“What ‘green’ laundry products are available for my operation? Are they truly ‘green’ or ‘environmentally friendly’? What’s the difference? I hear the term applied most often to chemicals, but can’t equipment or textiles carry that description, too?”
Hotel/Motel Laundering: Neil MacDonald, the Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club, Lihue, Hawaii (ONLINE EXCLUSIVE)
“Green” products available for your operation would include the sun and the wind. By that, I mean using solar or wind power to generate electricity to run your machinery and operation. That would mean installing solar panels on your roof or wind turbines in your parking lot.
Natural products and chemicals can be “green,” but it’s really a way of thinking. It’s the politically correct way to say, “save our resources” and, “be self-sufficient.” The bottom line is you will save money.
Going green is getting off the grid of your local utility company. If you make enough of your own power, you can even give it back to them. Utilizing the sun for your hot-water supply is going green.
These are green solutions for your operation. It’s energy that is always available, is free to use and can offset some, if not all, of your electric bill.
I’ve heard of some great tax rebates and incentives for those that install products to capture this energy. It may be worth looking into; the return on investment is fairly short.
Sustainability is another “green” word. Use less fossil fuel and be cost-efficient, recycling water and reclaiming heat and energy. Looking for opportunities to reduce the amount of trash that goes into our landfills is thinking green. Green is reducing the amount of water you use from 3 gallons per pound washed to .5 gallons.
The laundry industry is all about recycling and saving energy and resources. It’s built on being green.
Any time I’ve asked for equipment, saving energy is always a priority. What will we save in electricity and water? How green can we go? The laundry industry invented “green,” and now the world has to catch up!
Healthcare Laundering: Richard Hoelscher, Parkland Health & Hospital System, Dallas, Texas
The term “green” is like the word “generous.” It can be used for different reasons and in different degrees.
Green means reducing any negative impact on our environment. Energy conservation fits into this, because less pollution is made.
Many of us go green because it’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t hurt for us to toot our own horn, to be able to continue or even expand what we’re doing. While our budgets often limit the amount we can be green, going green can in many cases cost little or actually save money.
One of the easiest ways to save energy is to turn off lights, motors, boilers, heaters, air conditioning and other equipment when it isn’t needed.
Next, organize work so that it can be more quickly and efficiently completed, and minimize the number of times the equipment has to be restarted.
Fix leaks! Never let oil or hazardous chemicals get into the soil or water. Recycle anything that can be effectively recycled. Changing lights to more energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs and ballasts can have a short payback.
When equipment or components need to be changed, look at using more efficient types. Occasionally, it can even pay to replace existing good equipment.
It’s important to calculate the energy/utilities used by each option, because sometimes the load can cause an energy-efficient device to waste energy.
Water reuse/treatment can significantly reduce our environmental impact.
Chlorine bleach, phosphates, detergents/softeners with NPEs, solvents and other environmentally harmful chemicals should be avoided wherever practical. Many chemical suppliers are working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through its Design for the Environment program.
I favor using cotton, flax, hemp, bamboo and other natural fibers in textile applications where practical. But a 100% poly microfiber product might actually be greener because of decreased chemical, energy and water use.
Investing in renewable energy can also be favorable. People who paid more for their power years ago by investing in wind-generated electricity are actually having some of the lowest power bills today.
Think long term! We reap what we sew.
Chemicals Supply: Kevin McLaren, Dober Group, Woodridge, Ill.
Within the U.S. marketplace, the term “green” has been widely used and is widely misunderstood.
Unlike other global marketplaces where there have been clear-cut definitions and regulations specific to what is biodegradable, or what may legally be used within detergent formulations, the domestic marketplace is having its green definitions shaped in part by select members of industry and government.
The trade associations supporting the textile rental industry have worked to inform their members about changes in the domestic markets’ stance on claiming green status. But the absence of a single, clear definition or authoritative voice defining what constitutes “environmental friendliness” has resulted in confusion, skepticism and uncertainty.
A product’s “greenness” can be influenced by its manufacturing, including the selection of formulation components, product efficacy, packaging and the costs associated with its production and delivery to the customer/user.
Any number of detergent formulations can be prepared using only the most readily biodegradable materials, but if the detergent underperforms or requires much larger volumes and costs of use, market acceptance will be limited.
The absence of any authoritative mark of approval also creates confusion for those searching to source a green detergent.
The EPA’s voluntary Design for the Environment (DfE) program is designed to identify/market products deemed to be environmentally preferred, but it bases its selections on raw-material product databases that are incomplete.
