November 6, 2015
Source: Melanie Aleman, Intern, Emory Office of Sustainability Initiatives

Emory’s Building and Residential Services Launches New Sustainability Programs
Some of the sustainability advancements at Emory are subtle and sometimes unseen. Led by Director Stephen Branch, Emory’s Building and Residential Services (BRS) department is launching initiatives to further Emory’s sustainability goals by maximizing efficiency and minimizing waste.

In an effort to reduce the amount of chemicals purchased and handled by the 400 members of Emory’s janitorial staff, Branch has led the switch to electrolyzed water as a disinfectant and cleaning product that promises to further Emory’s long-standing efforts to improve employee working conditions while simultaneously reducing environmental hazards.

“Electrolyzed water has been around for a century,” says Branch, “and it’s a process that takes regular water, gives it an ionic charge which attracts dirt and gives it a disinfectant property when mixed with sodium.”

Technology advancements have allowed this process to be used in industrial settings, where before the shelf life of these products was extremely limited. Now, through the procurement of 14 machines, Emory gains the ability to use electrolyzed water campus-wide as general-purpose bathroom and carpet cleaners. This program reduces the number of chemicals used from more than 40 to only five. Each machine has the capability to produce 200 to 300 gallons of cleaning product per day, while on average 600 to 700 gallons are used each day for all of Emory’s cleaning purposes. This shift to electrolyzed water translates into a 50 to 60 percent cost reduction for the purchase of cleaning products, which averages about $100,000 per year.

“Most people would be surprised at how hazardous the average household cleaner is,” Branch continues. “Some chemicals in household cleaners are linked to respiratory problems and other health issues. I am happy I am able to say to my staff that Emory has a long-standing commitment to green cleaning through safe cleaning products that is furthered by the use of this product. They appreciate being able to do their jobs without harm to themselves or the environment.”

In addition, Branch is working with EcoLab to pilot refillable hand soap in Emory bathrooms. Under the traditional system, about 100 hand soap plastic bottles are discarded each day, but the new system will reduce waste by 40 percent.

Lastly, BRS is restructuring its procurement practices in order to eliminate ordering wasteful surpluses. Rather than delivering maintenance products—such as plastic bags for recycling bins—to each building, these items will now be delivered to a centralized procurement office, which will monitor and control items used, and allow for just-in-time deliveries.

“Through this system, my custodians and supervisors won’t have to guess how much they will need for the month in their building, but will be able to get it through procurement as needed,” Branch concludes, which will help reduce the number of unnecessary deliveries, and their associated costs and carbon footprint.

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