“What Josh Stoffel doesn’t know..”

May 7, 2010 at 9:15 am (Uncategorized)

 My interview with Donald Sullivan, head of custodial services at UMass, was greatly beneficial to my final paper.  After finally finding his office in the maze of the physical plant building, I was able to ask good a conversation with him.

First I asked him what the custodial staff was doing to go green.  He said that all of their chemicals now must be green-approved.  They use foam soap in all of the bathrooms now that create less waste.  They have taken the bleaching products out of their paper products.  “We are doing our best to go green,” he says.  But he seemed very confused about the subject.  All of the aspects in going green are extremely complicated, and he said that he was even more confused than he was before he stared the process.  “My head is spinning from it.”  I had to agree… there had been so much that I had already researched about the sustainability effort that it was hard to keep a firm grip on.  Personally, he really does not know all of the details in the sustainability process, and he jokes in saying that “ if you can put a green sicker on something.  Hallelujah.”   This open my eyes to the fact that there maybe  be other departments at UMass that really don’t know everything that is going on either; there is so many aspects of going green,  it is hard to keep track of. 

I then asked him if employees are taught to shut off the lights after cleaning a classroom.  He nods his head and says “Good question.”  The answer is yes; the direction to employees is to shut everything of after cleaning part of a building.  I was curious about this because I saw how frustrated Josh Stoffel  was  when he would come into work in the morning seeing lights on.  By mentioning this, Don Sullivan started a long conversation with  “what Josh Stoffel doesn’t know.”  I learned from him that the relationship between the university and the custodial staff is quite the complicated one.  They do try to make a conscious effort, but sometimes Sullivan has workers in classrooms until one am.  And sometimes, the “control people” forget to shut the heat off, so the workers naturally open the windows because it’s so hot.  This is why when one walks into a classroom in the morning, all of the windows are left open.  Sullivan tries to get in contact with control to shut the heat off at night, but most of the time it does not work out.  Also, when cleaning during the day, they may leave the lights on in classrooms because there is usually a 15 minute break in between classes; there is really no point in shutting them off.  Some buildings  are even required to have the lights on all night.  In addition, most of the time Sullivan has only one or two staff covering five floors, so it really can’t be them leaving things on all of the time.  Sullivan says that it is the students too, that are doing this.  So I think the reason for the phantom light bulbs and windows open in Stoffel’s  office is a result of discrepancies between custodial staff, university, and the heating plant.  Maybe if they were somehow to communicate more, they could solve this problem more efficiently.  I feel like a lot of wasted energy issues could be solved with more communication. 

Next, I asked what are they improving upon, and Sullivan gave me insight into a mass energy-audit the campus did four or five years ago.  Every single light bulb was replaced with a smaller, more efficient ones, and low flush toilets were put into place.  Millions of dollars were out into this project.  Also, he talked about how much of an asset the new power plant is.  He really stressed that it is saving campus a ton of energy.  He said that before it was constructed,   “so much energy was wasted here it was incredible.”   For instance, windows in dorms in the wintertime were always open because so much excess heat was being pumped through the rooms.   He says that we all should be thankful for the plant.

Finally, he confirmed my document search about building codes.  He did not know specifically, but he said that the reason why “a lot of things can’t get done” is because if we go over a certain amount of money, the entire building must be renovated.  From our conversation, I got the impression that many think that these codes are getting in the way of what we could potentially do to make this campus a lot greener.


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