The DfE program references formulation components listed on the CleanGredients list, which is limited to only surfactants and solvents. And these materials require that a primary manufacturer register its ingredients on the list, complying with the associated registration process and costs. Further, there are other “approval” stamps within the market, including TerraChoice and Green Seal.
Although significant marketing spin is being applied, a textile rental operator often looks for specific product requirements in selecting a detergent:
Concentrates — Concentrated products require less packaging and less transportation costs versus more typical products, resulting in reduced fuel consumption.
Biodegradable Surfactants — Are the surfactants compliant with other specific regulations? By definition, are the surfactants readily or ultimately biodegradable?
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) — Does the product formulation contain significant percentages of volatile organics that have been associated with forming smog or damaging the Earth’s ozone layer? Often these materials have a low flash point; the formulated product would be considered flammable.
Without a singular, uniform standard for what qualifies as environmental friendliness, green can range from marketing hype to a true reflection of material conservation.
The domestic and global detergent markets are continuing to define what is and is not acceptable for use in a detergent, and is developing standards for individual classes of consumer products.
It’s likely we’ll continue to see an evolution in greening as other classes of chemistry are reviewed and defined.
Equipment Distribution: Scott McClure, Pellerin Laundry Machinery Sales, Kenner, La.
We hear the term all the time. Hotels place “green” placards in each room, promoting the reuse of guest towels, presumably to “save the environment.” Drycleaners promote that they are green by using wetcleaning methods rather than “environmentally harmful” chemicals.
Car manufacturers advertise some cars as being green because they use less gas and/or alternative fuel. And let’s not forget the countless household products that display Eco Logos, Energy Stars or Green Seals. In simple terms, being green is operating with consideration for the environment. This includes looking for ways to conserve the Earth’s natural resources, such as fuel and water.
There are several products and practices that laundries can utilize to become more green or environmentally conscious.
Starting with the mechanical room, a laundry can utilize water heaters and boilers that can achieve 95-99% efficiency factors in lieu of typical 80-85% results. There are also means to reclaim heat and recycle water and other forms of “free” energy.
Wastewater heat-recovery systems capture the heat from the processed wastewater to preheat incoming fresh water approximately 40-60° F. Water recycling systems can be implemented to collect the wastewater, filter it and reintroduce the same water in the wash process. Some results have achieved up to 70% recycled water.
During a boiler’s operation, exhaust stack temperatures are typically 450-650 F. Stack economizers recover this heat for pre-heating water.
Continuous batch washers (CBW®), which use considerably less water and fuel than typical open-pocket washer systems, can be utilized. They generally consume one-third or less water than conventional washer-extractor systems.
Self-contained thermal ironers offer another means of reducing energy usage. Typical steam ironers operate at about 80% efficiency, due to the boiler and to heat loss in the piping to and from the ironer. Self-contained ironers achieve efficiency greater than 90%, resulting in lower gas usage per item processed.
With today’s unprecedented fuel costs, we should all look for methods to conserve and recycle. If we improve our green status as a byproduct of reducing operating costs, then the environment and business both win.
Equipment Manufacturing: Kim Shady, UniMac (Alliance Laundry Systems), Ripon, Wis.
If you believe everything you read or hear today, it seems there isn’t a product on the market that doesn’t have a “green” story to tell.
And depending upon your view of what’s truly green, the laundry products may reflect the manufacturer’s environmentally friendly moniker.
Certainly, the main products in our industry — washer-extractors and drying tumblers — are far more energy- and water-efficient than those of a decade ago. So for operations utilizing older electromechanical units, any upgrade is a greener alternative.
Managers must weigh features and capabilities against price to determine what level of efficiency makes sense. In the washer-extractor area, we offer three different models but refer only to one as a green machine. Thus it’s even more important for managers to know what their current equipment mix consists of.
In this review, you’ll also want to consider cost to purchase the equipment and cost of ownership. Very often when we have this discussion with customers, they’re surprised by how quickly a highly efficient machine, though priced higher, can pay for itself through reduced energy and water consumption, shorter drying times and improved labor efficiency.
When you’re looking for a truly green product, you must consider units that consume the least water, electricity and gas, use the least raw materials in their production and offer the greatest recycling opportunities when they are replaced.
Among laundry equipment manufacturers, there are green products but also a variety of green boasts. Let’s face it, touting 50% in water savings sounds like the epitome of green for a washer-extractor. As laundry professionals, however, we also must understand that clean results are our main mission. So it may be unrealistic to expect those savings and still maintain great finished quality.
The best green products on the market are the ones that have the features to marry green with clean.