Northwestern University: Where Green Cleaning Meets the Color Blue

Northwestern University is a unique Green Cleaning Award applicant and winner because its custodial operations are outsourced to Aramark. The contract began in September 2012, and the cleaning contractor has been able to make significant improvements to the university’s green cleaning program. Congratulations to Northwestern University and Aramark for working together to make campus a healthier, greener and cleaner place to live and learn!

Blue Cleaning

The first step in creating a green cleaning program for Aramark at Northwestern was the chemicals. “All of our daily chemicals are Green Seal certified chemicals,” says Jon Von Kerens, Aramark Resident District Manager at Northwestern University. “But we were also able to reduce water usage by 75 percent.” How? “At a minimum you’ll save 75 percent on water use for cleaning when you’re using microfiber instead of the traditional mop and bucket,” says Von Kerens. “And that’s a big savings to the university.”

They also invested in auto-scrubbers with blue cleaning technology, which use electrically activated water technology. They’re able to eliminate chemical use and reduce water usage by using these auto-scrubbers whenever possible and investing in microfiber that they can pre-wet without using a bucket.

Never heard of blue cleaning? It’s an industry term that many use to describe the use of electrically activated water, or on-site generation. “The term indicates that we’re not using any chemicals,” says Von Kerens. Electrically Activated Water (EAW) uses technology to temporarily alter water to have better cleaning capabilities than the traditional procedure of adding chemicals to water. Aramark is also implementing blue cleaning to eliminate the green cleaning chemicals that are used in routine daily cleaning throughout campus.

An added bonus is that the team uses reusable brushes instead of pads on auto-scrubbers, which eliminates the need to throw pads into the landfill. Elimination of stripping and refinishing floors is also an improved green process. Terrazzo floors are polished with diamond pads which eliminates the use of harsh chemicals. About 200,000 square feet have been converted to the polishing process.

Working Together

Aramark has 300 employees who work alongside a handful of university employees in the university facilities department to improve the way the entire college campus is cleaned.

“We worked with the university facilities department and sustainability department to help implement green and blue cleaning and improve their program,” says Von Kerens. “The program we implemented is the Aramark program that’s implemented for all of our accounts.”

While the university’s sustainability office is in charge of the recycling program, Aramark works closely with them to support that program.

Even with an outside contractor, change is tough. “The biggest challenge is any time you’re implementing change, people resist change at the beginning,” says Von Kerens. “You need to educate, train and follow through on the change.” His target number is 21. “Once you’ve done it for 21 days, it becomes habit. You have to get through that change period to implement something new.”

About the Green Cleaning Award

The annual Green Cleaning Award, presented by American School & University magazine, Healthy Schools Campaign and the Green Cleaning Network, recognizes schools with innovative health-focused and environmentally minded cleaning programs. Winners are judged based on the 5 Steps to Green Cleaning in Schools.

The application for the 2017 Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities is available now! Visit American School & University magazine’s website to download the application and get started. Applications are due by Dec. 16 and may be emailed or mailed following the directions printed on the application.