Greening company operations all about efficiency

The important difference between being a green company and offering green remodeling

October 13, 2010

There are companies that offer green remodeling and there are green remodelers – those that run their companies efficiently and sustainably.
These days, as consumers become more attuned to the idea of “greenwashing,” it’s more important than ever for a remodeling company to not only offer better products but also to operate in a “green” way.
In most cases, running a sustainable company not only lowers your impact on the environment, but also saves money in the long run, says Michelle Drenckhahn, founder of Spacial Adaptation in St. Louis Park, Minn.
“Green has become a marketing tool of ‘How do you save the world?’ and really what green is about is being more concious about your decisions so you are not wasting,” she says. “Wasting can mean mean time, wasting can mean money, but, yeah, it can be about trees, too.”
Drenckhahn is a designer, but also works with remodelers as a consultant to help them become more efficient.
“I try to help them understand how they can run their businesses more efficiently and 90 percent of the time that means more green,” she says.
Gehman Custom Remodeling in Harleysville, Pa., has implemented several changes over the last few years to create a more green organization.
“In the long run, I think green is going to be more efficient and therefore save dollars,” says company President Dennis Gehman. “The other part is that everybody, whether they own a remodeling company or not, should care about the Earth we live on. Everything little thing we do now is going to be better for us and our kids and grandkids.”
Here are a few of the steps Gehman has taken. Most have the added benefit of reducing the company’s cost of doing business along with it’s environmental footprint.

A four-day work week
Three years ago, Gehman Custom Remodeling went to a work week of four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour ones for field employees. The typical Gehman work day is now 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“What it did is cut a fifth of our fuel costs and travel times right away,” Gehman says.
While the change was initially a hard sell to the clients the company was working with at the time, most clients now appreciate the fact that they are still getting a 40-hour work week without having their lives disrupted as much.
It also saves company time in set up and clean up, as well as giving employees an extra day away from the job.

Truckpooling to the jobsite
Most of the company’s work requires employees to drive 25 to 40 minutes from the office, with some projects more than an hour away in bad traffic.
Many times, more than one of the company’s 11 field employees are going to the same job. In the past, they would often travel separately. Now, Gehman is encouraging the employees to “truckpool.”
“Their first inclination is ‘All my tools are in my truck, I know where everything is,’ but the reality is they can take a toolbox with the important tools and use the other guy’s drill or whatever else they need,” Gehman says. “People are realizing it’s good for our bottom line, it’s better for the environment and they can enjoy some conversation as well.”

Recycling and Reusing
The company has reduced its expenses and its environmental impact by increasing efforts to recycle or find alternate uses for materials and packaging.
“Very seldom do we get a Dumpster at the job anymore,” Gehman says. “We get dump trailers and haul them back. It’s less costly to have one central Dumpster and easier to separate materials.”
Any wood that is safe to burn, the Gehman team pulls out and puts in a separate trailer for use as a fuel in outdoor stoves, prompted by one of Gehman’s relatives three years ago when he was looking for wood to burn. Earlier this year, the crews started separating cardboard and donating it to a local mission organization that earns money by recycling it.
“What it did for us is that we have an eight-yard Dumpster that we had been getting emptied three times a week and we were able to back that off and have that done only twice a week,” Gehman says.
The company also encourages clients to either reuse products like kitchen cabinets or donate them to a charity such as the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
“The reality is most of the kitchens we do, they don’t need a new kitchen, they just want one,” Gehman says.

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