Why it’s important:
Being recognized as “sustainable” wins the attention of customers who want to purchase from green suppliers, and there are a number of certifications in energy, water, and waste–the three components that make up a sustainability plan–which will bring credibility to your program.
Let’s start with energy. The US DOE has a number of energy related awards ranging from Energy Star to Better Plants (which used to be called Save Energy Now). There is also the Superior Energy Performance (SEP) that focuses on plant wide energy reductions and Best Management Practices. ISO 50001 is also a certification which includes requirements for an Energy Management System. If you want your energy program to kill two birds with one stone, then you can submit your Greenhouse Gas emissions data to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). This is not an award or certification, but does allow for transparency in regards to your energy goals and supporting energy data.
What about water conservation? How can we demonstrate our water use practices are also sustainable and green? The CDP also has a module for water. By selecting the best normalizing units of water use, this too can allow for water use to be in terms of gallons used per unit production (or similar) so that it doesn’t require companies to abstain from growth due to increased water use. Other data registers for displaying water use are also available, such as EPA’s Water Sense program. Not only does this program focus on water use during product manufacturing, but also water use specifications for the product itself. This is becoming very popular in addressing sustainable impacts of all product life cycle stages, not just manufacturing.
Now, let’s talk waste. How do you set improvement goals and instill credibility in waste tracking and reduction? One popular technique is to go Zero Waste to Landfill. There are companies who will certify a company as Zero Waste to Landfill through a variety of pathways such as recycling, waste-to-energy (incineration) or other alternative treatments of solid waste. But, be careful–waste streams can change or vendor’s appetite for different types of materials can change. Underwriters Laboratory has a certification for Zero Waste to Landfill, or you may be more interested in their overall certification to cover all three environmental areas, as included in their Environmental Product Certification (EPD).
What you can expect to see:
Whichever pathway you take, you should expect going green to provide benefits in market share as well as in environmental performance. And, with the onset of “reverse global warming” opportunities such as those detailed in the new book, Drawdown, environmental sustainability is becoming more the mandatory option.
About Charlie Parrish:
Charlie Parrish joined NC State IES in 1998 and assists NC manufacturers in areas including safety, energy, environmental compliance auditing , air quality permitting, emissions testing, industrial waste minimization assessments, energy surveys, and health and safety assessments & training. Charlie has a B.S. in biology (1978) from San Diego State University and an M.S. in environmental engineering (1989) from Virginia Tech University. Charlie received his P.E. license in environmental engineering in 1994.