D. A. Burns and Green Cleaning
November 10, 2021
Posted by D. A. Burns
Lydia from the U District recently asked: Is D. A. Burns a green cleaning company?
Yes Lydia, we don’t use green as a big point in our advertising, because we think we’re just doing business the right way.
Everyone makes “green” claims anyway. What does that mean?
Green practices are typically defined as:
- Using products or practices that reduce health hazards.
- Using products that won’t hurt plants or animals in use or if disposed of improperly.
- Finding ways to reduce waste.
What makes green claims and green certifications questionable is that there is no universally agreed-upon definition of green and no scale of the value of any particular eco-rating, so marketers and special interest groups can make any green claim or definition that they like.
Two examples of greenwashing from our industry:
A supplier advertised a new “greener” cleaning solution.
It was chemically identical to the old product, so we asked what made it better. The new labels used a more environmentally friendly soy-based ink.
A cleaning company said they were so green that even their uniform shirts were made from “sustainably sourced bamboo.”
Bamboo may be a sustainable crop, but plants like bamboo are just the raw material used for making rayon fiber. (If you see any fabric product sold as bamboo or any kind of plant “silk” it’s likely just hiding the word rayon) Most rayon production is not earth-friendly, and a rayon shirt won’t last long as working apparel, so this practice is a net-negative.
What makes D.A. Burns eco-friendly?
Our founders were outdoorsmen with a sense of responsibility for their surroundings. Taking a little extra care for the good of the neighborhood has always been worth the effort; an attitude that is baked-in after 85 years.
(On left: The D.A. Burns logo, circa late 1960s. Green earth, blue sky, blue water. The original Seahawks liked this color scheme as well.)
Our business is sustainable by design, since we prolong the life of already built products. Our cleaning methods and solutions are chosen for both effectiveness and safety for our technicians, customers, pets and the fibers we clean. Our rinse water is not hazardous, and it’s contained and disposed of properly.
In addition to removing soils from rugs, carpet, furniture, and stone/tile/grout, we can also repair damaged rugs so they can last another ten, twenty, or fifty years. Our repair technicians can even alter a badly damaged rug to give it another life. We sell rug pad that is made from recycled materials, is designed to be cleaned rather than thrown away, and will outlast cheaper pad.
We also do a lot of practical little things that we think add up to make a difference: We updated our Ballard facility with LED lighting to reduce electricity consumption, and our dry-room is equipped with sensors that automatically turn off the furnace once the rugs are dry. Some rug cleaning companies aren’t willing to make these investments, but we feel it’s worth every penny.
Although it would be less bother to throw them in the trash, we’ve found recyclers for bulk plastic film, shipping pallets, and worn-out machine parts. Like a lot of companies that pay attention to how they buy and what they dispose, we continue to produce less waste even as business increases.
We still buy most of our cleaning equipment and solutions from the same Ballard, Lynnwood, and Mukilteo-based companies that we have for over 40 years. This may make more of a difference for the local economy than being a reduced-shipping-impact world saver, but we have always preferred local sourcing. Keeping money in the community has another type of green value.
Reusing by repurposing can also be fun. We saved the cleaning drum from an old cleaning tumbler and made it into a table at our Seattle location. (It still spins!)
Rather than sending heavy cardboard storage tubes to recycling, we placed an ad for them along with some ideas for what could be done with them. Crafty folk turned them into slides and cat condos, and used them as wall art and concrete forms.
Since there is no carpet recycling in Seattle we do it ourselves by cutting remnants into useable sizes and binding the cut pieces for sale as smaller area rugs or doormats. The carpet gets another life before going to a landfill, maybe more than one if it comes back for cleaning.
We buy quality equipment that lasts or can be repaired. Although updated, our “state of the art” flatbed rug washer is still working perfectly at year 53, our delivery trucks are still strong at 18, and with a rebuild or two, the type of industrial carpet sewing machines we use average a 40-year lifespan. Keeping and fixing things may not be the way of the world anymore, but making a part is easier on the environment than making a whole new machine.
At D.A. Burns, we’ve been aware of our environmental impact long before there was an Earth Day.
About that rinse water…
We may be the only cleaning company that has gone to the trouble of having our rinse water lab tested to see what might be in it. We know our cleaning solutions are environmentally safe since we don’t use extreme pH products or high volume solvents; we wanted to know what we were removing from soiled carpet via our rinse water.
We used the ITT lab in Shelton, WA. They’re specialists in working with ground pollution and tracking illegal dumping of solvents. The lab told us there are no environmental concerns about the small traces of tracked-in lawn fertilizer, pesticides or home spot-cleaning solutions. If our rinse water were dumped directly to surface water, there would be no concern about chemistry irritating aquatic life (but of course we would never dump like that!). The lab told us that suspended soil and oxygen in the water might be a concern and recommended draining rinse water to permeable soil at least fifty feet from the nearest ground water. We prefer sending rinse water to sanitary waste treatment facilities, so we set up “dump stations” at our facilities.
The Dump Smart Program
Government agencies recognized that irresponsible dumping of dirty water into storm drains from carpet cleaning, auto detailing, power washing and other cleaning services could harm wildlife, but they had no idea what was in the water or what to recommend or require for proper disposal.
Luckily, one of our customers was working on the project and stopped by to ask for advice. We showed them our waste station and our rinse water data.
They were able to write non-conflicting rules for handling cleaning industry wastewater, and started the Dump Smart program to promote the new rules. The program was effective enough to be retired – you won’t see any professional putting wastewater in a storm drain anymore.
We’re proud to have been able to help, and have since worked with other State and local agencies when cleaning-related information is requested.