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Introduction

Welcome to my new blog Creative Sustainable Solutions.  The articles written here will focus on increasing sustainability and making a positive impact on the environment.  I greatly appreciate you taking a moment to stop by the blog and sincerely hope it provides value for both your business and personal life.  To get started, let me begin with a brief introduction and some background information about myself…

For as long as I can remember, spending time outdoors and making a difference in the environment has always been a passion of mine.  Over the years I have participated in many beach sweeps and dune grass plantings.  The task of cleaning up a beach may seem boring to some, but for me it is very gratifying to properly dispose of recyclable content that washes up.  My golden retriever and I make it a habit to live by the Boy Scout rule of “leaving a place cleaner than we found it”.  Although there is always more garbage to collect, knowing that we had a positive impact on the beach is the only reason we need.

One thing I have noticed as a conscious individual is that even with responsible actions on a personal level, the way to have a larger impact is within a business or organization.  Through creating sustainable initiatives and having proactive policies in place, companies can really help to make the world a better place.  By acting in a responsible manor, not only do companies gain an advantage over competitors. They can also help to inspire their employees to make a difference thus creating a positive cycle for change.

My goal for this blog is to write a short weekly article summarizing a variety of Creative Sustainable Solutions.  I look forward to connecting with you and providing thought provoking content.

Thanks for visiting,

Brian

The TRUE Overview

The TRUE Overview

In the previous Creative Sustainable Solutions blog post, I mentioned a newly revised zero waste building certification known as TRUE (Total Resource Use & Efficiency) which will be offered by the USGBC in the coming weeks. The TRUE building certification aims to bypass the complexity of waste sorting through increasing the focus of zero waste within the arena of sustainability.  The TRUE certification is a recognizable “badge of honor” for companies to proudly display, signifying their focus on operating zero waste facilities.  Achieving the accomplishment of a zero waste facility not only reduces the consumption of materials but also opens the door for potentially lower operational expenses.

Prior to summarizing the details of the TRUE Rating System as found in the “Guide To Zero Waste Certification” providing the official definition of zero waste seemed appropriate.  According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, zero waste is “a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Zero waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing zero waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.

When compared to the other building certifications offered by the USGBC, TRUE uses a very similar format which is focused points being awarded for the completion of various requirements.  There are 15 categories covering the many aspects of what it takes to achieve and maintain a zero waste facility.  Within the 15 categories there are total of 81 potential credit points that the building can choose to satisfy.  The minimum amount of points required to earn the TRUE certification is 31.  In order to earn each point, thorough documentation of relevant information must be recorded.  As more credits are successfully completed, additional points are earned for higher levels of building certifications.

Currently the online course and exam are still underdevelopment and in the process of being finalized.  Although there has been a slight delay with the release, it is still very encouraging that the USGBC has taken such a progressive steps towards highlighting the importance of reducing waste.   Upon the official release, the opportunity to add a specific credential to my area of sustainability in which I am most passionate about will be amazing.  In the meantime, I am grateful for the privilege of working with more experienced professionals at SBM Management to become familiar with the concepts and strategies that can be implemented to achieve zero waste.  Being able to bring the main theme of nature which is nothing goes to waste into the business world is a great opportunity.

If reducing waste and reusing more is a passion of yours, please connect with me on LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/brianmartinsfp/

Stay sustainable,

Brian

What does TRUE mean to you?

When you hear the word “TRUE” what is the first thing that comes to mind?

For most people when they see or hear the word “TRUE”, it usually means that a particular topic can be considered accurate or is even a proven fact.  The basis for this association most likely goes back to the days of elementary school when the teacher would pass out a dreaded true or false pop quiz.  Although they were never fun, the chance of scoring well was often fairly high due each question having two possible answers.  As the student ascended through the grades of school the true or false test evolved into essay based assessments which thoroughly tested the comprehension of a subject.

The comparison of tests used throughout a student’s ascension of schooling can be directly related to how our society have evolved over the last hundred years with the way we consume and dispose of the materials and resources we use.  For example, in the early 1900’s the materials commonly available were relatively simple and disposal methods most likely use natural cycles such as decomposition.  This option can be compared with the simplicity of the true or false pop quiz.  On the other hand, if we look at the materials available today there are a plethora of chemically based options that require special handling and eventual disposal very similar to the in depth essay questions found at the college level.  The advancements in the ability to manufacture these materials and mass produce long lasting items that are very inexpensive  has led to the formation of some very wasteful consumption habits.

