How to Add "Green" to the Bottom Line

For the past few years, the topic of sustainability and the green movement have taken a back seat to the economy. Even though customers understood the value of being an environmental steward and purchasing with a “green” intent, saving money trumped saving the environment. In other words, a sustainable green message temporarily was lost. The key word is temporary. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified homes, products with the Green Seal of Approval, hybrid and electric automobiles, alternative energy solutions, recycling initiatives, water conservation strategies, among other sustainable solutions, are again making their way back into the news.

Rental houses have an opportunity to take advantage of green in a couple of product areas, including renting floor equipment that is designed to have a minimal impact on the environment. “Green is not a fad,” says Paul Albrecht, national account manager for Clarke Equipment. “The rental market usually follows what has become popular in professional applications. Hospitals and school districts especially are continually buying more products that are green, which means rental houses will likely see an increased demand in the same way.”

Mike Englund, product manager for Powr-Flite, sees demand coming from homeowners, as well. “Homeowners have had other things on their mind, and being green wasn’t one of them,” he emphasizes. “Green awareness declined, but now it’s coming back. Just walking down a grocery store cleaning supply aisle tells part of the story of a green message revival.”

Leveraging green

Floor equipment manufacturers Clarke and Powr-Flite offer green solutions for both homeowner and commercial customers. Albrecht highlights three products as examples.

“Our Focus II Boost Auto Scrubber reduces water and chemical consumption by up to 70 percent over traditional disc scrubbers,” Albrecht explains. “A unique scrubbing head cleans with an aggressive, tight orbit that doesn’t sling water. Using less water and chemicals is not only good for the environment, it also increases run time and saves on labor required to dump and refill the tank.” A low sound level, only 65 dB(A), adds to the unit’s environmentally friendly features.

“Introduced six years ago, this auto scrubber is ideally suited for commercial use in schools, universities, hospitals and gymnasiums,” says Albrecht. “The 20-inch model is ideal for rental houses; it can do both large and small areas, is easily transportable, and runs three hours on a battery charge.”

Clarke’s BEXT Pro 100H portable carpet extractor features the Carpet & Rug Institute’s (CRI) seal of approval for carpet extraction, which comes with LEED endorsement and the Green Seal Standard for Commercial and Institutional Cleaning Services (GS-42). The unit cleans with 212-degree F heated water and can be used without soap, which lends to its green attraction. As Albrecht points out, the hot water sanitizes the carpet while cleaning 40 percent better than cold water.

The third product on his sustainable list is the company’s line of dust containment vacuums that can be attached to all Clarke sanders. “The vacuums eliminate the dust when performing a wide range of sanding jobs,” says Albrecht. “Four models are available, including a backpack model for small sanding jobs and three tank models.” An optional H.E.P.A. filter can be installed to meet federal regulations when sanding surfaces that may contain lead-based finish.

Beyond functionality

Powr-Flite also offers a complete line of carpet and floor care equipment, many products of which also cut down on the use of water and chemicals. “Our Multi-Wash micro automatic scrubber uses 30 percent less water and chemicals when used on a hard floor and 70 percent less when used on its low-moisture carpet mode,” Englund points out. “Our Predator 14 battery-powered automatic scrubber also features an eco-friendly, low-moisture system that saves on chemicals and water.”

Yet, he emphasizes that rental houses can approach the green subject from another angle, too. “Every brush you sell will take the place of 150 pads,” he notes. “Giving the customer the brush option can keep pads out of landfills. If they prefer pads, you can still get the green message across by explaining that all Powr-Flite pads are made from 100-percent recycled material.

“Our polyethylene tanks are made from recycled plastic, and rejected components during the manufacturing process are separated and recycled, to be used again. The electro-magnetic powder coating used to paint our products not only leaves a durable finish, but also reduces the amount of paint wasted during the painting process. We’ve also just released a new line of green chemicals with the Green Seal of Approval.” (Visit powr-flite.com to view the company’s green product lineup and greenseal.org for a complete list of green seal-approved products and services.)

As Englund implies, rental houses can participate in the green movement by expanding the definition of green and sustainability. Being green is not the exclusive domain of the environment. Truly sustainable companies also look for ways to improve and sustain the health of their employees and their very businesses. Ergonomic equipment design and safety features, for example, all play a role in protecting the health of operators. Floor equipment that increases productivity also adds to the bottom line, something that is of special interest to your commercial customers who are looking to sustain the health of their companies.

Then, of course, there’s the home front to consider. It’s one thing to sell green and another to practice it. This doesn’t mean you have to operate from a LEED-certified building to effectively sell green, but green “tweaks” might help convey the message across to customers. Bioswales help to filter runoff from service yards and a small rain garden can absorb water coming from roof drains. Changing to fluorescent lighting in combination with active management can seriously reduce electrical use, and an aggressive recycling program that includes recycling plastic, paper, used oil and metal is always good for the environment.

With that said, your business sustainability depends on inventory turns and if a family of green products can help attract the attention of a customer or customers, then it deserves a place on your floor and a mention from your salespeople. The nice thing? Green equipment doesn’t take up any more space than other equipment and it performs just as well. Why not take advantage of a trend that’s not a fad and something that will add green to your bottom line?

Based in Neenah, WI, Rod Dickens is a freelance writer specializing in the construction industry.

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