Sustainability in Laundromats: Is It Worth It?
Sustainability has become more than just a marketing buzzword for organizations seeking to generate positive PR. Businesses are actively putting sustainability practices into place not only to improve their bottom line but to improve the lives and environment of all their stakeholders. The commercial laundry industry is following the same green path. In industry publications such as Planet Laundry, American Coin-Op and Coin Laundry News, there are more articles and features about ways laundromats are going green. From efficient LED lighting, solar panels and retooling with high efficiency washers and dryers, signs of sustainability efforts abound. But is going green or trying to be sustainable worth it for laundry businesses?
Solar and Other Alternative Energy Sources
Verdict: Not yet.
While the cost of solar power continues to decline, it may not be as reliable or cost effective enough to stack your laundromat’s roof with panels. Storing the electricity still remains an issue with the high cost of batteries. Even more, if you do not own the building or have a very long-term lease and the building owner’s cooperation, you probably cannot have solar panels installed. Even if the laundromat owner installed the panels, the power generated may only be sufficient for lighting and low power use. Handling the power loads of multiple washers and dryers running together is beyond the cost scope and practicality of most laundromats.
This is possibly the most practical and easiest go-green step a laundromat can take. Brighter, long-lasting and energy efficient LED lightbulbs are a great alternative to the ubiquitous fluorescent bulbs used in commercial spaces. Though the initial cost to replace old lighting with LEDs may be high, the replacement can be done over time through attrition with less one-time financial impact. Lower utility bills are just one benefit. Others include a brighter store that customer will appreciate.
Replacing Old Machines
Verdict: Yes! Replacing old inefficient machines can boost the bottom line.
For a laundromat with old machines – say 10 years or older – with a long term lease or if the business owner owns the building, then replacing the machines is likely to be highly beneficial. It will be a positive move for many reasons. New, higher efficiency machines typically use less water and power; two key sustainability factors. The lower utility bills will bolster the bottom line. New machines can also be a driver for increased revenue. With faster wash times, the new machines are a powerful marketing tool to entice more customers into your store.
Giving Back to The Community
“Sustainability is not only about going green. It’s about making the future of your community better by taking actions now” notes Peter Cooke, President of E3 Solutions, a sustainability consultancy. “For laundromats, the obvious sustainability initiatives surround reducing water and fossil fuel energy use. But extending into services to improve the lives of customers and the community should be incorporated as well”.
There are many other ways to give back to the community that supports the business. Hosting free laundry days, food drives, and other community involvement events will contribute to the enhancement of the neighborhood and your customers. When done correctly, the added benefit is likely increased good will towards your store.