In response to the ever growing need for a greater zero waste presence in the arena of sustainability; the United States Green Building Council has recently released the TRUE Rating System which was the inspiration for this article.  According to the USGBC, “TRUE certified spaces are environmentally responsible, more resource efficient and help turn waste into savings and additional income streams. By closing the loop, they cut greenhouse gases, manage risk, reduce litter and pollution, reinvest resources locally, create jobs and add more value for their company and community” (Source 1).  The main concept behind efficiently using materials and resources is that of embodied energy.  Even when a particular product may seem small and inconsequential the amount of energy and resources that are consumed from the harvesting of the raw materials to the disposal of the consumed product add up to a much larger impact that we might realize.  This realization can be compounded to an even higher degree when we consider the ever growing global population.

Being that I am directly involved with the responsible consumption of materials and resources within my role as a sustainability coordinator with SBM Management Services, the release of an officially recognized zero waste certification program is very exciting to me.  As previously mentioned in a past blog post, one of my goals for 2018 is to become a credentialed TRUE advisor.  Earlier today, I registered for the TRUE Advisor online course and am excited to begin studying the material.   Adding this innovative piece of zero waste professional development to my resume and continuing to satisfy my thirst for knowledge will further enhance my ability to share it with others and make a lasting difference in the world.

Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/brianmartinsfp/

 

Stay Sustainable,

Brian

 

Source 1: https://true.gbci.org/

2017 – The Year of Sustainability

As the end of 2017 approaches and a new year is about to begin, the concept of recapping my year from a professional standpoint came to mind.  There were many great moments which included earning two professional credentials and officially beginning my career as a sustainability coordinator with SBM Site Services.  The opportunity to apply the knowledge attained while studying for these credentials within a real life business setting has been awesome.  I am grateful to be part of a collaborative sustainability team and able to learn from professional’s who have such a strong passion for making a difference within the world of waste.

One of the main reasons why I feel this is the perfect position for me presented itself a few weeks ago while reviewing a “job search” binder.  Inside, there were details regarding a recycling project to reduce the consumption of single use plastic within the Middletown – Whole Foods Market.  As the champion, my mission was to communicate the wide variety of alternative materials that could be used to sample products.  For example, rather than using a plastic spoon to sample yogurt, vendors could use a paper based spoon that was folded.  The best part about the paper spoon was the ability to get every last bit of yogurt, talk about being effective…  Whenever I would see a vendor using a less sustainable option, the task of imparting knowledge on the alternatives began.  Have past experience as an entrepreneur while selling my waterproof camera accessory, the Floating Tripod definitely paid off.

Although the concept of this project was initially conceived because of my involvement with the Surfrider Foundation, it is hard to deny its relationship with my current role as a sustainability coordinator with SBM.  In hindsight, gaining relevant experience within the area of sustainable material management is exactly where my passion lies.  As a recently appointed Co-Chair of Beach Cleanup’s for the Jersey Shore Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, I will be able to continue keeping the beach clean and sharing knowledge on this vital and often overlooked aspect of sustainability.  With that being said, documenting a few of my professional goals for 2018 will help to ensure another successful year.

 

Here are my top 3 goals for the New Year:

  1. Continue gaining hands on experience with SBM and assisting our customers to achieve their waste diversion goals for 2018 and beyond.
  2. Become a TRUE Advisor and gain a solid understanding of the rating system requirements, help projects achieve TRUE certification and continue my commitment to advancing zero waste values and policies.
  3. Revive the Creative Sustainable Solutions blog and post a bi-weekly article related to sustainable material management. The new article will be posted every other Sunday afternoon and use #sustainablesunday for social media purposes.

The Waste Hierarchy

In this article, I review the 6 parts of the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid. By working your way down the levels the waste produced within an organization can be reduced.

Throughout the business world, corporate executives are always discussing different strategies to increase productivity and decrease inefficient processes.  Often times these solutions are focused on the core aspects of the business and tasks of their employees.  One area that is usually overlooked is that of the physical waste produced within an organization.  Taking time to review this area can result in a wide range of benefits for both the environment and bottom line.  By analyzing the hierarchy of waste within an organization, executives can reduce expenses associated with the procurement of supplies and materials as well as minimize the costs for proper disposal.

