Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Lipscomb University: A comprehensive effort toward sustainability

September 19, 2010
Lipscomb University is a private liberal arts university that educates more than 3,000 students in Nashville, Tennessee.

Recently, the president of the university formed the Institute for Sustainable Practice that was designed to drive sustainability initiatives, generate awareness of sustainable measures and increase the campus’ marketability.

This initiative required each university department to find sustainable alternatives to current programs.

“The Institute for Sustainable Practice was formed as a way to formally explore and implement green practices,” said Don Johnson, associate director for sustainable facilities management at Lipscomb University. “In the facility management department, we already had a recycling program and limited the number of toxins used in our cleaning chemicals, but we knew there was more we could do.”

To green cleaning and beyond
The facility management department partnered with a leading green chemical manufacturer to implement a full-scale green cleaning program.

The department phased out the use of chemicals without Green Seal certification and implemented a comprehensive microfiber cloth and flat mop system.

Manufacturer representatives worked closely with department managers to develop and conduct several training courses that were held for 105 facilities management personnel to educate them on the new products and procedures.

Wall charts were created in 16 languages to help train staff.

In addition to green cleaning, the university also implemented geothermal heating and cooling systems in three campus buildings, including one residential complex.

The system provides faculty, staff and students with thermostatic controls to adjust temperatures to their individual comfort levels.

Occupancy controls monitor activity in each building, turning off lights and heat when the building is empty.

A student-engineered biodiesel station recycles all cooking oil used in campus kitchens.

The biodiesel has zero carbon emissions and is used to fuel outdoor campus equipment including fork lifts, boom lifts and other utility vehicles.

Glycerin, the only byproduct of the process, is sold to a local soap manufacturer, so the biodiesel only costs 3 cents a gallon to manufacture.

After a drought last year, the university replaced non-native plants with indigenous species.

Water gardens have been created to effectively capture rainwater or irrigation run off, providing an effective alternative to retention ponds.

It’s all green to Lipscomb University
“The programs we implemented provided unique ways to green our university and take aim at sustainability on a large scale,” Johnson said. “But, our goal wasn’t just to create a few large programs; we also wanted to go green in common ways that promote sustainability in everyday life.”

These common programs include recycling programs for paper, aluminum, cardboard and plastic, and replacing all incandescent lighting on campus with energy-efficient alternatives.

The university also engineered its first solar-powered golf cart and started cutting power to the campus central heating plant from April to November.

The campus also developed an extensive preventative maintenance program to ensure all equipment is running at optimal performance.

“We saw a lot of positive results from the big steps we took towards sustainability,” Johnson said. “But, the everyday things we did such as recycling and installing energy efficient light bulbs also helped us save money and contributed to our overall success.”

Seeing green with green
Lipscomb University’s initial results were positive as the organization was able to pay off its investment in geothermal systems within 18 months.

The university decreased the number of cleaning products used in campus buildings by nearly 30 percent, reducing packaging waste and shipping costs.

The biodiesel program saved an additional $12,000 to $15,000 per year.

By turning off its central heating plant, the university saved an additional $160,000 annually, which contributed to overall savings of $250,000 to $500,000 in the past year.

“Not many facilities realize the money that can be saved with a thorough commitment to sustainability,” Johnson said. “Going green is not only about saving the environment and making our campus a safer place for students to learn, it’s a solid business strategy.”

Tom Boscher is sector manager for retail and building service contractors at JohnsonDiversey. For more information on developing a green cleaning program, please visit