When Alsco introduced America to the concept of linen and uniform rental back in the late 1800s, the green movement wasn’t even a glimmer in someone’s eye. More than 100 years later though, things are different. Industries of all sorts are being intentional in their efforts to find green ways to do things. That includes the commercial linen industry.
Today, laundry operators are seeking out ways to do what they do while limiting potential damage to the environment. Some are even finding ways to contribute to fixing some of the damage that has already been done. And yet even the greenest of linen operations can still get greener. There is still a lot of environmental ground to be made up.
Recycling Water Is a Start
Alsco explains that commercial laundries looking to go green often start with water recycling or, in some circles, water reclamation. Regardless of what you call it, an earnest effort to reuse water amounts to an effective strategy for saving energy and reducing pollution.
Modern technology allows gray water to be reclaimed, cleaned, and then reused for some laundry operations. Even better, there are some technologically-advanced facilities reclaiming black water. After treating it to remove dangerous contaminants, they are using it for irrigation purposes.
The point is that there are a lot of great ideas out there for recycling water. But water recycling is just the start.
It would be impossible to talk about making a greener commercial laundry without also talking about energy-efficient equipment. Just like manufacturers of residential washing machines and dryers are continually striving to make their machines better users of energy, manufacturers of commercial equipment are doing likewise.
Energy-efficient machines put less strain on energy grids. Less strain on the grid means fewer fossil fuels being consumed to generate energy. Energy efficiency also saves both the plant and its customers money as well. The less energy consumed to operate a plant, the more money there is to put into other things. Energy efficiency is a win-win all the way around.
Increasing Renewable Energy Use
The one area still wide open for improvement is the use of green energy to power commercial laundry plants. Everything from wind to solar and biomass comes to mind here. Unfortunately, a lack of green energy infrastructure in this country makes it very difficult for a laundry facility to run on 100% green energy. Supplementation is a different story.
Laundry facilities can, and do, supplement their energy use with green systems. Take solar thermal, for example. Solar thermal is great technology for generating process heat that can be used to both launder dirty linens and drive the machinery that does the actual work. There’s also solar PV. It is being harnessed to generate some of the electricity that runs offices and break rooms.
Some of the nation’s larger laundry operators are investing in wind power as well. In exchange for their investments, they are able to utilize some of the generated power to run their facilities.
There is little doubt that industries of all kinds have a lot of room to get even greener than they are today. What we are seeing right now is a good start. Hopefully both technology and public policy will eventually get to the point where the green mindset is the normal way of doing things. Commercial linens are certainly heading in that direction, and that is a good thing. From water reclamation to being more responsible with our energy use, we are learning to clean our dirty laundry without putting so much stress on mother nature.