Clean SHiFT Team Wins 2022 EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year

The products we use to clean our spaces impact not only those who use them, but also the environments into which they are discharged. A multi-disciplinary team has been working to help with the transition to safer chemicals for cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing food trucks in Washington.  

In recognition of their efforts, the Clean Safety & Health in Food Trucks (Clean SHiFT) team received a 2022 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Image of EPA Safer Choice Award poster

The Clean SHiFT team was one of 26 teams across 14 states to receive the recognition. The EPA Safer Choice program helps consumers, businesses, and facility purchasers find products that are safer for human health and the environment.  

The Clean SHiFT team was a 2019-2020 EarthLab Innovation Grantee team that developed tools and educational materials to promote safer cleaning techniques and products in food trucks in Washington State. Many common cleaning products negatively impact the environment and human health. The resulting increases in exposures to chemicals are associated with acute and chronic health problems that disproportionately affect communities of color, women and children. With food trucks growing in popularity not only in our region, but nationally, there is a huge opportunity to help operators improve their health impacts.  

Image of food truck.

Through a collaboration between the University of Washington, the Washington State Food Truck Association, Heritage University, PopUPjustice, and the Washington State Department of Ecology, the Clean SHiFT team conducted a survey in English and Spanish of 49 food truck operators. 

Photo of the Clean SHiFT team members.

The team used the survey results to develop a bilingual online toolkit (English and Spanish) that includes six steps for safer cleaning to improve air quality and reduce respiratory hazards, a storytelling instructional video highlighting the selection of Safer Choice-certified products, and a fact sheet on cleaning and disinfecting. The toolkit also features a bumper sticker that can be shared with customers to access information on safer cleaning products, including Safer Choice-certified products.

“Clean SHiFT demonstrates how valuable EarthLab’s research to practice projects are for reaching small employers and their employees with innovative products that benefit both the environment and public health,” says Nancy Simcox, lead PI of the project.

Hear from Aurora Martin of popUPjustice on what this award means to the team: 2022 EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year YouTube video.

The Clean SHiFT team includes staff from the University of Washington’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Science Continuing Education Program, UW Bothell’s School of Nursing and Health Studies, popUPjustice, the Washington State Department of Ecology, the Washington State Department of Health, King and Yakima County health districts, and students from Heritage University and the University of Washington.  

This work was sponsored by an EarthLab Innovation Grant which supports projects at the intersection of climate change and social justice. To learn more about the Innovation Grants program, including how to apply for the current round of grants, click here.


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John Vidale has been interested in the earth and its inner workings since he was a young boy, thanks to his mother, a geologist. His longtime love for geology, math and physics brought him to Yale and Caltech for his undergraduate and graduate studies, respectively, followed by years as a researcher and professor across California before moving to Seattle.

Now, he’s nearing a decade at the UW, where he works with the state and federal government for public hazard mitigation and serves as Washington’s resident earthquake expert, where he’s tasked, among many other things, with collaborating with others to create an earthquake preparedness plan for at-risk areas—Seattle included.

“Seeing the city take action based on our research really gives me a feeling that I’m not working on something that might one day benefit people, but that will have an immediate impact. It keeps the University more connected to the community because it’s not just ivory tower research.”