Between commercial and residential use, our planet consumes an astonishing amount of water and energy.
In America, a family of four can easily use around 400 gallons of water a day, which takes a considerable amount of energy to transport.
For the cleaning and maintenance industry, the importance of saving water and energy is twofold: It minimizes a facility''s impact on the environment and can help reduce overall operating expenses.
And, in this economic environment, cutting expenses has become a strategic necessity.
If your facility is looking to incorporate sustainable cleaning practices, earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings Operations and Management (LEED-EBOM) certification or save money and valuable resources, it may be time to look into your carpet maintenance program.
Need For Conservation
As demand continues to grow for water and energy, so does the cost.
In fact, in a period of 50 years, from 1950-2000, the U.S. population nearly doubled.
During that same time period, public demand for water has more than tripled.
This presents a major issue for the future and confirms the importance of promoting sustainable cleaning and maintenance systems.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), at least 36 states are anticipating water shortages on a local, regional or statewide level by 2013.
Not only does the water shortage make water more costly, but it also takes a substantial amount of energy to treat and deliver usable water.
As listed on the WaterSense website, U.S. public water supply and treatment facilities use nearly 56 billion kilowatt hours annually — equal to the amount of electricity needed to power over five million homes for a year.
By taking steps to reduce the amount of water and energy used, our carbon footprint can be greatly reduced.
While protecting the environment is a major concern, facilities must consider the benefit of reducing water and energy use to save money.
To lower utility bills, one of the easiest things to do is reduce the amount of water used.
This can be accomplished by utilizing a dry polymer-based carpet maintenance program.
Save Resources And Save Money
In addition to using a dry or powder carpet cleaning system, there are several ways to reduce water consumption, including cleaning with low-moisture techniques, installing low-flow toilets or waterless urinals and retrofitting aerators on faucets.
It is clear that not all cleaning systems are created equal when it comes to implementing sustainable practices in facility management.
For commercial carpet maintenance, there are five main cleaning methods: Dry compound, dry foam, hot water extraction, rotary shampoo and spin bonnet.
While many of these methods use a limited amount of water, the dry compound method typically uses the least.
Instead of using hot water, the dry carpet cleaning compound is sprinkled or worked into carpet to attract and absorb dirt and stains.
The compound or polymer absorbs the dislodged soil and then is vacuumed away, leaving virtually no residue and allows for immediate access to the cleaned space.
Depending on the type of equipment that is being used, a facility with 10,000 square feet that switches to a dry compound cleaning system can save up to 430 gallons of water per cleaning — enough water for 22 showers.
Additionally, the facility could save 63 kilowatt hours of energy: Three days of power for one home.
Many environments can be thoroughly cleaned with dry polymer-based cleaning methods as opposed to hot water systems.
For that reason, the larger the space that is being cleaned the greater the potential for water conservation.
Additionally, the space that is cleaned is ready for use immediately — no need to wait several hours for carpet to dry.
This is a great benefit for spaces that cannot allow long periods of downtime.
When considering a carpet maintenance provider, it is important that they provide a consultation to assess your particular needs.
The consultant should do the following: Determine the square footage, examine the layout and traffic flow, consider environmental surroundings, examine the carpet type and analyze overall needs.
By considering these factors, you can determine if the dry method is right for your facility.
Not all operations introduce sustainable practices solely for the environmental and cost saving benefits.
Many are working towards achieving LEED-EBOM status, the U.S. Green Building Council''s (USGBC) standard that allows building managers to earn points towards certification by operating existing buildings in a more sustainable manner.
LEED-EBOM provides a recognized, performance-based benchmark for building owners and managers to measure operations, improvement and maintenance on a consistent scale.
Attaining LEED-EBOM status differentiates a company by recognizing them as a green building leader.
This can help to attract and retain quality employees, elevate a company''s profile in the community and recognize their concern for the global environment.
While facility managers will need to take a variety of steps to achieve LEED-EBOM certification, using dry polymer-based systems for textile and carpet cleaning can make many contributions to LEED-EBOM points.
Incorporating methods to increase water efficiency, sustain materials and resources and improve indoor air quality (IAQ) are all components that contribute to earning LEED-EBOM points.
While a dry cleaning method can help protect the environment and lower utility bills, regular carpet maintenance, no matter which method you use, helps improve a building''s IAQ and remove allergens, bacteria and chemical residues that can build up in the carpet.
According to the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), carpet that is maintained in a clean, dry condition does not support or cause mold growth.
With the potential to improve employee retention and decrease illness-based absenteeism, plus the value of a healthier work environment, a regular carpet maintenance plan can be the key to improving productivity.
Additionally, utilizing a regular carpet maintenance program can prolong the life of your investment by several years, keeping materials out of landfills — a sustainable move for your operation and the environment.
When it comes to looking at ways to become more sustainable, it is important to consider your carpet maintenance system as a way to reduce water and energy consumption.
Not only can it help the environment in the long run, but it can save you money.
Stephen Lewis serves as technical director for MilliCare, a provider of environmentally sound textile and carpet cleaning services for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, airports, hotels and other commercial buildings. He is responsible for the company''s research and development efforts, provides technical training to its network of more than 80 franchise partners and is the company''s key point of contact with the textile and carpet maintenance community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.millicare.com.