Meet the Grassroots Green Cleaning Leader Who Doesn’t Shy From a Challenge

March 30, 2015

HSC Profiles Green Clean Schools Leadership Council Member Tommy Little

We are thrilled to welcome Tommy Little, Georgia Tech’s Manager of Building Services, to our Green Clean Schools Leadership Council. Little has helped to build Georgia Tech’s award-winning program through patience, courage and a philosophy built on healthful cleaning principles. Under Little, Georgia Tech’s program earned the 2007 Green Cleaning Award Honorable Mention and continues to lead the way with its innovative program and thorough approach to implementation.

Green Cleaning Out on a Limb
Little has been practicing green cleaning at Georgia Tech since 2003. “Back then there was a lot of thought about green chemicals not being effective and just being more expensive,” he recalls. In order to push forward with their green cleaning plan, “We really had to go out on a limb where other universities hadn’t.”

The switch to green cleaning was helped along by a professor. She was having negative physical reactions to a cleaning agent that Little and his team were using in the building where she taught. Most days, they weren’t allowed to clean that building, and the school would have to send the professor home if disinfection was necessary. This was an untenable situation that got Little thinking about alternate ways to clean the campus. “If there’s something out there that is healthier to clean with, then we should use it,” says Little. They pursued greener, healthier alternatives despite the doubtful culture at the time. “We were not afraid to take the challenge.”

Grassroots Green Cleaning Team
The result was a switch to green chemicals, where all staff members, including the professor who was having bad reactions, could enjoy a healthier work environment. From there, Little and his team focused on equipment that used less water and chemicals, searching for third-party certifications when possible. This meant a new approach to training staff, too. “We had a training process to educate our employees on what we were doing and why we were doing it,” says Little.

The approach worked. Georgia Tech’s program won the Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities Honorable Mention in 2007. Little thinks of the green cleaning program at Georgia Tech as a grassroots organization. When they started making these big changes to how they cleaned, “there was no flagship organization that had all the answers,” remembers Little. “We were just learning as we went. When no one else is doing it, you’re the leader. That’s what inspired us to work so hard.”

Ask Little Yourself
The Green Clean Schools Leadership Council brings together award-winning school facility managers to provide up-to-date guidance to us here at Healthy School Campaign on new developments in green cleaning in addition to directly advising other school facility leaders. As a member of the Council, Little will be a valuable resource for those starting new programs. His words of advice? “There’s no rush.”

“When you’re first starting out, take your time and do it responsibly,” he advises. “Don’t just do it overnight because your boss wants it done. You have to grow your program and engage your audience including custodial staff and those you serve, because you want buy in.”

Fill out our program assessment to begin your relationship with the Council and to start learning from award-winning experts like Little. The Council’s guidance is customized to your program’s needs and desires, plus it is completely free of charge. If you have any questions about the Council, contact Mark Bishop at Mark@healthyschoolscampaign.org.