Undergraduate Research

ENV 485: Undergraduate Research

Sustainable Cleaning at NAU ResLife

Purpose: To increase student productivity and reduce sick days through environmentally sustainable cleaning methods.


Many higher education institutions have recently been converting their cleaning supply to one that values green cleaning products and Northern Arizona University is one of them. This is because these institutions realize that many generic cleaning chemicals contain hazardous substances that include:

  1.       Volatile Organic Compounds
  2.       Corrosive Chemicals
  3.       Strong Irritants
  4.       Carcinogens

Although NAU has already converted their cleaning methods to environmentally sustainable ones, there is little to no awareness of the value of using green cleaning products to the students. In an effort to further develop a culture of environmental sustainability at NAU, it is recommended that a green cleaning and sustainability education kit be distributed to the students living in the residence halls. In effect, this kit would support student integration with green cleaning and sustainable initiatives and would enhance the productivity and health of students who live in the residence halls.

A. Hypothesis – Students who use green cleaning chemicals will notice an improvement in productivity and indoor environmental quality and a reduction in sick days.

B. Null-Hypothesis – Students who use green cleaning chemicals will not notice an improvement in productivity and indoor environmental quality and a reduction in sick days.

Project Deliverables

Throughout the semester, several meetings were organized with Bryan McLaren and several other stakeholders to discuss the direction of the project as well as its progress. The following section outlines the important stakeholders that are a part of this project as well as any notes that pertain to meeting times, and any deliverables and e-mails that help to establish the validity and progress of this project.


NAU SUstainability Administrator

The NAU Office of Sustainability allows its administrator to oversee this project and recommend any changes or critiques that may be pertinent to the overall success of the project. Throughout the semester I met with him a number of times. These meetings had multiple purposes.

Associate Direcotr of Residence Life

The Associate Director of Residence Life at NAU and had a lot of helpful input that assisted the direction of this project.

Residence Life Student Administrator

The Residence Life Student Administrator at NAU and has a significant impact on the student community in terms of developing and implementing sustainable initiatives within the residence halls. Thus their understanding and appreciation of the importance of this project is a helpful asset when progressing into the pilot and implementation phases of this project.


The custodial department is limited in their ability to effectively clean every facility on campus and not many fully understand and appreciate the duties and responsibilities that this department has. As recommended by the Custodial Director, student and faculty awareness over cleaning and especially green cleaning will be a valuable help since students and faculty may take a better understanding why they should maintain a clean campus.


The student body will be positively affected by the presence of the kit as it will aid the culture of sustainability at NAU and thus will help to influence students to use green cleaning products. By using the green cleaning products themselves, students will notice a change in their overall quality of life living in the Residence Halls. This change will be due to the improvement in cleaning ability and in effect will increase productivity and reduce the number of sick days.

Materials and Methods

The proposed sustainability kit would include seven things essential for dorm life.

  1.       An all purpose GreenSeal or EcoLogo environmentally friendly cleaner.
  2.       One reusable rag.
  3.       BioBag trashcan liners.
  4.       A duster made from post consumer product.
  5.       Environmentally friendly laundry detergent.

Interactive pamphlet describing the purpose of green cleaning products, how to use these products and any additional information pertaining to sustainable living at NAU.

In order to develop and implement this project, the following steps would need to take place. The timeline for the agenda set in the diagram below would be developed throughout the Spring 2012 semester and would finally be implemented in Fall 2012.


The pilot phase of this project will take place during the summer semester at NAU. Students will be chosen who live on campus in the residence halls and who have an interest in participating in the behavioral study. The students will receive the prototype kits and then will submit feedback by the end of the summer months. This will prepare the project to enter the implementation phase in which students will begin purchasing these kits and they will be distributed accordingly.

Written Business Plan

The NAU Green Cleaning Company will put together a comprehensive green cleaning kit, which will assist students living in the residence halls to properly clean their living space. The kit will include an all-surface liquid cleaner, a reusable rag, trashcan liners, a duster, and laundry detergent, all of which is classified as either Greenseal or EcoLogo product and products will last through the duration of a semester. These products will be obtained from a supplier such as Seventh Generation and each kit will be put together by the NAU Green Cleaning Company itself. The charge for this kit is yet to be determined but will cover the cost of the kit as well as employee wages and any additional profits will be donated to the NAU Green fund in order to support student organizations and ideas within the campus community.

