Texas at Austin has maintained over 12 million square feet of the campus using our (OS1) process. (OS1) promotes the standardization of the custodial operation through the use of environmentally friendly products, ergonomic tools, worker safety, strategically assigned workloads for each Full Time Equivalent Employee (FTE), and a robust training program. With this process, Custodial Services has maintained a consistent cleaning program across campus despite the size of the operation and the varying demands of each building.

The (OS1) process has also ushered in a sustainable approach to cleaning, that is easily reflected in our chemical program, water usage, paper and plastic products inventory, team cleaning system and indoor air quality. Prior to (OS1), UT Austin’s Custodial Services’ chemical program consisted of over 200 different chemicals which is fairly standard for most cleaning operations of this size. Since the implementation of (OS1), that number has been reduced almost 88%, a grand total of 25 chemicals. This reduction is due in large part to PortionPac, a company that provides environmentally responsible chemical concentrates which are packaged in individual pacs that are pre-measured for a specific container. By using one pac per bucket, bottle or tank of water [known in (OS1) as “the rule of one“], we realize a safer, more accurate use of chemicals, thus eliminating unnecessary waste and environmental pollution. Of our four daily use chemicals, three are Green Seal Certified and the daily germicide used to reduce pathogenic microorganisms is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Subscribing to the (OS1) process has also decreased Custodial Services’ annual water usage by roughly 70%. While the effective measurement and use of chemicals contributes to this figure, it is the use of two-sided mop buckets and microfiber cloths that has had the greatest impact on water usage. Traditional mop buckets hold five gallons of water, but the two-side restroom and utility buckets used in our program hold 1.25 and 2 gallons of water respectively. Additionally, a two-sided mop bucket system keeps clean solution and contaminated water separate, thus ensuring the longevity of the cleaning solution and reducing cross contamination. The coordinated use of microfiber flat mops also helps conserve water.

Traditional string mops transfer more water than necessary to hard floor surfaces, making it difficult to clean and absorb the dirtied water effectively. Moreover, the fibers of a traditional string mop are incapable of trapping the microorganisms targeted in common cleaning procedures. Microfiber mops, however, absorb up to six times their own weight in liquid pick up and retention and their unique fibers have been shown to reduce bacteria up to 96%. The use of two-side mop buckets and microfiber mops have been instrumental in our decreased water usage. The switch alone has brought our estimated water usage from 863,340 gallons annually to 262,302 gallons for a savings of 601,038 gallons of water each year.

Custodial Services’ commitment to sustainability is reflected in the choice of paper and plastic products used across campus. Both our toilet paper and hand towels contain high percentages of recycled fiber and post-consumer content. Custodial Services has also made the switch to a more sustainable trash liner. These new liners are made from linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) and meet the EPA’s Comprehensive Procurement guidelines. This means the liners’ post-consumer content can range from 10%-100%. All liners contain 100% post-consumer recycled resin. The liners have reduced our annual liner waste to landfills by an estimated 36%. Our previous liners contributed 220,459 pounds of waste annually, but the new liners will only contribute an estimated 141,847 pounds for a reduction of 78,612 pounds per year.

Through the daily maintenance of campus buildings, Custodial Services is doing its part to sustain the built environment. This effort not only prolongs the life of buildings and materials therein, but also improves the quality of life inside these buildings by all occupants. The Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) posits that individuals spend nearly 90% of their time indoors, whether at work, home or in transit. As such, it has become increasingly important to maintain an indoor environment free of pollutants. A recent study measured the indoor air quality of a building maintained with an average upright vacuum and found the level of pollutants equal to roughly twenty times what the EPA allows Americans to pollute from their cars. This is not surprising considering cloth filter bags on traditional upright vacuums only remove 30% of pollutants from the air. In an effort to improve indoor air quality, Custodial Services elected to use Super CoachVac backpack vacuums manufactured by ProTeam. These vacuums provide four-level filtration, removing 99.9% of lung-damaging particles.

Additionally, these vacuums help protect carpet, extending the life of carpet and reducing the need for replacement. It is this high level of carpet care and air purification that has earned the Pro Team Vacuum the Carpet Research Institute’s (CRI) green label certification.

