March 21, 2022

Caretaking department honoured with prestigious sustainability award

Environmental stewardship award further qualifies UCalgary as a leader in sustainability and safety
caretaking staff with plaque
Members of the caretaking staff proudly show their award.

The University of Calgary has been recognized as the 2022 recipient of the ISSA Canada Environmental Stewardship Award.

ISSA Canada — a division of the worldwide cleaning industry association — presents the award to Canadian facilities committed to environmental management and a dedication to the value of clean.

“I am honoured to be accepting the Environmental Stewardship Award on behalf of the caretaking team at the University of Calgary,” says Michael Love, the UCalgary caretaking director.

Love says the award highlights the university’s commitment to sustainability, and the caretaking department is proud to be recognized for their excellence in operational practices and collaborations to create a world-class campus.

Caretaking is a big, big job

The caretaking department is responsible for 7,880,348 cleanable square feet which includes: 334 classrooms, 476 washrooms and 6,784 offices and cubicles. This is no ordinary feat when you consider that the university is home to approximately 33,000 students and 5,000 staff who depend on the cleanliness, health and safety aspects of the work the caretaking staff carry out each day.

The University of Calgary is a leader in sustainability and safe, environmentally conscious practices. With an Institutional Sustainability Strategy in place, the university has a clear vision to become a zero-waste leader amongst post-secondary institutions across Canada. In fact, the university’s goal is to divert 70 per cent of waste by 2025 and 90 per cent by 2030.

“We’ve worked really hard to not only implement more environmentally friendly systems and approaches but to change a culture, and that’s something that hasn’t been easy,” says Love. “We are all really proud of where we are today within our department and with what the university has committed to and is accomplishing campus-wide.”

UCalgary has implemented waste reduction programs like Standardized Four Stream Waste Stations (to separate trash, refundable beverage containers, mixed recycling, and compostables), a Blue Bucket Program (for safe lab waste collection and disposal), the Washroom Paper Towel Program (to ensure paper products are diverted from waste collection to the composting stream), and the Green Cleaning Program (the use of green-certified, low-volatile organic compound products).

On top of these programs, the university has also embraced technology with the use of robots and efficient machines that require one-third less water and 70 per cent less chemicals.

Collective value of sustainability

“Sustainability is a collective value and a community effort on our campuses, and the caretaking team proudly incorporates this into every facet of their operations,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, UCalgary president.

McCauley’s sentiments were echoed by Mike Van Hee, the interim vice-president of finance and services at UCalgary.

“We are very proud of this achievement by our tremendous caretaking team, particularly as it relates to sustainability which is among our most fundamental priorities as an institution,” says Van Hee.

UCalgary also trains and engages with caretaking staff and collaborates with the Office of Sustainability and other departments on making the campus a sustainable, healthy and safe place to work and learn.  

“Education and collaboration have always been paramount in our department,” says Ana Pazmino, manager of caretaking programs.

Partnership with students, faculty

Pazmino says the caretaking department works closely with students and faculty through the Campus as Learning Lab program, in which the Office of Sustainability presents a sustainability question the university is facing in caretaking, and students provide input on how to solve it.

“In our work to care for physical spaces, we are always mindful of the impact on the planet and the contribution to the health and safety of the larger campus community, as well as the student learning experience,” says Love.

That work has culminated in this award, and ISSA Canada Executive Director Mike Nosko says UCalgary has the most knowledgeable staff that he has ever seen when it comes to cleaning procedures and environmental practices.

“The ability of the university to meet the criteria for our prestigious award was simply off the charts,” says Nosko.  

UCalgary has previously been awarded the Cleaning Industry Management Standard Green Building certification, also offered by ISSA.