By Asquith Williams
As the cleaning industry continues to take on more and more sustainable policies and practices, it’s important for all businesses to reflect not only on the products and services they provide, but also on their own practices. We tell our customers all the time about how greener products and building policies can improve efficiencies, save money and protect the environment. What does that mean if we aren’t following those same best practices ourselves?
Most of the big cleaning companies, whether distributors or manufacturers, have large warehouses. These warehouses take up a whole lot of space, and also comprise the majority of our environmental footprint. We’ve been able to significantly increase our bottom line and take better care of the environment by making some simple tweaks to the way our warehouse and manufacturing facility are run.
At our corporate headquarters and warehouse and manufacturing plant in Ontario, we’ve been running a comprehensive warehouse recycling program for almost two decades. Our goal is to run a warehouse with zero landfill impact. That may seem like a bold statement, but when you break it down you realize that it’s well within reach. We are all motivated to participate in this goal because of the obvious environmental impact, along with the financial advantage. We save a lot of money when we don’t send items to the landfill, avoiding those landfill charges that add up quickly, especially in a manufacturing setting.
We rely on our warehouse team to identify the items that they see the most of going to the landfill, and then we find vendors who will recycle those items for us. Our warehouse team found the following top five materials in our waste stream:
We were able to find specific companies who handled recycling of these materials and struck up relationships with each of them. We handle all the sorting on a platform in our warehouse, then the materials are picked up by each entity regularly. Some of the manufacturers where we purchase our raw materials have financial incentive programs for us to send back the plastic drums that their materials are delivered in. It’s not a revenue source by any means, but the incentive to send the plastic drums back gives us a nice, competitive price on those ingredients.
Because of their size and design, warehouses can be a challenge to heat or cool. However, your company may save 20% on energy bills with some modifications to make your warehouse more efficient.
We were noticing a problem during the harsh Ontario winters, and looked at ways to supplement our heating system to help our employees remain comfortable at work without increasing our energy consumption. The solution was a solar wall that we installed on the south side of our building, which gets sun all day long. Our cost savings has been significant, but our employees have been much more comfortable throughout every season of the year, which means the entire operation is running more efficiently, and we can feel good about taking care of our team.
Your company doesn’t need to go all in on solar to make your warehouse more efficient. Finding more energy efficient equipment is always the right first step, although we have found that it’s important to weigh the environmental trade-off of disposing of working equipment that’s less energy efficient with new equipment. Look into trade-in or recycling programs when replacing equipment.
The U.S. program Energy Star provides an excellent checklist for warehouses. This document may be accessed at https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/tools-and-resources/warehouse-best-practices.
My final advice to any company looking to make their warehouse operations more sustainable is to engage the entire team in the process, throughout every step of the process. Most of our environmental initiatives at Charlotte’s HQ and warehouse were initiated by our employees. These are the true experts, who are working in the warehouse and seeing exactly where improvements can be made. We credit the success of our recycling program to the people on our team who not only came up with the process, but also monitor the daily progress. We all take pride in our environmental initiatives here at Charlotte, which is the secret to the success of these programs.