Duke Receives Green Seal Certification for Cleaning

Duke is the second university in North Carolina and ninth in the United States to earn the certification

Team members from UEVS
From left to right, UEVS Director Joshua Eaton, UEVS Executive Director Dr. Leslye Kornegay and UEVS Senior Supervisor Pamela Bell-Jones celebrate the Green Seal Certification on May 20 at Grainger Hall. Photo by Stephen Schramm.

Duke is the second university in North Carolina and ninth in the United States to earn the certification from Green Seal, a nonprofit devoted to improving environmental health.

After earning the certification for its work in Grainger Hall, UEVS will apply the same green policies and procedures to how it cleans all campus buildings. Other buildings will be evaluated by Green Seal in the future in order to maintain the certification.

In all, UEVS is responsible for cleaning over 140 university buildings, including labs, libraries, classrooms, offices and event venues.

UEVS received support for the certification process from Sustainable Duke, which was able to direct donor funding to the project as part of Duke’s Climate Commitment.

“This is a wonderful example of how Sustainable Duke was able to partner with UEVS and leverage donor funding focused on environmental health to implement a program that will create lasting and sustainable change on campus,” said Duke Executive Director of Climate and Sustainability Tavey Capps.

The certification process, which began prior to the pandemic, required training on green cleaning methods, documenting the products used during the cleaning process and, if needed, switching to more environmentally friendly cleaning materials and approaches. It culminated with a site inspection and a review of cleaning plans and inventories by experts from Green Seal.

UEVS Director Joshua Eaton said that housekeepers had already adopted many of the sustainable cleaning techniques and green products prior to the certification process. One of the most visible changes was made roughly five years ago when UEVS housekeepers switched from wiping surfaces with disposable paper products to reusable microfiber cloths.

UEVS Director Joshua Eaton serves cake at May's Green Seal Certification celebration. Photo by Stephen Schramm.

“Our department has a lot of things in place on campus in support of safety and sustainability that people may not see,” Eaton said. “To put in the extra work and get the actual certification helps us highlight what our team is doing to help the environment and keep people safe.”

For UEVS Senior Supervisor Pamela Bell-Jones, who leads the teams that cover seven West Campus buildings including Grainger Hall, the training sessions on green cleaning techniques were helpful for showing her team new ways to think about cleaning.

For example, Bell-Jones said that it’s common for people to equate a properly cleaned space with the scent of cleaning products. However, according to the Green Seal training, in most cases, using the recommended amount of cleaning products won’t result in a noticeable smell. The amount needed to leave a scent is likely excessive and can expose people who use the space to higher-than-needed doses of chemicals.

“It was educational not just to learn about the products we use when we’re cleaning, but also to change our mindset about how we clean and how that affects the environment and people,” Bell-Jones said. “It just makes everything healthier, both the environment and the people. We can clean with confidence and be health-conscious at the same time.”

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