Green vs. Sustainable: How the Terms Apply to Hotel Laundry

Equating the term “environmentally friendly” with “sustainable” is usually a safe bet. Machines and products designed to take less of a toll on the planet than equivalent technologies often last longer as well. These technologies use less water and energy, so when natural resources become scarce or expensive, they’re better positioned to carry on. In addition, as environmental conscientiousness grows, buyers are more likely to demand greener alternatives, contributing to their economic viability.

The association for the linen, uniform and facility services industry, TRSA, draws more of a distinction between the two terms in its Clean Green laundry certification for conservation practices. Applied to a linen, uniform, and facility services operation or a hotel, “sustainability” hinges on many more factors than environmental friendliness—mostly other economic influences. Still, in laundry operations, it’s becoming clearer that conservation practices are essential to achieving economic gains.

Every type of business devotes a large portion of its expense budget to labor, and hotel laundry is no different—the biggest expenses for laundry production are its supplies and associated labor. Laundry facilities can minimize resource use to lower cost and improve competitiveness, especially outsourced laundry services in larger markets where multiple competitors vie for hotel linen work. While investing in more efficient equipment may increase capital expenses, the investment ultimately lowers the cost per pound of water, energy, and labor, delivering a relatively fast payback and making the laundry more cost-competitive.

Generally, the greater the capacity of a washer, dryer, or iron, the fewer resources required per sheet, towel, or other laundered textile. Replacing aging equipment in a hotel’s on-premises laundry facilities won’t always increase capacity, although some additional efficiency will be achieved at the same capacity thanks to updated electronic and mechanical technology that makes better use of water and energy.


Foregoing washing as much as possible contributes to a hotel’s environmental friendliness and sustainability. Hotels can take steps like informing guests that their linens will be changed only once every three days unless requested otherwise and not washing used towels left on racks or hooks to conserve resources. Leveraging economies of scale can also help hotels reduce their overall energy footprint—for example, outsourcing laundry services to take advantage of larger capacity equipment that the hotel may not be able to house and operate on-property.

In 2015, a TRSA survey of consumers noted the importance of environmental issues to hotel guests. Nearly eight in 10 survey respondents indicated the real reason hotels are pressuring guests to reuse their linens and towels is to save money by cutting utility and laundry costs. Almost six in 10 said they’d rather not be pressured this way, preferring laundering in a more environmentally friendly manner. These insights highlight the importance of communicating a hotel’s sustainability efforts to guests.


About the Author
Joseph Ricci is the president and CEO of TRSA, the association for the linen, uniform and facility services industry.

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