"Green Cleaning Improves Indoor Air Quality"
Novato Unified School District
School Contact Information
John Silvestrini, Facilities Manager firstname.lastname@example.org Novato Unified School District, Novato Whole District, Public surburban
Executive Director of Facilities for Novato Unified School District since 2005. Responsible for Maintenance, Operations, Transportation, and Bond Measure Construction. Responsible for IAQ, IPM, recycling, organic gardens, energy efficiency, conservation, and consideration of solar installations (unrealized).* I Am Available to Mentor Other Green School Honor Roll Members.
The Green School Story
We addressed these 4 Pillars of a Green School
- Strive to be Toxics Free
- Use Resources Sustainably
- Create Green Schoolyards and Serve Healthy Food
- Teach Stewardship & Student Action
We have taken these steps from the 7 Steps to a Green School
- Establish a green team
- Do a school Environmental audit
- Develop an action plan
- Monitor progress
Environmental Challenge or Goal Addressed
NUSD was confronted with a serious Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) incident in 2001, and it became clear that we needed to address the threats to student and staff health from poor indoor air quality. Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is an invisible enemy of students and educators alike, triggering allergies and asthma, contributing to absenteeism, and reducing productivity. Asthma is the primary cause of school absenteeism from a chronic illness, which results not only in lost learning time, but also in lost revenue to schools. To reduce the number of asthmatic and allergic reactions among students, we set out to improve indoor air quality with the hope of maximizing our students’ learning experiences and performance, as well as staff productivity for the district.
Our Green School Approach
Step One was to create a volunteer IAQ Steering Committee in 2003. It was a great place to start. For the next several years, the committee met with district executive staff culminating in an agreement to implement a pilot project of the EPA's Tools for Schools (TfS) program. We met some resistance to change, and it was slow going, but worth the effort. We started out using a great online survey/checklist, but the company that offered it went out of business. We then took some time to create our own online survey tool with a $1,000 donation from Environ Corp. Using an online survey tool to assess practices and air quality status throughout a school's various departments has proven very effective and we recommend it highly.
We took Step Two in 2004-2005 when we piloted TfS at an elementary and a middle school, continuing the pilot through the ’05-’06 school year. We hit another roadblock when we lost our Maintenance & Operations Manager, but we got right back to work the following year, expanding TfS to encompass 4 schools, including a high school and another elementary campus.
Though the IAQ Steering Committee presents a report to the School Board each year, this has been a collaborative effort through and through. Dedicated parent volunteers, community partners, and many levels of school staff and management have helped us achieve our goals.
In October 2007, Sustainable Novato founded the Green Schools Coalition of Novato with representatives from each of the 13 schools plus Novato Charter School. The IAQ Steering Committee was among the collaborative partners. Sustainable Novato produced the Green Schools Community Forum in 2008 and aired it on Novato Public Access TV and Comcast in southern Marin, for county-wide coverage. It gathered decision makers and interested parties together to educate and advocate for Green Schools programs like recycling, energy efficiency, conservation, solar power, organic gardens, green cleaning supplies, reduction of toxins at school in general (Integrated Pest Management-IPM), and expansion of TfS.
Step Three entailed high level buy-in and vision -- Last year (2008-2009) the District established a Board-level Sustainability Committee, with representatives from all schools, principals from each level, community partners, staff from Nutritional Services, Facilities, and Finance.
The district's Sustainability Committee now considers IAQ, IPM, recycling, organic gardens, and energy conservation issues in its advisory capacity to the Board. The Committee is charged with drafting sustainability policy for consideration by the Board, beginning with recycling.
Changes and Benefits We've Achieved
Improving IAQ is a multi-faceted effort, and requires time and teamwork. Overall, we have achieved improved indoor air quality, and have made great strides toward overall sustainability for NUSD. The problem is not entirely solved, but we have organizations, plans and community partners in place to continue to address outstanding issues.
A few of the nuts and bolts improvements include:
1) Plant: HVAC filter changes have been increased from only once to 3 times per year; we replaced inoperable single pane windows and vents with dual pane in summer bond measure construction; trained groundskeepers to blow debris away from air intakes; ventilators now encouraged to run at all times; we installed walk-off mats for all pilot schools.
