Shane Johnston is the co-owner and general manager of Dollar Wise Quality Cleaners. This is not your ordinary dry cleaner and he is not your ordinary general manager. Shane has changed his company to make it as green as it can be.
In 2008, Dollar Wise became Winnipeg’s only environmentally focused dry cleaning and laundry service.
But the change started in 2004. That year, Shane was diagnosed with an advanced, life-threatening cancer. Shane has made a miraculous recovery but it was during recovery that he concluded that it must have been his workplace that made him sick. Dry cleaning involves some of the most toxic and carcinogenic chemicals on the planet. He resolved that the only way he would return to work was if he could make his workplace toxin-free.
To do so, there would need to be some changes. His business partner Paul Walsh agreed to support his quest.
Dollar Wise Quality Cleaning became the first dry cleaner in Winnipeg to ban the use of the traditional, highly toxic dry cleaning solvent perchlorethylene (perc). Perc is a workplace hazard as well as an environmental nasty. Instead, they use a product called DrySolv.
“Every dry cleaner in Manitoba is using perc except us,” said Johnston. “(DrySolv) is taking off like crazy in the U.S. I just don’t see any negatives.”
DrySolv requires less heat and less water to operate effectively and therefore less energy. It is not an ozone-depleter. It does not produce hazardous waste and is not a carcinogen – and it wasn’t expensive to switch from one chemical to another. It cost about $3,000 to convert the company’s three main dry cleaning units.
Johnston said that along with all the other good things associated with DrySolv, it appears to do a better job of cleaning the clothes. His said his customers began noticing the difference in the feel and look of the garments right away.
The other part of clothes cleaning involves water washing. Working with a local chemist, Johnston designed a new detergent called “Zöp”. This 3x concentrated product gets its cleaning power from enzymes. It is phosphate-free, carcinogen free, hypo-allergenic, AND it is as effective as its chemical competition.
Dollar Wise retails that detergent in its six company-owned locations and 17 independent altering and tailor locations pick-up and drop-off locations, including the two Nygard Fashion stores in Winnipeg. Johnston has entered into a deal with an international distributor to get the soap onto the shelves of major retailers.
To top it off, one of their delivery vehicles operates on recycled fryer grease from restaurants.
By concentrating on doing things the right way, this entrepreneur looks after his employees and the environment and has grown his business at the same time.