You're never too old to turn green, Bevan Broughton will tell you. In fact, the older you are, the more qualified you may be.

La Nuova Apparelmaster —  a family laundry firm in Taranaki, in business for five decades — embraced sustainability as part of a company transformation three years ago.

Broughton, the firm's operations manager, recalls wondering how hard it might be to persuade staff to embrace a greener approach to the operation. Many of them are well into middle age, he says. 

He wondered if they might be sceptical. "But they turned out to be the best of all," he says. "You're talking about a generation who grew up learning not to waste anything. They're the ones who had bubble and squeak. They know how to use up everything and waste nothing."

He says they eagerly took to the task of identifying ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and manage the whole operation more sustainably.

Broughton doesn't need the camouflage of business speak. He knows what the company he works for is doing. Where other vision statements might use abstract expressions, his declares in large capital letters: Big Hairy Ass Goal — Leading the way in the laundry industry.

Laundry is a tough business, with tight margins and an endless need to find savings. Some intense business analysis led to the development of a set of audacious goals, summed up in the Big Hairy Assed one.

The result was the transformation to a forward looking, highly skilled dry cleaning business with a strong focus on sustainability and environmental care.

The environmental dimension has had a profound effect on the staff's perspective. Broughton cites five of the staff attending a conference and learning about  the the "plastic soup" problem in the Pacific Ocean. They recounted the story at one of the firm's 8am meetings, held standing in the middle of the production area. People were astonished to hear about it, Broughton recalls. "They were saying, 'that's disgusting' — and they went home and Googled it to find out more."

Without prompting the team resolved to find ways to reduce plastic use even more. "One area they looked at was plastic wrap on our continuous towels.They managed to come up with a New Zealand made and environmentally friendly alternative: reusable rubber bands instead of plastic."

Another initiative: all sheets and motel linen leaves and returns in laundry bags. (The industry norm for sheets is plastic).

Where once waste (oil and tar) from the drycleaning process was sent to France for incineration, La Nuova now sends to it to a South Island company that recovers the solvent and turns the oil and tar into black salt, an ingredient in roading.

They are about to buy two machines that achieve zero waste - and having successfully encouraged their customers to embrace sustainability, they ship most garments and linens in boxes rather than plastic.

Sustainability, Broughton says, has been great for bringing down costs. "It's built into the way we do things. I never thought we would have ever hosted sustainable business events and green drinks and have so many tours and visitors amazed at what we do."

- Unlimited

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