Switching to Green Detergents

UniFirst Corporation, a national leader in the uniform rental industry, decided in 2011 to exclusively utilize only the latest generation green cleaning detergents in all its industrial laundry operations throughout the U.S. and Canada.


These green detergents–biodegradable and made from renewable resources–are free of phosphates, nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), and ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid (EDTA), which have been found to alter the oxygen and metallic levels naturally found in the environment.

Use of the environmentally friendly detergents are proving to be a win-win scenario for all concerned, since their formulation continues to allow UniFirst to provide hygienically clean, image-enhancing work apparel to heavy- and low-soiling occupations (such as auto repair, corporate management, healthcare services and oil field drilling) but with virtually no environmental impact.

“We’re committed to using only sustainable chemistries in all of our laundering facilities and will continue to pursue greener practices wherever possible in our operations,” said UniFirst President and CEO Ron Croatti. “Our ongoing goal is to be an environmental steward in each of the communities we serve throughout North America.”

The company reports its concerted conservational efforts in the laundering and processing of work uniforms dates to 1997 when it joined the Laundry Environment Stewardship Program (Laundry ESP®), an industry initiative that resulted in 12.5 percent reductions in water use and 11.8 percent reductions in energy use.

Adoption of “green” detergents by UniFirst is just the latest corporate initiative in keeping with its uniform apparel sustainability objectives.

UniFirst’s sustainability practices also extend to its customer facility cleanliness products, which include PVC-free floor mats, water and chemical saving microfiber mops, biodegradable and “green certified” hand soaps, and recycled paper items. In fact, all UniFirst towel and tissue products are Green Seal- and Eco-Logo-certified and are manufactured from paper that is 100 percent recycled–thereby helping customers to qualify for environmental certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC).

Literally “driven” to be greener, UniFirst launched a Roadnet® Route Optimization Initiative in 2008 for its fleet of customer delivery trucks across the U.S. and Canada. The initiative consolidates delivery routes for increased efficiencies, thereby helping UniFirst to further reduce its “carbon footprint.” Recently, UniFirst also began testing the use of all electric-powered vans for customer deliveries. The vans, which produce zero emissions, are currently being used in Stratford, CT and Chicago, IL–two densely populated areas that offer the biggest opportunity for UniFirst to make significant reductions in carbon emissions and pollution.

Today, UniFirst’s sustainability efforts are increasingly being recognized by the local communities it serves. The Missouri Water Environment Association (MWEA), for example, presented UniFirst with nine awards over the past decade for “outstanding achievement” in water treatment and safety. Similar awards have also been awarded by the Water & Wastewater Utility in Austin, Texas; Houston’s Industrial Wastewater Service; the city of Richmond, VA; the Kansas Water Environment Association in Topeka; the Hampton Roads Sanitation District in Virginia; the city of Mesquite, TX; the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities in North Carolina, and many more.

Beyond being a member of Laundry ESP and offering Green Seal and Eco-Logo certified products, UniFirst is a long standing member of the U.S. Green Building Council and the Canada Green Buildings Council, and is also an Energy Star and Green Lights® Business Partner.