Going For The Green
- Published: Friday, 01 August 2008 08:00
Now that the notion of ìgoing greenî is household terminology, people are finally realizing that what's good for the bottom line also can be good for the environment ó and vice versa. This concept may be a new, hot topic for the mainstream media, but the aggregates industry has been walking this line for decades with its common-sense business practices.
Environmental consultant Pamela Gordon outlines some of these green business strategies in her book ìLean and Green: Profit for your Workplace and the Environment.î She also offers environmental help through her consulting firm Technology Forecasters Inc. (www.techforecasters.com) and often hosts sessions in a multitude of industries. And even though she never has worked professionally with the aggregates industry, her tactics align nicely with its practices.
CUT YOUR COSTS
One of the simplest notions is to reduce costs by minimizing waste. To the aggregates industry, this means cutting the amount of power and materials consumed while extracting and processing aggregate. It also means maximizing the utilization of our natural resources. For the aggregates industry, this boils down to simple mathematics. If you consume less fuel and energy, and put less into waste piles, the profit margins will be much higher. Again, what is good for business is good for the environment.
There is a technical term for this. Gordon says it's Design For Environment (DFE). Basically this means taking a look at the products that you sell and finding ways to deliver them with the smallest environmental footprint. Brainstorm your options to produce more while consuming less.
Youngquist Brothers Rock (http://www.youngquistbrothers.com) did exactly this when they were developing an operation in Fort Meyers, Fla., in 2003. When the cost for diesel fuel and tires began to rise, the company started looking for ways to eliminate them from their daily operations. Their ultimate goal was energy efficiency and complete freedom from haul trucks. The finished operation was capable of producing 12 million tpy, and it was entirely electric from its lake to the stockpile.
Blasted material is dug from the lake with an electric Bucyrus Erie 1260 dragline. The dried material is loaded by an electric Liebherr 994 backhoe that feeds a long line of conveyor, which carries material to the plant. Other innovations such as utilizing gravity cuts the plant's power consumption.
ìWe minimized the horsepower requirements of the main sump pump by utilizing the potential energy of the water,î says General Manager Ed Callahan. ìWe probably need half as much horsepower to pump the water over to the top of the sand plant compared to conventional sump designs.î
The result of this operation is a significantly cheaper ton of material without the exhaust. There also are no fuel farms or plumes of black smoke that the public once associated with the industry.
For a more thorough description of this operation visit: http://rockproducts.com/mag/rock_new_operation_digs.
Another step to building a more environmentally friendly operation is to look into how the product and raw materials are transported to the end user or distribution facility, Gordon says. For the construction materials industry this usually means developing as close as possible to high-growth areas. So this is actually a good argument against communities trying to keep them on the outskirts. The closer the material is to the market, the less it has to travel. This often translates into less traffic and less fuel consumption.
Sunrock Group's (http://www.thesunrockgroup.com) RDU Distribution Center in Raleigh, N.C., put this theory to work back in October 2002. The company was lucky enough to find nine acres just minutes away from the city. At the time, Raleigh was the fastest growing area in North Carolina with a 35% growth rate that provided constant demand. To fuel it, Sunrock built a ready-mixed concrete plant, an asphalt plant, and a recycling center for concrete and asphalt debris.
Obviously, recycling old material was a positive for any company trying to achieve green status. Instead of taking debris to the landfill, construction companies took it to the RDU Distribution Center, where they were charged to dump it. What's more, Sunrock gained even more green points, because those trucks traveled less because they were able to immediately fill up with recycled aggregate base. So basically, the contractors were charged on the way in and again on the way out.
ìWe've got what we call on our side of the industry a one-stop shop,î former Vice President Graham Poole says. ìWe've got it all on one site from one supplier.î
For a more thorough description of this operation visit: http://rockproducts.com/mag/rock_restricted_area.
Even if you can't reduce the amount of traffic or eliminate haul trucks, you can cut emissions and probably save money doing it.
Gordon drives a car that runs partially on used vegetable oil, which is recycled from a tortilla chip factory. She says it runs great and the smell is pleasant to the senses, as well as the ozone. But Stalp Sand & Gravel near Omaha, Neb., also uses an innovative bio-fuel alternative.
ìWe have used (biodiesel) up to 100% in our dredges at times,î owner Tim Stalp says. ìThere was a time when we actually ran 100% in our Mack gravel trucks (and ready-mix trucks).î
When biodiesel became available, Stalp saw the opportunity to do some good for the environment and help reduce dependency on foreign oil. But he also was able to negotiate a contract price with a biodiesel supplier that actually was cheaper than petroleum diesel. Stalp has found that engines perform just as well with proper fuel filtering and, in some instances, they perform better.
To learn more about biodiesel and his use of it visit: http://rockproducts.com/mag/rock_growing_phenomenon.
DON'T BRAG too SOON
As companies such as Younquist Brothers, Sunrock and Stalp Sand & Gravel develop good tactics for reducing waste and bolstering the bottom line, there may be the temptation to tell the world or at least the local media. This urge, however, should be resisted until a program is fully implemented and successful, Gordon says.
She explains that companies often make superficial changes or only partially follow through with their original intentions, but still generate press releases to make points with the community. And when the public, which is increasingly aware of these tactics, reads the newspaper, it may develop a negative perception of the company. This is what Gordon describes as ìgreen wash.î
On that same note, however, a well implemented environmental program can win significant community support. Good community relations can win the support of a town and its zoning board when a quarry is trying to expand. And eliminating any resistance from the community will have a very positive effect on the bottom line.
Anyone who has stood in those council chambers when the community is in an uproar against a proposed quarry knows that it can be an emotional ordeal. This holds true for the parents concerned about the safety of their children, but it also can be a trying time for the executives accused of being less than fair.
This emotion needs to be kept under control, Gordon says. When dealing with the environment, the best thing to do is continue thinking like a business. Start at the CEO level when initiating environmental programs and focus on saving dollars. That, the community can understand.
STEPS TO BEING ìLEAN AND GREENî
Pamela Gordon has worked with dozens of companies, helping them develop good environmental practices. In doing so, she boiled down their methods into four basic steps, which are explained in her book ìLean and Green: Profit for Your Workplace and the Environment.î
One: Question wasteful practices and design ìlean and greenî steps to benefit our planet.
Two: Lead your environmental point with profit in mind, starting with strategies that yield the highest reward to profit and planet.
Three: Collaborate throughout the organization, starting at the top. Then adopt lean and green practices elsewhere in the organization.
Four: Measure your organization's ìlean and greenî progress and strive continuously to improve. Make sure that the lean and green steps are truly profitable and keep raising the bar.