As Teresa Farmer and her colleagues taught Kelsan’s customers about green cleaning, she learned something from their operations that’s helping her own company conserve energy and cut costs.

At Midlab Inc., a Kelsan supplier in Athens, Tenn., she and others observed energy-efficient lighting that turned off when no employees were in certain areas of the warehouse. At the Colgate plant in Morristown, where a customer of Kelsan cleans, Kelsan employees saw similar lighting and heard about how much the company was saving on its utility bills.

They suggested a similar project for their own employer, a janitorial and packaging supplier in Knoxville since 1950, as another way the company could reduced waste and energy consumption.

Kelsan installed new lighting in its offices and its 80,000-square-foot warehouse in February

“As a company, helping our customers go green, that prompted us to say we need to make changes in the way we do business,” says Farmer, Kelsan sustainability consultant.

From an environmental and business standpoint, the investment made sense.

“The best benefit to us is going to be the electrical consumption savings, which we estimate to be 52 percent,” says David Shipley, Kelsan director of purchasing and operations. “Of course, the other benefit is much brighter, better lighting. It has improved the quality of lighting in our warehouse and cut down on packing errors.”

Projections are that annual electrical costs will decrease from $42,054 to $11,383. The new lighting does not emit as much heat, resulting in a projected net annual reduced cooling cost of $5,911.

Shipley says the cost of installing the new lighting was $59,252, before receiving a TVA credit of $23,478. The investment will be recouped in about 11 months.

“So it was a no-brainer. We get to improve lighting, save energy, and have a better work area,” he says.

The move followed other efforts by Kelsan and its employees to become more sustainable.

Kelsan formed a green committee a few years ago that surveyed employees for ideas, and one suggestion was to stop using disposable kitchen items. Kelsan got rid of the Styrofoam, paper and plastic, and purchased mugs, glasses, plates and utensils that are used, washed and reused, Farmer says.

The company has also reduced paper usage by relying on email to send reports, faxes and invoices, and working with customers to communicate electronically as much as possible, she adds.

To reduce fuel consumption, Kelsan uses a software program that determines the most efficient route for its trucks to make deliveries.

Besides recycling cardboard, empty drums and pallets, Kelsan reuses cardboard boxes it receives for shipping to customers.

As a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Accredited Professional, Farmer helps Kelsan customers develop green cleaning programs designed to protect the health and safety of cleaning staff and customers’ employees.

Farmer, who also assists companies interested in certification through the Cleaning Industry Management Standard, says her goal is to help customers save money as they adopt green cleaning methods.

“There is an upfront cost (to going green), but we are going to make that money back. A lot of companies realize, when they start making these changes, it is not only good for the environment, it also is good for their finances,” she says.

Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
By Kay Brookshire