Welcome to our two-part series with tips on how to move your facility along the sustainability path. We’ve talked to some of our customers to see what they’re doing to create a more sustainable workplace and have chosen the best ones to share.
We’ve broken these down into two groups: Interesting Ideas to Implement and Employee Buy-in Tips. Today we’re going to share interesting ideas to implement; check back next week for tips to help your employees buy into the process.
Interesting Ideas to Implement
“Sustainability” isn’t a new thing. It might be a new term, but some of its practices go back a long time. A lot of people we’ve spoken to on the subject tell us that they’ve been recycling for years – now they’re just trying to take it to the next level. So if you’re already doing the basic recycling, but want to do more, what can you do? Here are nine ideas to implement at your facility. These are coming right from the people out on the front lines, doing this every day. All we’ve done is pull them together in one place.
1. “We are spread out over maybe 450 acres so we created recycle areas. We painted and chained an area for each operating unit and called it a recycle area. These areas are on a map and get checked and emptied weekly.”
This is a great idea to make sure there’s a recycling area near your employees, no matter where they are in your facility. If people know that something is close by, they’re more apt to use it. Plus, they know that the areas will be emptied weekly, so it’s not a case of putting something in an area and then still seeing it there three months later. If you have a large facility, you might want to try this.
2. “We have a box with a pad and if you have an item that’s too heavy to bring to the area you leave a note and the crew picking up the recyclables will see the note.”
Isn’t this a simple idea! Making recycling easy and convenient for your folks plays a huge part in a successful sustainability plan. And there’s also time your workers are saving. The work gets done when employees can stay on the job and be productive, and meet production goals. Sustainability – fewer wasted resources and less wasted time! Win-Win!
3. “I’d like to get a recycling drum and a shredder on campus. We could chip up any wood, leaves or branches and place them into the recycling drum to make mulch for the campus. Our food waste could then go in it as well.”
We heard about the use of shredders a lot. Going outside your facility is something to consider if you haven’t already done so. People are making these investments fully realizing the potential benefits. Utilize natural resources for nourishing plants, trees and foliage. You’ll save money too – replacing mulch is expensive! And what about your storm drains? Yard debris from stormwater run-off gathers and clogs storm drains or ends up in local waterways. So, think about this one and ask if you’ve looked for opportunity beyond the walls of your facility.
4. “We donate old furniture to various organizations that have a need. We also support a local resale shop that deals in artwork from waste. We currently have returnable pallets that have eliminated much of our wood, however with the wood that is left we contract a wood recycler to separate and recycle it into animal bedding. We are currently looking for an alternative to cardboard recycling as we have a hard time getting our employees to break down the boxes as it is time-consuming. Broken pallets are repaired and only after they can’t be fixed are they sent back to the local manufacturer and used as firewood. Any non-confidential paperwork is sent to the local printing vendor where the pages are recycled into note pads.”
Great! Just some more examples of thinking outside the box when making recycling decisions.
5. “We have a waste database. Each waste has a specific name – example: oil contaminated waste. Each waste that leaves the site gets recorded so that I can track the totals for each quarter and eventually the end of the year. I also have a graph that shows me monthly where we stand in comparison to the last two years so I see right away if we have increases in anything. Sometimes if the numbers go up it’s easy to find the reason and correct it, and other times it’s really a true indication that we are disposing of more than the norm. So I keep a constant eye and communicate through a newsletter that everyone gets monthly.”
This is a great process. And keep it simple! We all know that benchmarking performance is a key factor in attaining success in any venture. Identify the areas and establish a goal. Although most everyone does some form of recycling, we were pretty surprised to find that there are many who haven’t set goals, or were hard pressed to say if they were getting better or worse when comparing one year to the next. So, set sustainability goals in stone and hold people accountable. Keeping the score and communicating results in your company newsletters keeps everyone accountable and on board with the plan. But ask the questions; firstly, do you have specific goals? Have you identified the areas? Is there a plan for what you expect to achieve from one year to the next? Just putting a name and label to each waste stream in order to isolate it and target its performance is a great start. And don’t forget that communication is key! Remember that people do care and want to know how they’re doing.
6. “We incorporate sustainability into waste reduction by starting with our purchasing policies. For example, we only use carpet squares in our building because they are easier to recycle in our part of the country; we have switched to a water-based traffic paint; and we are constantly looking at product substitution for the things we use.”
It all starts at the base of the supply chain. Always be thinking total product life.
7. “Given the fact that we are very visual to our community we have taken our recycling to the residents. As part of our ongoing goal for reduction of waste products within our organization, we have also started programs to collect some items to keep them from ending up in the landfill. We provide our residents an outlet to drop off batteries, fluorescent bulbs and mercury thermometers that we dispose of through a contracted waste company. Also, we have an annual household hazardous waste collection for paint, oil, chemicals, electronics, etc. The program has had a great deal of success and we continue to expand it as needed. (We spread any additional disposal cost between the city, county and townships that participate in the program.) We do get some monetary gains on some scrap items, such as copper, aluminum and some electronic items.”
Congratulations! Taking opportunities for reaching out to the community and providing additional environmental services is just plain smart. Residents really do want to do the right thing but sometimes don’t have the abilities or proper outlets to do so. The benefits to the environment and community are obvious. It’s really where we all live, work and play. And the monetary gains mentioned from the copper, aluminum and electronics actually helped offset any additional costs incurred.
8. “The first priority is to reuse scraps and end pieces in smaller projects, with appropriate storage dedicated to “potential reuse” items. Even the used equipment oil is reused through a special heater to keep the shop area warm in the winter. Adding two slow-moving ceiling fans in the shop high-bay reduced the heating oil consumption and allowed cooler temperatures in the summer in the mezzanine storeroom. Only when this storage is full will the least likely reuse items be recycled. All trash is sorted for recycling – even bent nails will be reused or placed into recycling. All funds generated throughout the year are spent on an August picnic.”
Even when you think your trash is ready for the hopper, think again! Even the simplest waste might have value and become someone else’s useful product.
9. “We have started a local coalition to see if our recycling needs are similar to the other manufacturing places around us and to see if we can collaborate together and utilize the waste more efficiently. At this point it’s rather difficult as we are not near enough to a major city to be able to afford to pay to transport our recyclables there. We can collaborate with other companies to help pay for some of those costs.”
There is power in numbers. Take a proactive approach to finding a solution to your toughest sustainability challenges and talk with companies in your local area. Remember that if you’re having a problem in a particular waste area, your neighbor is most likely having the same problem. For example, in one case we heard of a facility that generated a problem acid waste that was repurposed as a metal cleaning agent by another company. Local coalitions with similar needs sharing challenges are a great way to help you achieve your sustainability goals.
We hope these have helped. Come back next Wednesday to get some tips on how to make your employees buy-in to your sustainability practices.
You tell us: Which of these tips will be helpful at your facility? Care to share any tips of your own? Let us know in the comments section below!