A greener way to clean

April 23, 2010
by Deanna Rosolen

An auto dispensing/dilution control system—which mixes environmentally safe chemicals with water—is just one of the green cleaning systems adopted by Algoma University.
Photo: Enviro-Solutions Ltd

Algoma University in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario has started cleaning green. The university has a history of eco-conscious and energy-saving initiatives and last year it added environmentally friendly custodial products to the list.

Bruno Barban, director of university services, tells Purchasingb2b the decision to switch to green cleaning products and methods was out of concern for staff—specifically the effects long-term exposure to chemicals in cleaning products. It was also done to further the university’s green goals.

The actual switch came after several years of researching alternatives. This is because most of the options were not financially viable, Barban says.

The situation changed when the Algoma team began working with Thunder Bay, Ontario-based Boreal Solutions Inc, a distributor of janitorial supplies, and Peterborough, Ontario-based Enviro-Solutions Ltd, a manufacturer and secondary distributor of green cleaning supplies. These two vendors offered an array of cleaning products that seemed to fit, so Algoma decided to test them for a year.

During that time, the university eliminated the use of toxic and corrosive cleaning and maintenance materials and shifted to products bearing either the Green Seal or EcoLogo labels. It also cut the amount of waste it produced.

“We trained our staff to do things a little differently, such as using microcloths,” explains Barban.

“When we finished and came up with a line of products we could use, we realized we could be 100 percent green and we made that our goal. We finally worked it out and it was at no extra cost.”

Lower costs
There were one-time expenses for things like product testing, meetings and training sessions. But the overall spend from year to year on cleaning products is now lower.

There are other benefits, too. Barban says his staff are “ecstatic” that they don’t need to worry about exposure to toxic chemicals. There’s less mixing of chemicals, since many of the products are multi-purpose. Each staff member now has his or her own microcloths, which are washed and dried on site after each use. “Basically we just set up a more responsible system and [staff is] quite happy with it,” says Barban.