We’re a Lean, Green, Cleaning Machine!

We’re a Lean, Green, Cleaning Machine!

Hey – nobody ever said going green would be easy. One thing’s for sure: our environment, both locally and globally, matters. The air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink are vital for us and for the generations that follow us.

Malcolm ‘Mack’ McGregor, owner of Browns Cleaners Ottawa, felt strongly that regardless of the status quo in the dry cleaning industry, he was going to take Browns going green into his own hands.


You may have already heard how we recently revitalized our entire dry cleaning system city-wide to remove the use of perchloroethylene or ‘perc,’ in all our cleaning processes. For a local family-run business, this was a huge undertaking, and we are thrilled to have succeeded.

But going perc-free isn’t the only thing Browns has done to foster a more sustainable, green local community in Ottawa as a business. In fact, we’re been working hard to reduce our carbon footprint and keep our city beautiful for decades.

I sat down with Mack this week to chat a little bit about the ways Browns works to keep our Capital clean and green:

Why do you think going green matters?

There are a lot of people in Ottawa that are very cognisant of dry cleaners not being very environmentally-friendly. We want to try to counteract that as good citizens of the community so that we aren’t contributing to pollution.

What are some of the smaller, day-to-day steps Browns is taking to stay green?

One of the things we’re trying to do right now is to collect the plastic that covers our garments, and ensure that it is recycled – that means we have to bail it. Collecting every piece off every garment and rolling it up into large bails that weigh hundreds of pounds (similar to a bail of hay) and eventually have it hauled off in a trailer and shipped to a certified recycling facility. Currently we are looking into buying a bailer to do this!

We use on average 13,500 pants hangers a month and 10,000 regular hangers a week. Suit hangers we do approximately 2,500 a week. We recycle roughly 50% of these. The ones that we can’t reuse, are sent to Baker Metal and Recycling, where every year, more than 200,000 tons of scrap metal move through their facility, then sent on to foundries, smelters and steel mills. You can actually track the number of hangers getting recycled online (ours being a part of these numbers), through the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute International. It’s a huge movement that we’re a part of.

Finally, not long ago we actually changed every single one of our electrical light bulbs from 40watt incandescent bulbs to 28watt fluorescent and LED bulbs – both here in our warehouse, and in every one of our stores.  All through our operation here. In many cases because these are much brighter, we actually went with fewer bulbs, reducing our electrical output significantly.
What would you say is the most significant thing Browns does as a business to keep Ottawa clean?

I would say that getting rid of the use of perc is one of the biggest things that we’ve done over the years. Almost everyone else in the city uses it. We are also doing more and more wet cleaning, which is using just water and environmentally-friendly detergents. More than 60% of the clothes that come in here are wet cleaned, meaning zero harmful chemicals are used. Everything we use in the cleaning process is biodegradable.

Do you feel that your staff understands the importance of protecting our environment?

We all have different values, however, our aim is to use more and more environmentally-friendly methods and equipment in all our facilities and franchises. We’re actually looking at getting rid of one of our air compressors right now to reduce our hydro usage. We try to encourage all of our facilities to share these values. We’re always looking to see how we can be more efficient.

I understand Browns has been involved in the Ottawa Snowsuit Fund this winter – collecting lightly used children’s snowsuits across the city, cleaning them for free, and donating to local shelters like The Ottawa Mission. Essentially recycling clothing! Would you say the program was successful this year?

Definitely. We sent over 200 coats and snowsuits to the Snowsuit Fund this year; and we’ve been involved with this wonderful organization for many years. We are also involved with Fairy Godmother and My First Suit which provide gowns and suits for those who need them. They are all examples of re-using clothing and helping others. We just want to be involved in the community as best we can! We feel you have to give back to the community on a continual basis.

So going perc-free was definitely huge. But based on my chat with Mack, it’s not just the big things. It’s all the little things, each and every day at our dozens of locations city-wide that add up and make a big difference.

It’s a good feeling knowing that we’re doing our part to keep Ottawa green!


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