If you want to remain competitive and project a positive image of social responsibility these days, you have to attempt to make your business more green. Companies with an eye on being greener are perceived by customers as being more worthy of their business. So how does this play out in commercial linens?
Most of the country’s big players in linens and uniforms are attempting to be greener in everything they do. The benefits of doing so go well beyond just projecting a positive public image. Thinking greener is also helping commercial laundries save money and protect the local environment at the same time.
According to Salt Lake City-based Alsco, the three most common ways linen and uniform providers are attempting to be greener are as follows:
1. Greener Cleaning Solutions
A good place to start is with a commercial laundry’s choice of cleaning solutions. We hesitate to use the word ‘chemicals’ inasmuch as it creates images of unsafe solutions that are bad for both the environment and the linens they clean. Green cleaning solutions are both eco-friendly and gentler on linens and uniforms.
Green cleaning solutions might use enzymes to break up dirt and debris and soften fabrics. They might include detergents and stain removers made from plant-based materials instead of synthetic chemicals. The one thing they all have in common is that they are friendlier to the environment. Most of them are also greener to manufacture as well. That makes them doubly beneficial from an environmental standpoint.
2. Water Use and Recycling
It should be obvious that commercial laundries use a tremendous amount of water to do what they do. In fact, it is easy to make the case that water is the single biggest resource used by facilities that process commercial linens and uniforms. As such, companies that want to be greener strive to waste as little water as possible and recycle what they can.
For example, technology now exists that allows commercial laundries to treat wastewater with ozone to destroy bacteria without using chlorine bleach. This allows for recycling is much as 90% of all gray water produced by a facility. That kind of recycling not only saves water and money, but it also prevents polluted gray water from ending up back in streams, rivers, and ponds as well.
Recycling water and reducing waste also reduces the stress on municipal water systems that may be struggling to keep up with demand. It reduces stress on wastewater treatment facilities that might otherwise be overwhelmed by the amount of wastewater produced at local laundry facilities.
3. Alternative Power Sources
The first two things discussed in this post relate directly to the tangible materials companies like Alsco use to clean their linens and uniforms. But what about the power their plants consume? Next to water, the power used to drive laundry equipment is the second largest expense for commercial laundries.
A new trend in the industry is to look for alternative power sources. For example, installing a solar thermal hot water system on the roof of a laundry facility can supplement the use of grid energy by producing some of the hot water needed for processing. Photovoltaic solar solutions and turbines are being used to generate the electricity needed to run machinery.
The commercial laundry business is a dirty business by design. However, more and more companies are looking at ways to be greener. They are looking for greener cleaning solutions; they are figuring out new ways to recycle water and reduce water waste; they are embracing alternative power sources for running their plants.