Custodial Sustainability


Greening How We Clean

Facilities Managements number one goal is to help the campus meet its sustainability both environmentally and financially. Many of the changes happen behind the scenes, but a few, like a brand new toilet paper dispensing system, are very up-close and personal.

“You might not think of toilet paper and toilet paper dispensers as a particularly innovative thing, but imagine a new design helping to save 10 percent of the stuff,” said Custodial Services director, Bill Rumley.


An opportunity arose when UCOP negotiated a system-wide contract with a single distributor to provide sustainable products to all UC campuses. Custodial Services jumped on board and replaced all soap, paper towel and toilet paper (as well as their dispensers) with new, environmentally friendly products. Since Custodial Services introduced these products, they’ve heard from supporters and detractors alike.  “I absolutely hate to hear stories like one shared by a staff member in Mrak Hall who asked someone in the neighboring stall to pass toilet paper under the partition because the dispenser in her own stall broke,” said Rumley. 

However, some say they appreciate having more functional paper towel dispensers and improved air quality realized by switching to less toxic cleaning products. These stories are music to a custodian’s ears. 

We were taking a calculated risk introducing new toilet paper dispensers across campus, and while it’s saving money and resources, it hasn’t worked out perfectly for the user,” said Rumley.

dispensersHe also acknowledges that in some cases, Custodial Services could have been a little quicker patching holes in drywall and toilet partitions left behind when the old equipment was removed. 

custodianWhile providing toilet paper reliably to the campus community is being diligently addressed, Custodial Services has already seen an average drop in paper purchases of nearly 13 percent, coupled with a 7 percent drop in total paper expenditures. One reason we’re using less paper is because the new dispensers kept the backup roll from dropping into place until the first roll is empty. That way, there’s less chance of people using, say, half of one roll and half of the other roll — requiring the custodian to swap out both rolls at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, the dispenser’s components, though intended to reduce paper waste, simply didn’t hold up to real-life use. So, while the manufacturer works on a permanent fix, Custodial Services is removing the sliding mechanism in each dispenser that prevents users from accessing the second roll of paper — because no one should be forced to battle with a malfunctioning dispenser. 

bathroom papertowels

Paper Towels in the Dispenser, Not On the Floor

Standardizing equipment across campus means all restrooms should now have a functioning paper towel dispenser. In the past, some restrooms had dispensers that made use of folded-type paper towels – the kind where you can grab one or a handful. Often unused paper towels were found scattered across bathroom floors during each evening clean-up. Now all paper towels are securely stored inside a dispenser for people to grab one at a time. 


Foaming Soap Saves Water

UC Davis is also using a new foaming soap system that reduces water consumption, waste, and makes clean-up a breeze. The old dispensers used non-refillable liquid soap inserts, which ended up in the landfill, often partially full. We now have new dispensers each containing refillable inserts capable of being topped off each night to reduce waste. Plus, the foaming soap requires less water to rinse from your hands and doesn’t end up as a goopy mess puddled below the dispenser for the custodians to clean nightly.




Healthier Air and Surfaces

Custodian atop a floor cleaner
Custodian atop a floor cleaner which uses an on-board water ionizing system to eliminate the need for chemicals. The machine also allows technicians to regulate water flow to reduce excessive water use.

Before these changes, custodians’ arsenal totaled 15 separate cleaners, acids, and disinfectants. Now, custodians can do the same work with only four, environmentally friendly substitutes. The chemicals are designed to provide the same cleaning and disinfecting strength while reducing exposure to airborne particulates and residues. This is great for custodians and the campus community alike.

Further, Custodial Services’ practice of sustainable purchasing and cleaning methods helps UC Davis earn additional points when existing campus buildings are proposed for LEED certification, of which the campus currently has 21.

Custodial Services has a long-term goal of improving sustainability in its operations, and is taking steps to get there. It’s a work in progress, but when it comes to reliable toilet paper systems, they appreciate the urgency and will be acting very quickly.