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 Getting Your Facility to Go Green

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Buying the right products, making conscious choices and improving efficiency are all a part of

 going ‘green,’ but another important component is getting colleagues, employees and superiors to buy in. Here are several strategies to get help in making your facility a more environmentally friendly operation.

 

Getting a factory or corporate campus to run smoothly is a monumental feat, so facility managers have good reason for pause when they consider tweaking their operations. But factors ranging from cost savings to environmental concern are prompting these managers to “green” their facilities, i.e. to make them more environmentally sustainable.

Sometimes the greening process begins with a directive from management and a healthy budget; sometimes it’s just a departmental initiative to make changes in the physical plant without affecting the service level or the bottom line. Either way, chances are you can make a big difference. Here are some places to start:

 

Educate

Green products and services often don’t cost more than their traditional equivalents, so if you’re trying to get your janitorial staff to use green cleaning products, any resistance you meet won’t be budget-related. But convincing old dogs to adopt new tricks can be difficult; the key is education. That includes tailoring your teaching points for your audience. Sometimes you’ll win converts by explaining how a new product or process is earth-friendly, but other times you’ll need to be more specific.

If you’re working with janitorial staff, “You explain that when you go to greener products, you decrease their exposure to many of the harsh cleaning chemicals they’re exposed to every day,” says Tom Griffin, director of Greener Results Consulting in Richmond, Va. “In most cases, janitorial staffs report reductions in breathing-related ailments, headaches and skin irritations. In my experience the use of green cleaning products results in improved overall health of the janitorial staff and decreases long-term health and liability costs.”

Another example: at a rural chemical plant where many employees were avid hunters and fishermen, Griffin explained how his proposed changes would benefit the area’s wildlife.

 

Empower

Griffin recommends forming a “Green Team” of employees from different departments and asking tthem to serve as the lead advisory body for greening efforts. The team could discuss and rank the facility’s existing environmental impacts, consider the costs of changing course and then recommend solutions. In many cases these programs will save money—a recycling program that reduces waste and minimizes landfill tipping fees, or an energy-saving initiative that stresses turning off lights and computers after hours.

By involving more people, your efforts will likely have a higher profile and more support. To build on that, make sure everyone hears your success stories.

“Look for low-cost and no-cost measures, then communicate with upper management about what you’re doing,” says Michael Arny, president of Leonardo Academy, a Madison, Wisc.-based nonprofit sustainability consultancy. “That will reduce uncertainty and publicize that sustainable activities are mostly about paying attention, not increasing costs.”

 

Examine

Paying attention is especially important in procurement. It’s not that everything you buy needs to be green, but why not build into your contracts and procurement procedures a provision that requires you—and your vendors, when they purchase on your behalf—to look first for a green product if it makes financial sense?

“With every decision you make, commit to thinking about whether there’s a greener way to do it,” says Griffin. “It doesn’t mean you always make that choice, but at least ask the question.” Arny suggests a policy that requires purchases to meet LEED regulations unless those items cost a certain percentage more than the non-green version.

 

Extend

If you commit to going green, make sure your vendors do, too. If it’s a cleaning service, specify that you want green cleaning; if it’s a construction contractor, specify that you want the old materials recycled.

“When purchasing a product or service, you have the opportunity to prescribe what you are buying and how a service is going to be delivered,” says Griffin. “Use your buying power to go green.”

Greening your facility doesn’t have to be expensive, and may help your operations run more efficiently and effectively. The key to running a more environmentally friendly facility is communicating what needs to be done and getting people to buy-in. Chances are, that’s how you got the place running smoothly to start with, so maybe going green isn’t so different, after all.

 

Article by Steve Hendershot