by Michelle Scott
A couple of days ago I had the privilege of speaking with two of Clark’s hardest working employees whose desks quite literally house reams of paper, whose phones never stop trilling and who prefer to schedule
their meetings in five-minute increments.
These are the men of Physical Plant: Gregg Janda and Angel Ruiz. They are in charge of custodial services here; they organize the cleaning of our academic buildings, dorms and on-campus apartments. They buy the products that are buffed and rubbed all over bathrooms, kitchens and desks to make them clean.
Now, the cleaning industry hasn’t historically been a healthy one. Bleach and ammonia were staples in the scrubbing stock. These two chemicals were constantly mixed and matched, creating toxic vapors that the custodians and co-eds came in contact with.
Even common household products today might be more detrimental to your health than you think. Fabric softener products today may contain (depending on the brand) benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, ethanol, limonene, a-terpineol, ethyl acetate, camphor, chloroform, linalool and pentane. All of these components are harmful to your health in some sense (don’t believe me, ask the internet!). Luckily, we have Gregg Janda and Angel Ruiz on our side.
I bet you didn’t know that until recently, most of the cleaning supplies here at Clark were bought from the Butcher Company. The custodial crew is moving to a company called Genesan, who are providing the staff with completely biodegradable and natural products. Of the glass cleaner, the oxygenated multi-purpose cleaner, the odor eliminator and the disinfectant, only one cleaner received a Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) rating higher than zero. The disinfectant was rated 1 for “irritation or minor reversible injury possible.” Gregg Janda was told, “If you drank it, nothing bad’s going to happen to you.” He doesn’t encourage testing the hypothesis, but you get the point.
In fact, Physical Plant has an entire Sustainability Plan which they are sticking to. Not only are their cleaning solutions cleaner, but they are also committed to choosing the greener option when ecologically and functionally sound. In Lasry, the custodians are using a green seal stripper and a green finish for the floor. In case you haven’t been in Lasry for a while, Janda guarantees, “The floors look pretty good. They hold a shine.” Clark is also owner of the Tennant Micro-fiber Floor Scrubber, a machine that uses less water and less chemical than most on the market. Our paper towels and toilet paper are supplied by Bay West (a company dedicated to reforesting harvested lands within five years) and Kruger (a company that has been recycling since the ‘60s), respectively. I could go on. The custodians are testing out recycled mop heads!
Possibly the most exciting product in our new line of cleaning concoctions is the odor eliminator called PolBio Enzysan 2000. It cleans your bathrooms with the help of non-pathogenic bacteria (non-pathogenic basically meaning harmless) that destroy the source of the odors. It has a couple more ingredients, including odor neutralizing agents and perfume, but all are entirely natural. “I try to get a good, safe product that cleans well too,” said Gregg Janda. But, he admits, this new Genesan line with the Enzysan is, “…actually a better cleaning system.”
Folks living on-campus have this incredible team to think about their household health for them. If you’re living off-campus, beware but don’t be scared. You may be, as many are, of the belief that the stronger the smell, the better the clean. There are many alternatives to caustic chemicals.
Got mold? Try mixing 2 teaspoons tea tree oil and 2 cups of water in a spray bottle and spritzing. Take another spray bottle and add ½ teaspoon washing soda, a dab of liquid soap and 2 cups hot tap water. You’ve got an all-natural, all-purpose cleaner. Have a pot or pan lined with burned food?
If you’re ready for the really unconventional words of wisdom, try the advice of our very own Sustainability Coordinator, Jenny Isler. “Throw it into the woods.” The raccoons will make quick work of the burnt black bits.