Since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides no standard definition of an environmentally friendly cleaner, and has no approved cleaning solvent or process, professional cleaners can call themselves “green” regardless of their practices and policies. Some cleaners erroneously claim to be green simply because they use one type of solvent over another. This practice of “green washing” their business is simply a sales gimmick. Being “truly” green actually has very little to do with which solvent they use. Being truly green is a multi-faceted combination of environmentally responsible policies, programs and practices.
So how can you tell if your dry cleaner is green? There are several main factors to consider and to ask your cleaner about.
Responsible Waste Disposal
Regardless of the cleaning process they use, when cleaners remove the dirt and grime from dirty clothes, they create environmentally hazardous waste. A green cleaner will dispose of their waste in an environmentally responsible way. They will hire a waste management company, like Safey-Kleen, to remove and dispose of the waste using a “closed loop” model.
Many cleaners will accept the return of your used wire hangers and plastic packaging. But what do they do with them? They should reuse any hangers that are still in good condition and send the rest to your city’s recycling program, along with all the other recyclable waste generated by their operation.
Proper Machine Operation
If properly operated and maintained, the new 4th and 5th generation dry cleaning machines recycle over 96% of the solvent they use. They are designed to keep the solvent inside the machine and out of the air and ground water. However, machines that are not maintained properly will not operate as efficiently. Leaky or broken component parts should be repaired or replaced immediately.
Carbon Footprint Reduction
There are many things a cleaner can do to reduce their carbon footprint. Switching to flourescent bulbs, insulating pipes, and replacing antiquated machinery with new more energy efficient models will reduce their energy bill and reduce CO2 emissions. However, by far the biggest way to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions is to provide pick-up and delivery service. Every order of clothes that the cleaner delivers is one less round trip to their store for their customers. The typical van can service over 300 homes a day, 6 days a week, 50 weeks a year, eliminating thousands of time & energy consuming trips.