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A New Role for Mats: Promoting Sustainability

We have known for more than 15 years that floor mats placed at key building entries are crucial to a green cleaning program. With high-performance matting installed, as much as 70 percent of outdoor soil and moisture is caught and trapped in the mat, preventing it from being walked into the facility on someone’s shoes.

ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association, estimates that 1,000 people entering a building over a 20-day period will walk in about 24 pounds of soil. High-performance entry mats help prevent this. So installing them is “green” simply because less soil and moisture are brought into the facility, which typically reduces the amount of cleaning needed. And by reducing the amount of cleaning needed, along with chemicals and equipment, the impact of cleaning on the environment is reduced.

But now facility managers are looking for more than green cleaning. They want to operate their facilities in a much more sustainable manner.* Not surprisingly, entry mats are helping building managers attain this goal as well.

We’ve already addressed one way that floor mats promote sustainability. Mats help a facility remain cleaner, and thus fewer cleaning solutions, often made from nonrenewable sources, are needed. And with fewer chemicals delivered to a facility, packaging needs are reduced, including the number of boxes and plastic containers typically used to house cleaning solutions. Furthermore, less fuel is needed to produce and transport these boxes and containers, resulting in fewer greenhouse gases generated during production and in the delivery process and less waste overall.

Following are some additional examples of how high-performance mats can promote sustainability:

Extending the life of carpet: In a typical office building, carpet is replaced every five to seven years. Most carpet installed in the United States is made from nylon or similar man-made fibers, and these fibers are made from nonrenewable sources such as petroleum. Studies have shown that the life span of carpeting can be extended in two ways: with more frequent cleaning or by keeping more soils out of the carpet in the first place. High-performance mats help keep soils from entering facilities and becoming embedded in carpet fibers, extending the life span of the carpet. High-performance mats can extend the life of hard-surface floors as well.

Reducing energy needs: In commercial facilities, dust builds up in HVAC systems. This reduces system efficiency and causes these systems to use more energy to meet the comfort needs of building users. Dust is a dry soil that can easily be captured and stored in a high-performance entry mat. With these mats installed, more dust is kept out of the facility, helping to reduce the dust buildup and keep these systems running efficiently.

Prolonging the life of office computers: Most computers are designed with scores of components made from nonrenewable sources. They have fans and vents to efficiently dissipate the heat generated by these components. However, as these vents become dusty, air movement is obstructed. With less dust in the air, as a result of high-performance mats, there is less restriction of airflow, helping to keep the unit cooler and extending its life span.

Lengthening the life of cleaning equipment: Commercial vacuum cleaners are designed to last three to five years. After that, they typically end up in landfills. Commercial floor machines and carpet extractors are now similar to small cars. Manufacturing them requires considerable amounts of plastics, metals, petroleum products, and water. With high-performance mats installed, these machines likely will be used less, and with less use, they will last longer, again promoting sustainability.

Note, however, that not just any entry mat will suffice when it comes to promoting sustainability. We have referenced the use of “high-performance” mats. Made by different manufactures, these mats typically are purchased, not rented, and are designed to be more effective than rental mats. In addition, these mats are in themselves more sustainable. A high-performance mat should last one to six years. A rental mat may last only 60 to 90 days.

Adam Strizzi is the marketing manager for Crown Matting Technologies, one of the oldest and largest matting companies in the United States. He can be reached via his company website.

*For our purposes, we are using the traditional definition of sustainability, which is to use today’s natural resources more efficiently and responsibly so that they are available for future generations.

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