By Douglas E. Ruhlin, CCPf, LEED GA, REM, CEA.
Does the word “sustainability” strike fear in your business relations? Surely you have heard that more and more contractors are digging deeper to find suppliers that can document how their wares meet sustainability guidelines, especially where LEED points may make the difference in getting the bid or not. You may say to yourself, “I just don’t have time right now,” or you may think that becoming more sustainable means a long, complicated and expensive program involving a lot of changes to your facility. This is not necessarily the case!
Here are five actions you can take right now, before the end of this week, that will take you down the path toward a more sustainable plant or company.
1. Develop a corporate sustainability policy. Plenty of examples are out there. My advice is to take a look at what others are doing in your industry and go from there. Don’t plagiarize them, but don’t think you need to reinvent the wheel either.
2. Create a sustainability team. For now, that might be you and hopefully one or two others. Have a brief meeting to start some discussion. Admitting you know little about sustainability as a group is a good starting point, since you can learn together. Make a brief action plan, and assign some duties – such as “search the internet and find out what this sustainability thing is all about” – then schedule another meeting.
3. Write down your key resource usage areas, and make a plan to look into them to see how you might reduce use. This should certainly include energy use (including electrical use, fuel use and engine efficiencies) and water use to start, but you might also include air emissions, recycling activities, etc.
4. Put together a list of your vendors, and make plans to inquire about their sustainability programs. Your actions include your vendors. Hopefully you are buying from those who conduct their operations in a sustainable manner as well – if not, you may want to consider other vendors. This would be a great task for a sustainability team member.
5. Review your environmental regulatory compliance level. Compliance is not often mentioned as part of overall sustainability, but receiving an environmental violation will do a lot to damage any claims you make about being green. So why not make sure you’re not missing anything or falling short somewhere?
These simple steps, which you can do in a relatively short period of time, will begin to build a great foundation for your sustainability program. From here, you can begin to build your program, and even branch out into other areas such as social responsibility and economic considerations.
But for now, why not just start with these five simple steps.
Douglas E. Ruhlin, CCPf, LEED GA, REM, CEA, is an environmental and sustainability consultant with Resource Management Associates. He can be reached at [email protected] or (609) 693-8301 for questions or assistance with sustainable practices, product and plant certifications, and complete environmental services for the precast concrete industry.