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Environment And Ecology
Sustainable policies a new green trend

For eco-minded businesses, a recycling plan, paper waste reduction and energy savings are likely the first ideas to be implemented. They’re all things that will save money so it makes financial sense as well. In those categories, one popular move currently is to take a look at lighting fixtures — in some cases, businesses are saving 30 percent to 50 percent on their electricity bill by simply switching bulbs to fluorescent.

Niels Nicolaisen, coordinator for the EnviroStars program in Kitsap County, said that’s common among the businesses that certify through the program. “Almost everyone is retrofitting their lighting to get more efficiency,” he said. “Fluorescent tubes are a popular item I see a lot.”

But many companies are going beyond the basics. One growing trend is the adoption of sustainable policies and procedures that become incorporated into the daily way of conducting business. It mostly happens at bigger companies, but even small businesses are taking steps in that direction.

“More businesses are interested in having policies in sustainable and green purchasing. I think it’s going that way,” said Vicki Bushnell, education and community coordinator with the Kitsap County’s solid waste division. “They’re also promoting telecommuting, carpooling and other things to reduce carbon footprint.”

Andy Philley, vice president of manufacturing at Watson, a furniture manufacturer in Poulsbo, said a sustainability plan can look at things such as product sourcing and packaging, down to proper disposal and employee education. As a green company, everything Watson does is viewed through the lens of sustainability, but many of their procedures can easily be adopted by other industries.

Packaging, for example, is a major issue and Philley said it’s important to think about it ahead of time. Some vendors are open to taking their packaging back or to ideas on minimizing it.

“You could try to get reusable totes, avoid petroleum products and have as little cardboard as possible,” he said. “…Having the conversation in advance and then knowing what you’re going to do with it once it gets there is important.” Simple things could include having recycling bins easily accessible and labeled, and having a cardboard compactor on hand if there’s high-volume cardboard usage.

Perhaps a less orthodox approach, but effective nonetheless, is to look in the trash regularly. This will achieve two things: It will help make sure things are being diverted properly and continuously educate employees about recycling; it may also lead to new ideas on whether any trash could be processed differently.

At Watson, this kind of exploration is leading to one major change: With sawdust being the top garbage filler, the company looked at the problem and discovered that if the sawdust can be turned into brickets, it can be recycled through the same stream where they take many other recyclables, Recovery 1 in Tacoma. The plan is to buy a bricketer.

Cost is always a question for a business and it’s true that some eco-friendly measures are bound to cost more. But things are changing.

“Companies will adopt things if they work and are cost-effective,” Nicolaisen said. “What’s happening is that a lot of the things are becoming industry standard… and the prices are coming down.”

The trend of being environmentally friendly continues to grow. For example, the EnviroStars program, which is voluntary, has about 110 certified businesses currently, compared to about 80 five years ago (businesses have to recertify periodically). And the awareness is growing both on the side of business leaders and the consumers.

“It filters down to the customers — they will want to know at some point (if you’re green),” he said.

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