2) Cleaning: We replaced antiquated equipment with HEPA filter vacuums; improved dusting rotations; increased custodial training; removed unapproved cleaning supplies from classrooms; the district provided teachers with a list of approved cleaning supplies, and the PTA paid for cleaning supplies to replace unauthorized cleaners (in 2007-2008 the district took over financial responsibility for providing teachers with approved cleaning supplies.)
The 2008-2009 school year saw a big leap forward: NUSD began the school year with all Green Seal Certified cleaning supplies by Buckeye International, at no additional cost. We streamlined cleaning operations by using Smart Center dispensers for automatic dilution (reducing chemical exposure to custodians and ensuring proper mix of cleaners with water) and Aerofoam blue hand soap dispensers. To further reduce our use of toxic substances, we eliminated bleach and converted to a water-based floor coating instead of toxic floor strippers for gym floors.
The IAQ Steering Committee, the Green Schools Coalition of Novato, Sustainable Novato, and the District's Sustainability Committee have worked together with Facilities to accomplish a great deal for NUSD -- especially at the piloted schools in the district. NUSD and Sustainable Novato are now mentoring other school districts in converting to green cleaning supplies -- beginning with Mill Valley School District. The latter went green at the beginning of 2009-2010 school year after consulting with NUSD's maintenance staff.
We are proud to report that by 2011, we will see full implementation of TfS in the Novato USD.
- John Silvestrini, Executive Director of Facilities
- Marie Chan, Co-IAQ Coordinator (according to the EPA, Marie is the only Co-IAQ Coordinator in the country who is a parent volunteer), Chair of IAQ Steering Committee, Founder of Green Schools Coalition of Novato, VP of Environmental Health for Sustainable Novato, IPM Committee member, District Sustainability Committee member, parent volunteer
- Mark Silva, Director of Maintenance, Operations, & Transportation
- Ernie Astorga, Custodial Supervisor
- Tom Hill, Grounds Keeping & Maintenance Supervisor
- Dave Goodwin, HVAC Specialist
- Marie Hoemke, RN, MPH, IAQ Steering Committee
- Matt McCarron, (CA Integrated Waste Mgt. Board) IAQ Steering Committee
- Cynthia Dahl, (Senior Mgr., Environ Corp.)IAQ Steering Committee
- Site principals and nurses
- Many volunteer parents over the years from the 4 pilot sites.
How We Involved Students
We spoke with Environmental Clubs about the program and gave an interview to the student paper at one high school. We now have selected 4 high school student interns who will analyze the data from the online surveys and present a report to the school board.
Our Timeline for Change
Resources We Used
Our Inspiration and Motivation
We were motivated by our primary mission: educating children. If a school district cannot provide a healthy and safe environment conducive to student achievement, it impairs its own ability to fulfill its mission to educate students to their full potential.
To keep our IAQ efforts moving forward, we've launched Tools for Schools in 1/2 of Novato schools this week. We'll launch in the remaining schools next year.
We also aim to a) recruit new members to the Steering Committee, b)train the next IAQ Coordinator; c) continue to recruit and train volunteers. We look forward to continuing to mentor other school districts.
Our Advice to Other Schools
We highly recommend using an online survey tool when using TfS. (We created ours in Survey Monkey)
The rest of the advice is applicable to any school venture:
1) Be clear about the vision and potential benefits to the school.
2) Do your homework--especially on costs, time required, and labor.
3) Communicate effectively and thoroughly. Be a good listener and try to craft a solution that works for all.
4) Build collaborative partnerships.
5) Document everything.
6) Invest in training--yourself & others.
7) Recruit continually: Get PTAs to add a Green Team line on Volunteer sheets for the following school year. This improves your chances for volunteers each fall.
8) Publicize your work by giving presentations in the community or interviews to media. Use all available avenues to educate the community, drum up assistance and/or publicity: Table at Back-to-School-Nights each fall. Use e-newsletters or school blogs.
9) Be persistent, patient, and flexible.
10) Praise liberally and celebrate successes!
Tools to Share
Buckeye International, source of green cleaning supplies:
"Marauder"--all purpose cleaner
"Star Spray"--ready-to-use glass cleaner
"True 7"--neutral pH cleaner
"Terminator"--cleaner/disinfectant (Disinfectants cannot be considered truly green, but this one is less toxic than the product it replaced.)
"Aerofoam Blue"--hand soap in wall dispensers.