In honor of Earth Day, we look back on our environmental sustainability efforts since we were founded in 1921 and look forward to implementing new initiatives.
Throughout our 95 years, we’ve implemented numerous sustainability initiatives with the desire to both serve our customers more effectively and to be a responsible member of our community here in Chicago. Here are some of those initiatives:
- Work Uniform Rentals: the textile rental industry itself arose out of a need to cost-effectively handle the cleaning of a large volume of garments in an environmentally friendly manner so that each employee or company doesn’t have to wash them on their own; the same goes for custom mats, bathroom towels, mops, shop towels, and more
- Wastewater Treatment: we implemented the first wastewater treatment system in the world in the 1970s
- Facility Consolidation: by combining our two facilities, we’ve reduced our water consumption by six million gallons, natural gas usage by 25% and electrical consumption by 15% annually
- Sludge Filter Press: by separating water from sludge with our new press, we’ve reduced our waste stream significantly from 60,000 gallons to 100 cubic yards of sludge cake per year
- Shop Towels: our shop towel cleaning service gives our customers a better environmental option than throwing away disposable shop towels, which is now part of the Shop Towel Rule
- Clean Green Certified: we became Clean Green Certified in 2012 for our Best Management Practices of water reuse, reclamation and removal as well as green efforts throughout our plant
- NPE-Free Detergents: we stopped using detergents with nonylphenol ethoxylates in 2014 and are now in our ninth month of beta testing a new surfactant detergent from Gurtler Industries* that produces brighter, cleaner textiles (especially for whites and bright colors) at lower temperatures, resulting in less degradation and wear on garments, less water use and less energy consumption
- LED Lighting: we’ve retrofitted our fluorescent lighting system with LEDs, which use less than 25% of energy of the old lighting system and have a lifetime of 12-15 years instead of only 1-2 years for fluorescents
- Recycling: we recycle all hangers, cardboard boxes and pallets
- Reusable Nylon Mesh Bags: these bags last longer, are easier to clean and don’t fill up landfills like disposable bags
* Because of our commitment to ISO certification and continuous improvement, our suppliers approach us on a regular basis to try new equipment, new chemistry and new techniques. This helps us stay on the cutting edge with technology and process improvement, which has been in our DNA for three generations.
In recognition of these initiatives, we received the Governor’s Pollution Prevention Award in 1999 for reductions in water usage and solid waste reduction initiatives. We were also awarded the inaugural TRSA (Textile Rental Services Association) LaundryESP Innovation Award in 2011. This award recognizes novel approaches by companies and/or facilities to increase sustainability, conserve natural resources and reduce the operation’s overall environmental impact.
Our next sustainability initiative is to deploy Nest thermostats. They will replace 20 existing thermostats throughout our facility and will be centrally controlled.
Features of using Nest for business include the following:
- Auto-Away: Nest generally assumes nobody is sleeping in the office and will turn itself down to save energy at night and then automatically go back to the regular schedule
- Thermostat Lock: prevents the scenario where co-workers change the temperature and then forget to set it back; also requires a code to set the temperature outside of a specified range
- Remote Control: allows control of up to ten Nest thermostats in two locations, with an unlimited number of Nest accounts
- Energy Tracking: Nest’s energy history tracks every time employees change the temperature and if these changes increase or reduce energy consumption in the office
Beyond the Nest thermostats, we continue to research new initiatives in water conservation, solar energy and natural gas.