Clean and Green: The University of Texas at Austin’s Sustainable Cleaning Process

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Presented by Robert Moddrell and Corey Wright, The University of Texas at Austin.

For the last decade, UT Austin’s Custodial Services has maintained over 12.5 million square feet of the UT campus using a high-performance cleaning process called (OS1). Developed by ManageMen, (OS1) promotes the standardization of the custodial operation through the use of environmentally friendly products and ergonomic tools. With this process, Custodial Services has maintained a consistent cleaning program across campus despite the size of our operation and varying demands of each building. Moreover, this process has ushered in a sustainable approach to cleaning that is easily reflected in our chemical program, water usage, paper and plastic products inventory, team cleaning system, and indoor air quality.

Austin Convention Center gets LEED Gold with the help of (OS1)

December 12, 2011. Austin, TexasThe Austin Convention Center is proud to announce that it has been awarded LEED® Gold Certification for Existing Buildings, established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System is the internationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings, which was developed by the USGBC.

LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human environmental health: sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. There are several types of certifications, but two primary ones for commercial facilities – New Construction (NC) and Existing Buildings (EB).

“We are tremendously proud of this achievement,” said Mark Tester, director of the Austin Convention Center Department. “Not only is the Austin Convention Center bringing economic benefits to the city of Austin, it is also a model of sustainability that will continue to set the standard in the industry. Credit certainly goes to the convention center staff’s dedication and commitment over the past four years to obtain the gold level, under the guidance of David Thomas, ACC Operations Manager, LEED-Accredited Professional and Certified Energy Manager.”

“Austin Convention Center’s LEED certification demonstrates tremendous green building leadership,” said Rick Fedrizzi, U.S. Green Building Council president, CEO and founding chair. “The work of innovative building projects such as the Austin Convention Center is a fundamental driving force in the green building movement.”

Austin Convention Center’s sustainable design features and practices include:

  • 66% of all waste diverted from landfill
  • Composted 250,000 lbs. of organic waste in 2011
  • Reduced our carbon footprint by 93% since 2007
  • Facility powered by Wind Energy
  • Reduced electric consumption by 20%
  • Installed LED lighting in all meeting rooms
  • Carpet made from recycled materials, generating zero emissions and installed without using glue
  • Reduced indoor water usage by 32%
  • Replaced 75% of all toilets to low flow fixtures
  • Implemented the (OS1) cleaning program to enhance, standardize green cleaning practices
  • Crushed glass, native and adaptive plants is used in landscaping to minimize water consumption
  • Installed Electric Car charging stations

“We are proud to have one of the greenest convention centers in the country, said Bob Lander, president and CEO of the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This achievement signifies Austin’s commitment to the environment – and will further Austin’s reputation as a premier destination for meetings and conventions.”

The Austin Convention Center is located in the heart of the capital of Texas, eight miles from the airport and a short distance from 6,000 downtown hotel rooms. The convention center is just down the street from the city’s vibrant nightlife. As the Live Music Capital of the World®, Austin echoes with the sound of country, rock ‘n’ roll, blues, jazz and Tejano in over 200 venues, any night of the week.

A leading destination in Green meetings and one of the country’s most technologically advanced facilities, the convention center stretches over six city blocks and 881,400 gross square feet of space. It offers 370,957 square feet of meeting space including 246,097 square feet of column-free exhibit space divisible into five contiguous halls. Ballrooms of all sizes are included in meeting package options. The 43,300 square foot upper level Grand Ballroom offers space for over 3,000 to dine in style. The Center boasts 54 meetings room and show offices, located on all four levels, with over 58,000 square feet.

Over 7 million people have attended 3,000+ events, including over 700 conventions, at the award-winning Austin Convention Center since it opened in 1992. The convention center expanded in 2002, doubling its size. More information about the Austin Convention Center and its LEED certification can be found on its website at www.austinconventioncenter.com.

(OS1) User News: UT at Austin Makes The Cover of Housekeeping Solutions

Our friends and colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin are the cover story in the November 2011 issue of Housekeeping Solutions. Click on the button below to read an article about their custodial training program, which makes them one of our most successful (OS1) Programs.

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