By Marina Andalon
Daily Press Staff Writer

On Aug. 17, the Green Janitor Program graduated 28 janitors at the Water Garden building in Santa Monica. The Santa Monica Business Park had 20 workers certified in 2014 and Kilroy Santa Monica recently had nine employees graduate.

The Green Janitor Education Program is an environmental education program for janitors resulting in a certification. The program provides hands on energy management and green cleaning training to address the Operations and Maintenance practices that enable buildings to meet green performance standards. It was designed and piloted in collaboration with Building Skills Partnership (BSP), the U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles Chapter (USGBC-LA), the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater Los Angeles industry experts, and building owners.

Dominique Hargreaves, the Executive Director of the US Green Building Council LA Chapter said, “It’s the West Coast, particularly Los Angeles region that has set new standards for green cleaning. Janitors ultimately have the upper hold of what goes on in the building. They are the eyes and the ears and see things in the building that other employees don’t. At the end of the program they have a really good understanding of environmental sustainability that not only benefits them but also the building managers.”

Joel Cesare is thrilled that employees of Santa Monica are getting involved with the Green Janitor Program. Cesare is the Sustainability Building Advisor of Santa Monica and said; “We are becoming increasingly aware that the value in green building comes not only from their construction, but also from their maintenance and operations. Janitors have a unique skill set and perspective on a building and its occupants. Investing in their green training will help us operate buildings that use less water and energy, produce less waste, and are safer for employees and visitors.”

The program includes 30 hours of curriculum, in Spanish or English. It includes exams as well as a formal graduation at the end. The training doesn’t just focus on what green cleaning is, but also why it is important to save energy. Once the program is completed the janitors get trained and certified as “Green Janitors,” as well as receive $125 for taking the program. There have now been over 600 janitors across the LA region that have been trained and certified.

Melva Flores is now a certified Green Janitor who graduated on Aug. 17, and spoke at the Water Garden graduation. She said “The program had a strong impact on me because we did not just learn about sustainability, we learned why it is important and how to apply it in our work and our houses. The triple bottom line, people, planet, and earnings was the most important concept to me because I learned to see things as a whole.”

Funding for the program consists of approximately 40% employer contribution and the remainder from a state grant under the California Employment Training Panel (ETP). A seed grant from Southern California Gas Company was also used to develop the curriculum and launch the first pilot.

Aida Barragan, Executive Director of Building Skills Partnership summed up the significance of the program by saying, “This program is amazing, the janitors are not only learning sustainability skills but also learning why we going towards an everyday green lifestyle at home and in workplace.”

Overall the program helps the building owner and managers save money, create a healthier business and building. It empowers the janitors, allowing them to be proactive within the building, and gives them a real certification that also increases their value in their field.

“Santa Monica is very progressive around sustainability, and the city has high goals that we want to be a part of and this program can help the environment as well as the city,” said Hargreaves.