Green Washing, the Good Kind

Green Washing, the Good Kind

As part of its Design for the Environment Program, the EPA has initiated a project it calls the Industrial and Institutional Laundry Partnership. The project's mission is to work closely with manufacturers of commercial laundry products to develop safer, more sustainable detergents and cleaning systems. The EPA's criteria for improved laundry ingredients include, lower toxicity, more rapid biodegradation, lower bioaccumulation potential, and less toxic byproducts. To this end, the EPA shares its research findings, helps with development, and gives public recognition to innovations and improvements by manufacturers. For laundry detergent products made in partnership with the EPA, see resources below.

Many state governments including Pennsylvania, California, Florida and Hawaii have started green hotel programs. The "Green" Hotel Association (GHA) was formed a decade ago to "save water, save energy and reduce solid waste -- while saving money -- to help protect our one and only earth...and encourages, promotes and supports the 'greening' of the lodging industry." Currently they list around 200 member hotels. Green Seal has been partnering with hotels since 1995 to promote environmentally responsible products and practices. Add to this the growing eco tourism industry, and there's a pretty clear trend towards more environmentally friendly travel and lodging.

The laundry operation of a large hotel can exceed 16 hours a day, which means water and electricity are being consumed for most of the day. According to the EPA, laundry products account for billions of pounds of chemical ingredients, which, ultimately, are released by laundries as waste water into the environment. To measure the environmental impact of your laundry operation, consider the following three factors: amount of electricity, water, and chemicals consumed per day.

In additional to switching to safer detergents, green hotel advocates recommend other environment-saving practices:
  • Save on energy by using low-temperature water for washing and only washing full loads.

  • Buy cleaning supplies in bulk to eliminate packaging waste.

  • Invest in a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient laundry system that filters and reuses water. Ozone water technology reduces the need for detergent and eliminates hot water use. Linens washed with ozonated water dry faster, thereby using less energy and extending the life of the material.

  • Reuse linens. It is becoming common practice for hotels to ask guests to reuse towels and sheets, and according to the GHA and Project Planet, 70% of the people asked to do so willingly comply.
Manufacturers and products recommended by the EPA:

Anderson Chemical
Total Impact Program


Wash N' Bleach Extra2


Advocacy Resources:

EPA Design for the Environment
Project Planet

Responsible for linen reuse programs

"Green" Hotels Association

Green Seal

This column has been reprinted courtesy of The Green Guide.