In 2012, custodians at Lake Washington School District (LWSD) decided to move their schools in a greener direction, and nearly five years later, their efforts paid off with the top level Green Cleaning award.
The award is presented by the American School and University Magazine and recognizes education institutions that implement environmentally friendly practices.
Kathryn Reith, communications director for the district, said the benefits to their enhanced cleaning processes are twofold.
“Certainly some people are chemically sensitive, so there is a health benefit to reducing the numbers and kinds of chemicals,” she said. “There is an environmentally friendly aspect, so we want to make sure that we are good stewards of the environment around us.”
LWSD received the top award, followed by a silver-award winner and an honorable mention for K-12 districts.
The 2017 Grand Award for higher education went to Western Michigan University.
Reith said the drive to improve environmental practices was initiated from the ground up.
“I think it really came out of the support services department,” she said.
According to the magazine’s website, the head custodians from the districts’ 43 sites worked to evaluate the effectiveness of the new products and procedures.
This resulted in the district reducing the number of regular cleaning chemicals to four as well as color-coding microfiber cloths so chemicals don’t mix.
A slew of other changes to their procedure were implemented, ranging from using 40 percent recycled material in all paper products and using chemical dispensers using highly concentrated containers to reduce waste.
The 110 LWSD custodians serve 29,000 students and are responsible for maintaining nearly 3.7 million square feet with an annual cleaning budget of more than $8.2 million.