Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Steps toward a greener workplace

Bring Green to Work

Small Business Environmental Assistance Program (SBEAP) – Pollution Prevention

  • Use natural light whenever possible.
  • Turn off or unplug lights and office machines when not needed.
  • Unscrew unneeded light bulbs.
  • Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, or move from T-12 to the more efficient T-8 tube light bulbs.
  • Search for air and water leaks and fix them.
  • Install occupancy sensors that turn off the lights when no one is in the room.
  • Use timers on lighting systems and office equipment.
  • Stock your office kitchen with glasses, plates, and flatware instead of disposables. And encourage use of pitchered water instead of bottled water.
  • Set your thermostat to reduce heating and air conditioning during and leading up to unoccupied hours. Consider 70-74 degrees F in summer and 66-70 degrees F in winter.
  • Have your heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems serviced to ensure your system in running optimally. Send and save as much as you can electronically.
  • Buy re-manufactured or refillable toner cartridges for copiers and printers.
  • Put water-saving devices in rest rooms and on kitchen faucets.
  • Re-use envelopes, bags and mailers.
  • Buy nontoxic cleaning supplies in bulk or condensed forms, in recycled or recyclable containers.
  • Set up an area in your business for employees to exchange or give away used items.
  • Buy processed chlorine-free, 100% recycled content printing and writing paper and tissue products.
  • Reuse boxes of unused stationery, “orphaned” print jobs, and the back side of used paper
Modified from "20 Quick and Easy Ways to Start,“ CO-OP America Quarterly, Spring 1998, Number 44


What is Pollution Prevention?

Pollution Prevention (P2) is a “front-end” method to decrease costs, risks, and environmental concerns. In contrast to managing pollution after it is created, P2 reduces or eliminates waste at its source. Once practices are in place, savings from P2 continue year after year.
Pollution prevention is accomplished by:
  • modifying production processes
  • promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances
  • implementing energy, water, and other conservation techniques
  • re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream
A business may reduce its regulatory burden and operating costs by decreasing its environmental emissions or discharges through reduced quantity or toxicity of inputs and wastes. Companies that can embrace such cost-saving technologies can have an economic advantage over competitors.
Considering pollution prevention in your operations does not have to involve exotic or costly technologies. Some of the most effective methods are simple modifications in work practices and equipment. Others require more detailed engineering or design changes, but experience has proven that pollution prevention usually pays for itself through savings in raw material purchases and waste and disposal costs.
For more information about pollution prevention for businesses, contact Angie Bourdaghs at 651-757-2176, or 800-657-3938.

Related Links - P2

Energy Efficiency

Did you know?

In doing business and producing products, Minnesota industry consumes about 30% of the natural gas and 53% of the electricity used in the state. 
All industrial businesses can realize cost and environmental savings from considering the many energy efficiency options available in their facility. Efficiency simply means making existing applications that use energy (from any source - coal, natural gas, renewable, etc.) more efficient or conserving energy through specific behaviors. From the more obvious lighting upgrades to the less obvious costly air compressor leaks, you can benefit from analyzing your use and making changes based on your inventory. Do this by examining your current energy usage, efficiency upgrade options, potential cost savings, and available financial incentives.
Energy efficiency is an easy way to help manage volatile energy costs while reducing overall energy costs on a monthly basis, year after year. There is a wide spectrum of strategies available, from the easy to implement options to those involving a higher initial capital investment to realize long-term savings. Energy efficiency is one way in which a business can gain a competitive edge in tough economic times. Light bulb for energy efficiencyEnergy efficiency is good for the environment too. Businesses can reduce or eliminate their direct and purchased emissions through energy efficiency and conservation and the purchasing of renewable energy. This contributes to better air (and water) quality and reduces your contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
Begin by assessing your energy uses and the equipment, methods, and behavior associated with the use and take steps to lower use. For the most comprehensive look at your energy use, have an energy auditor visit your facility.
Be sure to explore the many rebates available from your utility for a whole host of energy efficiency projects.

