MISSION, KS — American Reusable Textile Association’s (ARTA) recently held a sold out Green Summit in Quebec City. Held from July 22-23, the Green Summit drew 130 attendees including international attendees from The Netherlands, South Africa and New Zealand. The education conference was the largest ARTA has held to date. Prior education conferences were held in 2006 in Indianapolis and 2008 in Durham, N.C.
“Our goal in holding the Green Summit was to begin a dialogue within the industry on how we can best meet sustainability challenge and begin to take advantage of opportunities in 2010 and beyond,” said ARTA president, Steve Tinker of Gurtler Industries.
TWO NEW LCAS GIVE THE ADVANTAGE TO REUSABLE TEXTILES
At the Green Summit, researchers presented two new Life Cycle Analyses (LCAs). Both gave reusable textiles the environmental advantage over disposable singleuse items. The University of Minnesota’s A.J. Van den Berghe presented LCA research that gives reusables a substantial advantage over disposables. Specifically, Van den Berge defined the term life cycle assessment and provided an overview of the process and analysis used by the university’s Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) in evaluating the human and environmental impacts of reusable surgical gowns versus a single-use disposable surgical gown.
While acknowledging the limitations of any LCA (results are dependent on data quality and availability, software used, geographic differences, etc.), Van den Berghe shared that in every category, with the exception of issues related to water usage, the reusable surgical gown trumped the disposable gown by an average of 50%.
He also elaborated on the case study conducted at the University of Minnesota’s Fairview Hospital in 2009 (see chart). This study showed reusable surgical gowns:
- Reduce waste — produce 1/6th the waste of disposables
- Save money and cost less — ? Reusable gowns saved the hospital $360,000 in one year, and ? Provided more than 20% in savings per adjusted patient day.
Dr. Mike Overcash from University of Wichita presented his preliminary research findings, which also show a cradle-to-grave advantage for reusable textiles. Dr. Overcash will provide an update on his findings in September at the TRSA Healthcare/Plant Tech Summit, September 27-30 in Las Vegas. ARTA will post final research findings on its website as soon as the information is available.
Both LCA studies show water usage as the area with the greatestenvironmental and human impacts. However, the LCAs do not take into account that the majority of laundries reuse and pre-reat water before returning it to their Publically Owned Treatment Waterworks. “We have an excellent opportunity to inform clients that we are guardians of water,” says Nancy Jenkins, executive director of ARTA. “Indeed, the majority of the water that laundries use is pass-through or Green-loop water (i.e., it isn’t used up, but rather returned back for reuse again and again).” Jenkins also noted that industry has been and continues to proactively improve the quality of wastewater and energy/resource usage through such programs as TRSA’s Laundry Environmental Stewardship Program laundry ESP).
WHAT’S THE FUSS ABOUT LCA DATA AND GOING GREEN?
The need to secure LCA data is critical in helping the industry make a case for its clients to use or increase the use of reusable textiles. And market indicators reveal that reusables as a Green Advantage will become an even greater issue in the near future.
“While “Green” has become a tagline used to market everything from toothpaste to credit cards, there are solid market indicators that show “Going Green” is more than a trend,” said Tinker
Tinker cited several examples that indicate ALL industries would need to meet the sustainability challenge — Green their own operations and quantify the Green benefits of their products and services:
- CEOs from more than 100 major U.S. corporations met this spring at a conference sponsored by The Wall Street Journal to discuss sustainability strategies.
- Since 2009, Wal-Mart has required all its suppliers to provide a Sustainability Scorecard, which shows they are running as Green an operation as possible and working toward improving their “score.”
- Proctor & Gamble has followed suit this June and introduced a similar requirement of suppliers.
- According to Summit Energy, a sustainability management company, two major hospital companies are now developing sustainability scorecards for their suppliers.
- It’s been predicted that within 5 to 6 years, all products will include a Green label, similar to the nutritional labels we now find on our food.
ARTA, as an all-inclusive umbrella organization for the textile services industry, has a mission to promote the benefits of reusable textiles and is committed to provide information and resources that help members Green their operations and educate clients on the Green benefits of reusable textiles. For more information: www.arta1.com.
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