The first and most important part of the waste hierarchy is the concept of preventing the purchase of material that could potentially go to waste.  When unnecessary supplies and materials are avoided, there is nothing to dispose of which saves money and automatically reduces waste.  A perfect example of a very simple method to reduce waste could be encouraging employees to bring in reusable coffee mugs and water bottles.  Although the purchase of these materials is not that expensive, over the course of a year it can be substantial and add up to around 500 disposable cups per employee (1).  Even more important is the focus that is being put on the prevention of waste.  Every time an employee takes a sip of coffee or refills their water bottle, this will reaffirm the goal of prevention and hopefully translate into other areas of the business.

The next step of the waste hierarchy is to minimize the amount that is being produced.  This process is towards the top of the pyramid because despite the fact that there is small amount of waste, the focus is still on making decisions focused on reducing consumption.  An area of business that the concept of minimization can be clearly seen is manufacturing.  When companies look for ways to innovate and streamline their product design, it usually results in fewer materials and less waste.  To demonstrate this concept, we will look at the redesign of plastic water bottles to minimize material usage.  In 2009, PepsiCo’s bottled water known as Aquafina began releasing an “Eco-Fina” version to reduce the amount of material used in each bottle.  According to PepsiCo this weighs only 10.9 grams and uses 50 percent less plastic than bottles of the same size produced in 2002 (2).  Although the idea of single use products is controversial from a sustainability standpoint, a reduction in half the material being used is a step in the right direction.

Eventually as a business continues to analyze the different areas of potential waste, they will reach a point where there is nothing else to prevent or minimize.  This is where the idea of reusing materials comes into play which can also help the bottom line in terms of lower the costs of procurement.  Although many documents can now be accessed and shared without the need for printing a physical copy, there is still a need to print some.  Depending on the type of business and the information printed, the option to reuse previously printed paper could be a viable option.  According to the World Wildlife Foundation, if Citigroup employee’s used double-sided copying to conserve just one sheet of paper each week, the firm would save US$700,000 each year (3).

After the option to reuse a particular material has been considered, one of the most well-known ways to reduce waste can be considered which is recycling.  This option takes materials which can no longer be reused and turns it into a different product.  One of the easiest materials for an organization to recycle and have a measureable impact on their sustainability data is the office paper.  The University of Southern Indiana claims that each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water (4).  By translating the data for each ton of recycled paper, the importance of responsible recycling can be seen.  Not only is the amount of source material reduced but also the other finite resources such as water and fuel to process it.  In addition, the ability to show employees a more relatable format of the information will hopefully help to increase program participation.

The second to last portion of the waste hierarchy is much less well known and often times not and on site option.  It is the process of energy recovery from the non-recyclable waste that is produced within an organization.  Energy recovery takes the waste and converts it into usable heat, electricity, or fuel through a variety of processes, including combustion, gasification, pyrolysis, anaerobic digestion and landfill gas recovery (5).  By choosing to dispose of waste in this manor, the materials are permanently converted into another form eliminating the possibility for reuse.  In terms of sustainability it does not have as great of an impact as the previous possibilities but does help to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels such as oil and coal.

Once all of the previous options for waste have been considered the last resort of disposal must be used.  At this point of the process, all of the potential value has been removed from the material and the most common method of disposal is a landfill.  In 2014, Americans produced close to 260 million tons of waste with over 50 percent going straight to landfills (6).  This figure does stray away from the direct focus of sustainability within a business but also shows the importance of corporations taking this aspect seriously.  Through providing consumers with more environmentally friendly products, they will be able to help reduce the human impact on the environment.  It can also serve as a competitive advantage in the marketplace by demonstrating corporate responsibly and the desire to make a difference.

In conclusion, although the concept of waste within an organization may not be the most glamorous subject it does provide much opportunity to benefit a business.  Through the process of trying to prevent the purchase of unnecessary materials business can lower their overhead.  For the materials that are necessary, it is very important to carefully procure them and attempt to minimize the amount used.  After materials have been used always try to reuse or at the very least recycle them.  When neither of those options is available consider responsible disposal that uses energy recovery techniques to collect every last bit of value.  If all else fails disposing of waste materials in a responsible managed landfill is the final option.

At the end of the day, when corporate executives take the time to consider these options they are leading by example and making an effort to run a sustainable business.  This helps to show employees and customers that it is important to reduce our impact and make responsible decisions that help reduce of negative impact on the local and global communities.