Related Links - Energy Efficiency

Green Purchasing

Cash RegisterProcurement is an inevitable part of doing business. These purchases contribute significantly to the capital costs of running a business. It is good business practice to consider how your purchases impact the way you do business, and also how they impact the environment. Green purchasing involves replacing currently purchased products with environmentally-preferable alternatives. This means buying products that have a potential to reduce waste, energy use, or pollution. Often, green products save time and money by preventing waste from being created in the first place.
Green purchasing for businesses can:
  • Save money by eliminating or lowering fees for waste management or hazardous material management (like special training, handling and storage), reducing time and costs for reporting, potentially receiving fewer fines or annual permit fees, and by using fewer resources (from efficiency products),
  • Simplify compliance with environmental regulations,
  • Reduce risk of accidents, reduce liability, and lower health and safety costs,
  • Improve health of employees and communities through cleaner air and water and less hazardous wastes to handle and dispose,
  • Improve marketability by branding your green efforts, and
  • Demonstrate due diligence.
See the following fact sheet for more information:

Related Links – Green Purchasing


Automotive P2 Tips

• Use refillable aerosols or spray pumps and buy in bulk – you’ll save storage space and money by reducing waste.
• Did you know?  Utilizing two bins for parts washing (a “dirty” and “clean” bin) reduces disposal costs by 50%.
• Engage in “mistake-proof” fluid identification and transfer to reduce inflated disposal fees.
• Invest in paint equipment with the highest transfer efficiency possible while investing in paint reduction techniques for employees.
• Evaluate your parts washer system. Consider moving away from solvents to a water-based cleaning solution.
Most automotive work produces many types of wastes that are often regulated by local, state or federal rules. These wastes are expensive to manage and dispose of properly. Cutting the amount of waste generated at your shop can help you comply with regulations, save money and time, and benefit the environment.
Think of all the negative effects of waste in your shop alone: wasted inventory, wasted labor, lower productivity, time spent on waste management administration and paperwork, and waste disposal costs.
Pollution prevention means reducing the amount of waste produced in the first place. It can also mean producing waste that is less hazardous to the environment or in the workplace. In the auto shop, pollution prevention opportunities include reducing packaging and non-recyclable office waste, using alternatives cleaners and solvents, labeling, spill cleanup, waste reduction and more.
Paints, solvents and cleaners used in the industry emit pollutants that contribute to the localized formation of ground level smog and air pollution. The production and use of low volatile organic compound (VOC) content paint and other materials is on the rise due to EPA mandates and manufacturers' response to customer needs.
Common operational wastes such as paint booth filters, paint dust, and floor sweepings may be hazardous. Any waste product, including dried paint, containing RCRA-listed contaminants at amounts over specific limits is considered toxic and is therefore a regulated hazardous waste. In addition to reducing the costs incurred by the special handling and disposal that hazardous wastes require, there are worker health and environmental benefits to be achieved by reducing the amounts of these wastes created.

Related Links – Automotive

Dry Cleaning

Dry Cleaning P2 Tips

• Use solvent leak detectors to locate and repair perc vapor losses and leaks.
• Monitor equipment efficiency (e.g., pounds of clothes cleaned per drum of solvent) on a regular basis to detect leaks or other problems that may result in loss of solvent.
• Size garment loads correctly. Overloading may reduce the effectiveness of solvent recovery equipment; under loading makes less efficient use of solvent.
• Utilize water-based or less hazardous pre-spotters instead of those containing solvents.
• Solid waste reduction – return hangers and use reusable garment bags instead of plastic bags.
Perchloroethylene (perc) is a commonly used solvent in the dry cleaning industry. It is released into the environment from clothes transfer, waste removal, and fugitive or uncontrolled emissions. Perc is a hazardous air pollutant as well as a suspected carcinogen which endangers employee health.
Perc is a waste that can be expensive to manage and dispose of properly. Preventing waste from your cleaning operation can add up to impressive savings for your bottom line and prevent significant amounts of pollution and waste. Using alternative technologies to reduce perc use and emissions also can attract the business of environmentally conscious consumers to your shop.
Reducing perc from dry cleaning operations can:
  • save money on perc purchase and disposal
  • reduce employee exposure to perc
  • provide greater environmental protection by reducing hazardous air pollution
  • reduce regulatory requirements
  • reduce liability
Opportunities for reducing or eliminating perc use include
  • improved operating and maintenance practices
  • equipment upgrades for greater efficiency
  • alternative cleaning systems
Other P2 opportunities exist include recycling and reuse of plastic clothes bags and hangers, and energy efficiencies in equipment and lighting.

