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Sustainability

Just Add Water

May 05, 2011
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Since the industrial revolution, human beings have increased Earth''s atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) by a third with fossil fuel burning, deforestation, landfill waste decomposition and dozens of other harmful practices.

With overwhelming evidence of the harm industries are doing to our environment, executives, managers and other authority figures face a fundamental moral dilemma: How do we deal with these seemingly insurmountable problems?

Furthermore, what will it take for every single JanSan company or organization to be carbon neutral in a short period of time — and before being prompted by the public, an environmental organization or the government?

Many manufacturers today are serving up products that negatively impact the environment; they have been passing the buck along to another generation while enjoying remuneration today.

“Environmental deferral” has been the modus operandi for centuries and, only now that we know the biosphere can no longer sustain and absorb human life the way we''ve designed our industrial world, we are making miniscule and slow changes for our survival as a species.

Hundreds of chemicals and compounds commonly found in consumer products are proving poisonous to human beings.

For example, ammonia in cleaners is like lead paint on toys.

The cleaning products industry is one in which toxic chemicals continue to be packaged and sold to the public, even though these chemicals have conclusively been shown to cause numerous health problems.

In some cases, as in bacteria-killing disinfectants, products are a double-edged sword when used inappropriately: Though they kill bacteria, these chemicals cannot discriminate between good and bad bacteria.

Our immune systems are damaged when we destroy healthful bacteria that reside on our skin, in our lungs and in our digestive system.

Therefore, it is essential to take precautions when we use chemical-laden products to clean.

Care is needed for proper use, dilution and handling, as well what surfaces and areas are to be cleaned in order to minimize human contact while maximizing effective cleaning.

There are numerous options for effective cleaning that include plant-based cleaners, steam vapor and other novel technologies that clean while minimizing indoor air pollution and the potential for a formulation to cause harm.

Along with safer ingredients, there is also a movement in the JanSan industry to decrease packaging.

This trend is important, as it ultimately impacts the supply chain and the product lifecycle of cleaners.

Watertight Sustainability

Ready-to-use (RTU) liquid cleaners are ubiquitous all over the world, and trucks, trains and ships are used to transport them.

Transportation of spray bottles alone — regardless of what they are filled with — requires countless vehicles burning fossil fuels for hours and contributing to environmental degradation.

And, the bulk of what is being transported all those miles is water — for which we have already built a massive pipeline in each city that goes to nearly every home and office to increase efficiency.

We do not have to carry water from the village well in buckets anymore, but as far as transporting liquid cleaners using trucks, trains and ships is concerned, we might as well be archaic.

Concentrated cleaning products are revolutionary in that they redefine how people purchase and use spray cleaners.

Rather than buying liquid cleaners that are mostly water, consumers can purchase an empty bottle with small, concentrated tablets.

By adding plain water, each tablet makes one full bottle of cleaner, meaning that one plastic spray bottle is used multiple times

Therefore, with each purchase, numerous plastic bottles are never manufactured and do not end up in landfills.

Estimates show that transporting one truckload of concentrated cleaning tablets is equivalent to 74 truckloads of RTU liquid cleaners.

Think of the fossil fuels not used and CO2 emissions not going into the atmosphere; think of the decrease in the wear and tear on roads; think of the time saved loading and unloading one truck as opposed to 74; think of zero hazmat spillage.

Now, multiply this in terms of transporting liquids versus tablets all over the world; the impact on the environment is massive.

Collective Conformity

Corporations must transform business models so that sustainable growth and financial success are inseparable priorities.

Companies have been far too focused on profitability, and it''s now time to include the environmental impact of products and processes in everything we do.

It isn''t only the bottom line, the money and profits that are being counted by customers; a company''s sustainability is increasingly being examined carefully before people make the choice to buy products.

Consumers care about an organization''s bottom line impact to the environment and human health.

Coined the “triple bottom line,” this measure has global retailers and all of their suppliers aggressively putting systems in place to accurately evaluate their health impacts and CO2 footprints.

Profit that comes at a cost to people and their health, and to the well-being of our host planet, is no longer acceptable to educated consumers and clients.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), our planet''s average temperature increased by one degree Fahrenheit in the 20th century and is feared to rise even more in the twenty-first century.

Human beings are adaptable, but not infinitely so: No one alive today has ever lived through an actual ice age or the kinds of heat waves that a consensus of world scientists is now predicting.

Unfortunately, our lack of direct experience with extreme circumstances renders us unable to imagine, for the most part, what is really happening to our world.

In today''s economy, and with widespread fears of terrorism, economic pressures, natural disasters and other environmental concerns, it is easy to be focused on the “here and now” at the expense of addressing long-term problems.

Humans'' impact on the environment is no longer in question.

What is in question is our ability to impact it, the rate at which it can be impacted and the degree to which we can make a difference.

If we act like we have little or no impact and do nothing, there are unknown consequences; if we act like we can make a difference, we might actually pull it off.

Are you ready to answer how you will help your company or organization modify its practices, processes and products to accelerate its progress towards sustainable operation?


David Baumgarten is vice president of a family business that supplies unique and innovative products to the school, home and office market with manufactured products from around the world. Baumgarten''s successful environmental program, business paradigms, award-winning innovative green products and award-winning customer service are unrivaled in the United States office supply industry. Since the company''s 2007 Green Initiative, it has planted thousands of trees and has offset hundreds of thousands of pounds of harmful greenhouse gasses. The company aims to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2015. For more information, visit www.baumgartens.com and www.conservebrand.com.

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