Green Laundry: Changing the Carbon Footprint (Part 2 of 2)

Matthew Alexander |

For most laundries operated by companies in which laundry is not their core business — and also for many laundries that are run by professional laundry companies — improvement to operating practices, policies and procedures can have an immediate, material impact.
We’re accustomed to seeing productivity improvements on the average of 30% at on-premise laundries, as measured in terms of clean pounds of textiles delivered and in terms of labor and utilities consumed through production and operations management gains. A material increase in poundage per labor hour and a reduction in the utilities consumed can profoundly affect environmental impact and the bottom line.
Operations opportunities can be segmented by supply-chain management, production, inventory, distribution and maintenance. Some of the decisions that affect laundry operations include:Supply Chain
1. Green chemistry (sustainable)
2. Washroom chemistry that activates at lower temperatures
3. Considerations when selecting textiles:

   a. Energy to process
   b. Sustainability of manufacturing processes
   c. Distance from manufacturing source to end use
   d. Length of product life
   e. Disposal impact (landfill)

4. Energy sourcing
5. Carbon creditsOperations
1. Production

a. Wash processing for optimum balance of reduced reprocessing (rewash) and contained energy and chemical usage
b. Energy management — Example: a hot rinse (or rinse with temperature) may improve extraction and reduce energy for drying better than a cold rinse
c. High production standards and techniques for contained labor
d. Quality control

2. Inventory management

a. Just-in-time delivery to reduce holding requirements
b. Managed inventory to eliminate mold-and-mildew damage and rewash due to stale product

3. Distribution/Transportation

a. Route management for efficiencies
b. Biodiesel alternative for diesel-powered vehicles
c. Hybrid fleet
d. Schedule management to reduce idling

4. Maintenance

a. Fix leaky valves
b. Calibrate equipment
c. Clean, lubricate and maintain to reduce downtime

Facility Design and Construction
There’s no better time than during the design phase to build green initiatives into a laundry facility. The cost for this is typically a fraction of the cost to retrofit later, or to retire the asset before its life expectancy is over.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) developed by the U.S. Green Building Council details a wide range of criteria for sustainable construction addressing five major areas:

  1. Sustainable site development
  2. Water savings
  3. Energy efficiency
  4. Materials selection
  5. Indoor environmental quality

Among the many areas that are affected by the LEED certification system are the selection and/or operation of:

  1. Lighting

  2. Heating and cooling system
  3. Insulation
  4. Material specification for construction
  5. Air-quality management
  6. Impact on drainage and forestation of the building site
  7. Energy usage
  8. Distance from labor force
  9. Distance from end-use location for textiles

Moving into the future, more laundry operations will likely seek to become LEED-certified as a measure of their commitment to green initiatives and in the pursuit of grants and tax abatements.Equipment
Equipment that reduces emissions and improves productivity is, for most operators, the immediate concern when thinking about opportunities to reduce carbon footprint.
While the great majority of technology used to drive efficiencies has been used in laundering for years, some has become more economical due to tax incentives and also improvements to equipment, systems and applications.
Types of equipment that may impact carbon-footprint reduction include:
1. Energy-conserving machinery

a. Tunnel washing systems (low water usage)
b. High-efficiency dryers
c. High-efficiency ironers
d. High-efficiency boilers and water heaters
e. Wastewater-heat recovery
f. Water reuse
g. Water filtration and recovery
h. Exhaust-heat recovery
i. Ozone systems

2. Labor-saving equipment

a. Materials-handling equipment
b. Automated feeding
c. Gravity — or automated — loading and unloading
d. Folding equipment
e. Automated tie-out and packaging equipment

Eventually, leading green textile services companies and operators will take positions relative to the carbon footprint of the operations they control.
They may also consider the lifecycle carbon footprint of textile products by evaluating them from the cradle to the grave, which will be the recycling or disposal of the products and will include chain-of-custody requirements.
An emerging field will evolve around the implementation of green chemistry and the measurement and management of the carbon footprint as it applies to sourcing, processing, delivering, applying and recycling textiles.
Comprehensive healthcare, hospitality, and laundry industry standards for measuring emissions are elusive, but the initiative is now strongly supported by legislation and has been adopted as a corporate commitment by leading hospitality, healthcare and manufacturing companies.
Forum for the Future, the U.K. nonprofit organization committed to sustainable development, and Clean Air-Cool Planet, the science-based nonprofit dedicated to finding solutions to global warming, have promoted the idea of carbon neutrality claims by organizations as an assertion of their leadership.
For an industry that has traditionally been resource-dependent, carbon neutrality may seem like a far-off notion. But as science, legislation and corporate commitment align more closely, some elements may make significant strides. Those who come closest to realizing it will lead the industry into the future.
Click here for Part 1.

About the author

Matthew Alexander

Pertl & Alexander LLC


Matthew Alexander, MHS, is the president of Pertl & Alexander LLC, a laundry consulting company based in Chappaqua, N.Y. The firm designs laundry facilities and provides management consultation for companies around the world, and counts many leading hotel and healthcare companies among its clients. He can be reached at 914-238-4247 or by e-mail.


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