Related Links - Dry Cleaning


Fiberglass P2 Tips

• Maximize transfer of resin into the mold through operator training and improved resin application techniques.
• Save money on hazardous waste disposal – reduce acetone use by using higher-boiling solvents or alternative aqueous cleaners.
• Implement preventive maintenance and leak detection for compressed air systems.
• Utilize a materials exchange or the Glass Manufacturing Industrial Council to find end uses for fiberglass scrap and dust. Two fiberglass-specific exchanges are IFE Fiberglass Recycling Exchange and Recycler's World.
• Never mix hazardous and non-hazardous wastes. Even a little hazardous waste can make the entire mixture hazardous and more expensive to dispose of properly.
There are many opportunities for manufacturers of fiberglass products to improve environmental performance and minimize wastes. While doing so increases efficiency it has the potential to reduce operating costs and increase your customer base and satisfaction. Implementing pollution prevention techniques also aids in reducing your regulatory burden. P2 reaches far beyond compliance too, by potentially reducing environmental impacts and improving the bottom line
Environmental and health risks come from the styrene in the resin that is released when the resin has contact with air, resulting in employee exposure and volatile organic compound (VOC) releases to the environment. Styrene reduction strategies rely on minimizing resin contact with air and can be achieved in a number of different ways. These methods include maximizing transfer of resin into the mold (operator training and improved resin application techniques), reducing styrene content in resins (low styrene resins), and curing resins in a closed system (closed mold) [MNTAP].
Considering alternatives to acetone use, primarily in the form of aqueous based cleaning systems, is also more environmentally responsible. The primary benefit of aqueous cleaners is that they are non-ozone-depleting, and carry few or no VOCs.
For MN-related information, case studies, and intern projects please visit  MnTAP P2 for Fiber Reinforced Plastics.
Demonstration of a closed molding operation.
Demonstration of a closed molding operation.

Related Links - Fiberglass

Wood Finishing

Wood Finishing P2 Tips

• Consider leasing wipe stain rags from an industrial laundry service.
• Optimize use of the cleaning solvent by implementing a two-stage cleaning process.
• Adjust the fluid delivery pressure and nozzle size on the spray equipment to gain optimum efficiency.
• Train operators on the best spray techniques to reduce the amount of product used.
• Consider purchasing equipment with a higher transfer efficiency.
The secondary wood products industry is an important industrial sector in Minnesota, both economically and environmentally. Over 1,000 furniture, cabinet and millwork shops operate in the state. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) are emitted from the application of stains, paints, sealers and topcoats. The majority of these shops are small and do not generate significant air emissions on their own. However, the combined VOC and HAP emissions are significant.
Wood finishingWood finishing companies in MN have implemented P2 for the following reasons:
  • It has the potential to save money through efficiencies in operations.
  • Converting allows them to be proactive rather than waiting for a mandate that would restrict the solvents that may be used in the coatings.
  • Water based finishes have fewer worker health and safety issues than solvent based coatings.
  • Water based finishes will help maintain “very small quantity generator of hazardous waste” status at the same time they are increasing their production capacity.
  • It allows them to respond to a growing market for “green” wood products.
  • Coating vendors are putting more work into formulating the water based finishes.
  • It is possible to have them tailored to their product’s requirements.

Related Links - Wood Finishing


  • MnTAP Materials Exchange: Linking organizations that have reusable goods they no longer need with those that can use them.
  • Green Construction, Operations and Maintenance: A green, or sustainable, building is one that is healthy and comfortable for occupants and economical to operate. These types of buildings conserve resources, toxic materials, and waste.
  • Office Paper Reduction: Take steps to reduce your consumption of paper and increase efficiency at work to save time, money, and resources.
  • Green Chemistry: Involves the design and redesign of chemical syntheses and chemical products to prevent pollution and thereby solve environmental problems. See case studies of EPA Green Chemistry award winners by sector to get useful ideas for your business products.
  • GreenBiz: Smaller firms, which make up 98 percent of all companies in the U.S., have a key role to play in environmental stewardship. This Web page highlights ways that small companies can become more environmentally efficient, and the benefits that can come as a result of going green.