As awareness rises regarding the need to use environmentally friendly products in order to help protect and conserve the Earth’s natural resources, many are looking into purchasing green cleaning products for their cleaning needs. Prices for these products are in decline and are being supplied in most grocery and convenience stores nation wide. Competitors include any grocery or convenience store, especially within walking distance of the NAU campus. However, what these competitors fail to provide are methods that educate students over the need to use these products and the ability to enrich and give back to the campus community. The ability for this company to be a part of the community will give it an advantage when marketing to students and their parents when considering cleaning methods in the residence halls.

Campus offers many opportunities year round to advertise the need to clean ones living space with environmentally conscious methods and students are typically attentive to ideas that benefit their productivity and help to reduce stress and sick days. Booths can be set up during student orientation, sporting events and even concert events in which the company can advertise its product and ideas and order can be taken in person or through a website/e-mail. Once orders are taken, the kits will be distributed upon student move in, or can be picked up at a convenient location on campus making it easy for students to obtain suitable cleaning supplies without having to travel to the nearest store in order to purchase their own cleaning supplies.

The business will be funded as students and their respective families purchase green cleaning kits from this business as the cost of the cleaning kits will be designed to cover the costs of the products and employee wages. Initially the business will only need two to three employees for start up operations and initial pilot programs. However as the business grows and demand for the product increases more employees may be hired in order to suite the demand. The business will work into a partnership once it is established with the office of sustainability at NAU and will require students associated with the NAU Green Jacks and NAU Green Fund organizations to sustain the business over longer periods of time. Any additional profits obtained through business transactions will be distributed to the organizations that assist in running the business in order to benefit their activities and goals. As an intern at the NAU Office of Sustainability I have been able to have the opportunity to gain networking and administrative experience, which will help me to make this business successful.

Throughout the past academic year I have worked on projects pertaining to the use of certified green cleaning chemicals on the Northern Arizona University campus. It has been determined through many scientific reports and government policies that typical cleaning products are at high risk due to carcinogens, volatile organic compounds, and strong irritants. Thus it is essential that awareness be raised over the importance and usage of green cleaning chemicals since they help to promote building occupant productivity and can effectively reduce sick days. Thus this business will allow me to reach out to the campus community and effectively educate students and their families over the importance of these products and the beneficial outcomes that they provide.

Product Flier


Assessment and Impact

The assessment of the attitudes and behaviors toward green cleaning products and methods would best be measured by student surveys from students who are living in the residence halls on the NAU campus during the pilot phase of the project. This would give a good measure as to the need and effectiveness of the project. Several separate surveys would need to take place in order to define the effectiveness of selling these items to students. An initial survey would take any initial information such as where student’s purchase cleaning products and additional questions would be asked in order to define their method of cleaning as well as how often they cleaned and if it makes them feel healthy. A similar survey would take place after the pilot program in order to define any differences or similarities of behavior and attitude toward green cleaning products and methods.

The student surveys are a part of a greater social and behavioral study that this project aims to complete during the assessment and pilot phases. This section includes the survey as well as an outline for the social and behavioral study along with any research that may be paramount to the success of the study and any information that will aid the understanding of how green cleaning is beneficial for people to use in comparison to traditional and more harmful cleaning products. Once this phase of the project is complete, additional information regarding the carbon, financial, social and behavioral impacts will be assessed.

General Survey

1. Where do you buy cleaning products?


Wal mart

New Frontiers


Other, Please Specify:

2. What cleaning products do you purchase? (Circle all that apply) What specific brand

Surface Cleaner

Window Cleaner


Furniture Polish

Dust pans, Dusters, Cleaning Cloths

Laundry Detergent

Other, Please Specify:

3. Do you consider the environmental impact of the cleaning products you purchase?

Yes                                          No

4. Are you aware of environmentally friendly cleaning products and methods?

Yes                                          No

5. Do you live on or off campus? If on campus, indicate residence hall in the space below.

On Campus                             Off Campus

6. Did you clean before attending college?

If so what products did you use?

7. Do you clean alone or with help from a friend/roommate?

8. How much money would you spend on a green cleaning kit that would last a semester long?

Pre/Post Implication Survey

1. When do you clean?

2. Has this products effectively improved your residential experience. Have an open comments section

3. How healthy do you feel?

4. Did you influence your roommate?

5 Rate your current cleaning arsenal on a Scale of 1-5 for the following categories.


Effectiveness of cleaning

6. Rate the Green Cleaning Kit on a Scale of 1-5 for the following categories.


Effectiveness of cleaning