SAN FRANCISCO — Dry cleaning isn’t an industry that is generally associated with ‘green’ practices. Brightleaf Cleaners, with three locations in the Bay area, is looking to change that perception with a host of eco-friendly business practices that are not only kind to the environment, but result in significant cost savings.
Its latest project, the installation of solar panels on the company’s 6,000-square-foot production plant, is expected to reduce utility costs at the facility by 60-70%.
Brightleaf began installation of solar panels on its production facility in Livermore, Calif., in August, with completion anticipated for mid-October. Fabrication of solar panels by Vista Solar for the project is under way.
Bob Strong, CEO of Brightleaf Cleaners, cites several reasons why installing solar made sense for his business.
First, he says, is the tax incentive. Strong put 20%, or $28,000, down on the conventional equipment loan secured for the project, and anticipates a $51,000 personal federal tax credit in 2015 for installing solar. Many of these tax incentives expire in 2016, Strong says, making his decision to go solar now even timelier.
Marketing advantages were another benefit, he says. Brightleaf was recently approved as a green business by the Bay Area Green Business Program in Contra Costa County, which acknowledged to Strong that it was unaware of another dry cleaner using solar in the state.
The main reason for going solar is that it makes business sense, Strong says.
“We anticipate a cost savings of $25,000 a year with the installation of the solar project,” he says. “That’s a savings of about $2,200 per month. My monthly payment to finance the debt on the equipment purchase is only $1,900 per month. That makes it a no-brainer.”
The installation of solar also increases the building’s value and the business’ bottom line. For Brightleaf, which is offsetting $25,000 a year in savings, the solar project will add an estimated $100,000-$125,000 to the value of the business.
“As a business owner, solar instantly makes you more profitable without implementing any management procedures or increasing the price of your product,” says Strong. “Day one, you’ve added value to your business.”
Brightleaf is no stranger to environmentally friendly business practices. It is the only dry cleaner to receive a grant from StopWaste.org, which supports businesses that commit to reducing landfill waste, according to Strong. It also received a $5,400 grant to offset the cost of implementing the Green Garmento bag (an eco-friendly alternative to single-use plastic bags) for its customers.
Customers weren’t charged for the new bags, but rather were offered a 1% discount if they used them. Brightleaf saves 1.5% in plastic costs, plus the labor it took to package orders in plastic bags.
Other green practices at Brightleaf include the installation of tankless water heaters and low-flow toilets, the use of recycled paper, and the retrofit to low-energy fluoroscent lighting in both of its production facilities.
Brightleaf uses SystemK4, a halogen-free, biodegradable, environmentally friendly alternative to traditional drycleaning solvents. Additionally, the business provides plug-in hybrid vehicles for the personal use/commuting of its three executive staff members.
In July, Brightleaf was named “Best Dry Cleaner” by Diablo Magazine’s Best of the East Bay 2015. Strong credits next-day delivery and implementation of the Green Garmento bag as factors in the award.
Brightleaf Cleaners has been selected as one of America’s Best CleanersTM (ABC) for 2015. ABC is an independent certification organization for the drycleaning industry, and actively promotes environmentally friendly drycleaning practices and technologies.
This article was originally written by a staff writer at americandrycleaner.com.