Feature Article - October 2002
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Conserve Your Energy

Bright ideas that are easy on the environment—and your budget

By Elisa Kronish

If your facility has a recycling program for paper, plastics and metals, pat yourself on the back. Good for you—and good for the ecosystem.

Now, what about other environmentally friendly practices? How are you doing in the areas of water, lighting and electricity? If you're devoting energy to saving energy in these areas too, then you know that besides another pat on the back, you get a pat on the bottom—the bottom line, that is. Although it sometimes requires a little extra cash upfront, saving the environment almost always ends up saving you money. Following are some moves most recreational facilities can make to save money, energy and the environment, all in one fell swoop.

Water You doing
Add a textile supply and service company to your
laundry list of water savings.

To save water, the first thing you can do is swap out old, water-hogging toilet flushers for high-efficiency, low-flow flushers. The low-flow flushers typically use 1.6 gallons or less per flush, which is about half as much as less efficient models. You can follow suit with low-flow shower heads and sink faucets. They all work just as well as the old ones and are a quick and easy way to save money.

"You can adapt them in an afternoon and recoup cost in a month," says John Barrie, president of John Barrie Associates Architects in Ann Arbor, Mich. "The payback is so quick that it's criminal not to do it."

Another way to save water is to do less laundry. No, that doesn't mean you have to go around wearing coffee-stained uniforms and handing dirty towels out to your guests. It means hiring a textile supply and service company to wash them for you. Such companies rent and deliver clean products such as uniforms, sheets, table linens, towels, floor mats, mops, shop towels and other items and pick up dirty textiles to clean and reuse. Or, if you have your own inventory and don't need to rent supplies, you can just send your own items out for cleaning.

The water savings comes from the economies of scale. According to the Uniform and Textile Service Association, studies show that the textile industry uses 64 percent less water, 73 percent less energy and 90 percent less detergent than do small home and business washers and dryers to do the same quantity of laundry.


"Let's say it takes 10 gallons of water to do a regular load of laundry. If we consolidated that, we could probably cut that water usage in half because of the efficiency of a larger machine," explains Mary Anne Dolbeare, director of public affairs at the UTSA. "If you send your white gym towels to the laundry, they probably get washed with 400 or 500 other washes of white towels, and that provides us some efficiency. Rather than you having to do loads of 20 towels to keep your inventory running, we can do loads of hundreds to save water and energy."

The environment also reaps additional benefits from your use of reusable products like shop towels. Say you have a golf-cart repair facility, and your crew uses paper towels to clean gears and engines. That's a lot of paper towels piling up on trash heaps.

"We offer reusable cotton shop towels, which can be used up to 15 times depending on the weight of the towel," Dolbeare says. "That saves the environment an enormous amount of trash being thrown away."

In fact, the UTSA points out data from the U.S. EPA that shows that over their life cycle, disposable paper towels use more than 2,850 percent more water, 12,590 percent more energy and produce 210 percent more solid waste than their reusable counterparts. Dolbeare also suggests further boosting environmental benefits by replacing disposable paper towels in bathrooms with continuous roll towels.