Top 10 ways to make your laundry "greener"

Laundry is a never-ending task. From scrubs to patient gowns to bed linen, reusable textiles account for much of a hospital's energy use. So how do you know if that energy is being used most efficiently?

Scrubs GownSince "going green" is quickly becoming a business reality, here are 10 ways to make sure your laundry service has implemented green laundry practices.

1. Ensure your laundry is in full environmental compliance at all of your active processing facilities to assure that you meet all applicable federal, state and local regulations for air, wastewater, storm water management, spill prevention and solid waste disposal.

2. Reduce waste and your carbon footprint by replacing paper towels with cloth, utilizing reusable mop heads and mats. Paper towels generate four times more solid waste than cloth towels. Likewise, disposable mats generate nine times more landfill waste than rental mats.

3. Outsource to an accredited rental company. The industry's highest rating on quality and safety — from the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council — provides assurance that healthcare textiles are processed by a company that adheres to the highest possible standards. The HLAC is a non‐profit organization formed for the purpose of inspecting and accrediting laundries processing healthcare textiles for hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities. Accreditation by HLAC is entirely voluntary process by healthcare laundries that value best practices.

4. Follow Environmental Protection Agency best practices. The EPA has proven that working with industry, institutions and governments can produce significant results in the reduction of waste generation, natural resource usage, and energy consumption. These efforts can reduce environmental footprints and often result in cost savings to the organization as well. EPA tips for the healthcare industry can be found here.

5. Install an onsite wastewater pre-treatment system. Install an onsite wastewater pre-treatment system that effectively removes contaminants such as oils, grease and heavy metals. The treated water exceeds all local discharge limits and gives the option to reuse up to 20 percent of the water. The resulting wastewater is readily biodegradable (easy for local POTW to treat) and the solid discharge is nontoxic.

Dempsey PJ 003pr6. Discontinue home laundering of uniforms. Home laundering uses 2.8 times more water and two times more energy than industrial laundering. If 50 percent of the 22 million uniform wearers in the U.S. had their uniforms laundered commercially, almost 100 million gallons of water would be saved each week. Over a year, the water savings increase to almost 5 billion gallons.

7. Install a sophisticated wastewater heat recovery system, which captures the heat from the process wastewater to preheat the incoming fresh water using a shell and tube heat reclaimer. This process can effectively preheat that water to within 5 degrees Fahrenheit of the dirty wastewater stream, thereby recovering up to 60 percent of the water heating energy required. Preheated fresh water then travels through a boiler stack economizer, where boiler exhaust further preheats it. The hot gases are normally cooled to within 10 to 15 degrees of the incoming water temperature — and that amounts to a 10 to 20 percent energy recovery of the on-line boiler load. This system conserves natural gas that would otherwise be necessary to heat the incoming water.

8. Install finishing equipment and processes like the ones used in successful European operations, which use significantly less natural gas than older systems. In addition, take steps to ensure all electric motors are soft-start or variable speed and rated high efficiency, allowing you to conserve electricity.

9. Conserve electricity for lighting by incorporate things like "daylighting" (large windows and skylights), high-efficiency lighting, a reflective white rubber membrane roof, high r-value insulation and computer-controlled heating and cooling equipment. Improve the efficiency of your lighting by replacing 200 high bay halogen lights with high-efficiency T8 fluorescent lights. The T8 fixtures require about half the energy of the fixtures being replaced.

10. Establish a comprehensive utility management system that enables extensive metering and intelligent analysis of water, gas and electric data to minimize utility costs and optimize equipment utilization.

With a little effort and a new attitude, your healthcare facility can prove to be one that cares for the planet as much as it cares for its patients.

PJ Dempsey is President of Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply, a family-owned company offering rental, leasing and direct purchase laundering services for linen and uniforms. Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply is inspected and accredited by HLAC and is affiliated with Medtegrity, In addition, Dempsey has been awarded the TRSA Hygienically Clean Healthcare and Clean Green Certification Program.

More Articles on Hospital Supply Chain:
Laundry: The 'Fastest Growing Outsourced Service'  
How Detergent Pods Can Save Healthcare  
13 Contracts Hospitals Should Review to Save Money 

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