By Joe Bshero
As the building maintenance industry continues to innovate, there are an increasing number of ways to enhance environmental stewardship. Some facilities are taking steps to responsibly dispose of waste or rely on a combination of natural light and energy-efficient lighting to conserve electricity. Others go as far as installing green roofs or recycling grey water.
These are all exemplary strategies to build and maintain a “green building,” but facility managers can enlist another practice within interior spaces. An organization’s carpet cleaning program has a direct effect on sustainability. Therefore, managers should implement a carpet care program that considers the environmental toll of maintaining what might be thousands of square feet of carpet.
What To Look For In Sustainable Carpet Care
While some carpet care system features may seem like small changes, they can result in big impacts that support the environment. When your carpet care program checks off these boxes, it will increase efficiency without sacrificing cleanliness. Additionally, the right approach to carpet care will extend the life of the flooring assets by reducing the risk of mold, damage, or permanent stains. By keeping carpet in place longer, it prevents it from becoming landfill waste.
Make sure your system fulfills the following:
- Decreased water usage. Standard hot water extraction will typically use 3-12 gallons of hot water per 1,000 square feet of carpet. This can add from 3,300 to more than 13,000 gallons per year depending on the size of the building and frequency of cleaning. Facility managers should consider a low-moisture encapsulation system that uses smaller volumes of water to help remove soils. Coupled with encapsulation chemistry, these systems lift the carpet fibers and trap soil in a crystalized polymer, which can easily be vacuumed afterward. This decreases water usage to only 2 gallons of unheated water for up to 6,000 square feet.
- Energy-saving capabilities. For water extraction to work, the temperature needs to be heated above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with some experts suggesting up to 250 degrees. Heating water requires a lot of energy. Organizations can completely avoid this with a low-moisture system. Additionally, carpets will require up to 12 hours of drying time with water-heavy methods. This prompts many facilities to deploy cleaners during the night shift, which means keeping lights and HVAC systems on for longer hours and oftentimes running driers. Low-moisture cleaning methods eliminate this issue by shrinking drying time to just 20-30 minutes, enabling day cleaning or faster shifts in evening hours.
- Cleaner chemistry. Cleaners and sanitizers that use harsh chemicals to break down soils will leave behind residue that negatively impacts the look and lifespan of carpet. Once rinsed, those chemicals are a part of the water waste. These added chemicals are also emitted as gases into the air called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs negatively affect the indoor air quality in the building, often causing health issues like headaches or respiratory irritation. Using a cleaner with nearly no VOCs will benefit the environment as well as occupant and employee wellness with improved indoor air quality.
Choosing Certified Solutions
Apart from evaluating the specific environmental features of your carpet cleaning program, there are several industry certifications that can guide your selection.
- LEED – The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has become a global standard for products, services, and buildings that streamline sustainability into their work. In 2019 alone, over 2,000 projects were registered in the U.S. as LEED-certified. For carpet care, products are awarded LEED certification if they meet criteria on electricity usage, water usage, water waste, and effects on air quality. Using systems that support sustainability can also help facilities earn points toward LEED certification.
- Green Seal® – This certification is for cleaning products made for industrial or institutional use. It not only considers environmental concerns, but health concerns for building occupants as well. To receive Green Seal, products must excel in performance, use non-toxic chemicals, expel low amounts of VOCs, and integrate packaging with recyclable or refillable materials.
Cleaner Carpet And A Greener Planet
Increasingly, individuals and organizations are looking for ways to be more sustainable and are no longer turning a blind eye toward certain practices. Establishing a green carpet care program can reassure building visitors and occupants that facility managers and organizations are taking the right steps toward a sustainable present and future. Remember to look for systems that use less water, are ideal for day cleaning, and are coupled with high-quality chemistry to make the most of your sustainable carpet care program.
Joe Bshero is the director of technical services with R.E. Whittaker Co., a family-owned business with over 30 years of experience and the pioneers of the first commercial carpet encapsulation system. For more information about low-moisture encapsulation systems from Whittaker, visit whittakersystem.com.