 

Sources

 

The Sustainable Advantage

Every day, it seems like the concept of sustainability and the value it adds within an organization is taking on more weight.  Companies that embrace sustainable practices are learning that by taking proactive steps there are many benefits.  A few of the most obvious examples are increased innovation, higher productivity and a greater competitive advantage.  Hopefully, this post will help encourage you to build a case for sustainability within your organization and encourage individuals to help make a difference.

The first advantage that can be directly related to sustainability is increased innovation.  Through the process of brainstorming “Creative Sustainable Solutions”, employees will enhance their ability to think critically and contribute new ideas that help reach organizational goals.  This process will hopefully encourage outside the box thinking and begin to impact other key business components such as reducing waste.  A quick an easy example of sustainability would be to use a coffee mug rather than a Styrofoam cup.  On the surface, this may seem simple.  However if we look at the principle behind this idea which is to waste less, this can translate into other areas such as the unnecessary printing of documents.  Couple these techniques together and not only does a business save on material costs but also the labor required disposing of it.

Another advantage that can be seen is an increase in employee productivity.  When the indoor environment conditions are enjoyable, the level of productivity tends to be higher.  One of the easiest ways to promote a healthier indoor environment is to actually bring aspects of the outdoors in.  If possible, allowing natural light to come in during the day can improve an individual’s mood as well as help reduce energy consumption.  In addition to allowing more light in, another option could be to have plants scattered through the building.  Not only do they add a have nice aesthetic, there is also some degree of air filtration.  The use of biophilic design helps to satisfy our connection with nature on both a cognitive and psychological level.

The final advantage that can be seen through sustainable change is increased competitiveness.  Through my experience as an employee and also as an entrepreneur, I have learned that no matter what industry a business is in, there is always competition.  As resources such as water and fuel become more limited, the cost to obtain them will become greater.  If a company fails to enact more efficient practices and procedures this could affect the overall success of a business.  Consumers are also beginning to support businesses that act in responsible manner.  By keeping accurate records and using proper metrics, organizations will be able to use this information to help differentiate between competitors.

In conclusion, there are many different benefits an organization can enjoy through the process of becoming more sustainable.  Whether it is to increase innovation, improve employee satisfaction or gain a greater competitive advantage they can all make a difference.  With that being said, there are also other advantages that can be discovered as well as risks to be avoided.  Please feel free to add your favorite in the comments below.  Collaboration and exchanging ideas is what it’s all about and I would love to hear your opinion.

 

Sustainably yours,

Brian

The Triple Bottom Line

One of the most important concepts regarding sustainability in a business setting is known as the Triple Bottom Line.  This principle focuses on balancing the Social, Environmental and Economic aspects within an organization.  By balancing these three major areas, a company can maximize profitability and have a powerful impact on the community.  To be truly balanced and effectively use the Triple Bottom Line concept, each area carries the same degree of importance.

The first aspect we will look at is the social part of creating sustainable change within an organization.  This is a very important area because it directly affects the human side of a business both internally and externally.  When a company moves in a sustainable direction the employees will have a safer and healthier environment to work in.  This can lead to greater job satisfaction and productivity while at work.  Companies can also sponsor volunteer events and become a contributing factor in the local communities they do business.  The benefit to this would be higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The second aspect that must be considered when making sustainable decisions is the economic factors.  This is a critical area to analyze because if a company is sacrificing its hard earned profits to be more sustainable, there can be a negative long term budgeting issues.  The best part about financial decisions is that with new advances in technology, sustainable solutions are becoming less expensive and easier to use.  In order to make accurate decisions, in depth research has to be performed that weighs many different options.  Through the careful analysis of both short term and long term costs, companies can find solutions that offer the highest return on investment.

The third aspect of increased sustainability is the environmental impact a company has.  The key to this area is to making decisions that have the least amount of impact on the environment.  There are many techniques that can be used to do this and most of them are low or no cost solutions.  There will be a future article written on the different methods that can be used.  For now, establishing an effective waste reduction and recycling program would be a good start.  The most important part is to properly educate and have solid reasoning for heading in a sustainable direction.

In summary, the best way to become more sustainable and have a positive impact on the local and global community is through balance.  Anytime changes are made with a business the three aspects of the Triple Bottom Line must be considered.  By doing this, we can ensure that the businesses we work for and support make a positive difference in the world.