Category Archives: Recycling

2014 Sustainability Trends (2 of 10)

I finally spent some time reading the “State of Green Business 2014” which is published each year by  and sustainability metrics and indicators is the major story line and I’ve read that in many reports and articles.  About two years ago I started using a Sustainability Dashboard and so far that has served us well.

The report introduces ten key trends for 2014 and I will briefly comment on two of them every few days this week:

1.  Collaboration Becomes An Accelerator: We have a great example here in West Michigan where competing manufacturers joined forces voluntarily to drive the supply chain and created BIFMA’s (Business + Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association) e3 Sustainability Standard (  Another example: the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef involving members of the entire beef value chain along with leading nonprofits setting the principles and criteria for sustainable beef.

2.  Chemical Transparency: Did you know there were more than 85,000 chemicals in commerce in the U.S. alone?  About 2,000 new chemicals are introduced into commerce annually in the U.S. – that is about six new chemicals every day.  Research everyday is discovering the dangers to humans and the environment from many of these chemicals.  Walmart and Target have been driving the retail market to approach these issues head-on.  In 2014 ten priority chemicals will be named with a requirement to disclose ingredients and remove priority hazardous chemicals.  In California, the Department of Toxic Substances Control by April will select up to five “priority products” for manufacturers to reformulate into safer products using green chemistry and I’ve heard that if a manufacturer refuses to do this, they will not be allowed to sell their products in California.  I am keeping a close eye on this one as the commercial cleaning industry has manufacturers that won’t go with the 3rd party green certification path because they don’t want to expose their list of ingredients for trade secret reasons, so this will all be very interesting.  If manufacturers refuse, opportunities will be created for others.

Next post I will talk about the next two:

3.  Water as a Risk Factor

4.  Shadow Pricing


Employee Engagement and Sustainability

I do believe that most people care about sustainability efforts: economics, people and the environment and it sure is a lot easier to reach goals when everyone is engaged in the process.  When you have all three of these cylinders balanced, you have prosperity!  In my role of sustainability at our company, many times I have felt like I am alone on this boat, rowing and rowing all by myself.  I know I am not the only one in this type of role that has felt that way.  I am often approached by colleagues in the West Michigan area in similar type roles asking to meet and just chat because they feel the need for peer support and they don’t necessarily get that internally.  Here are a few ways that I do believe you can get more people involved in your efforts:

  • Post your sustainability goals so they are visible to everyone.  I established a “Zero Waste to Landfill” goal for 2014.  I cannot do that alone, everyone in the company has an impact on that goal.  I better be letting everyone know that and keep them in the know on our progress throughout the year.  Visual ways to demonstrate this are great and there are several ways you might be able to communicate that:  Company Intranet, bulletin boards, electronic kiosk, company newsletter, updates at company meetings or team meetings.  Remember it takes at least seven times for people to hear something before they start to absorb it.
  • Share utility information with everyone.  Preferably in a graph or nice format that is easy to read.  If you are tracking this information in EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager ( you are able to generate reports.  There are web-based dashboards and we use the Sustainability Dashboard tool
  • Offer lunch and learn educational opportunities.  These seem to be successful especially if you can offer information and tips that can also be applied at home.
  • Creative a competitive environment amongst departments.  This could especially be helpful with energy conservation efforts.  Provide tools like decals or sticky notes for employees to use to remind others to turn off computers for example.
  • Provide tours of your building talking about the sustainability features
  • Get employees involved in your waste audits
  • Solicit suggestions from employees on improvements they recommend

Those are a few ways I have tried to engage our associates/employees.  The more frequent you do some of these things, the more engagement you will experience.  I speak to this from first hand experience.  I will admit that I have not been consistent about doing this and I definitely have found when I do, the participation goes up, when I don’t, it disappears.  So 2014 I have committed to practicing what I preach!