By Mila Adamovica
Developing products with environmental benefits in mind is challenging. Although the proper use of recycling bins and the “reduce-reuse-recycle” mantra have become iconic, is it also true if a product is 100 percent recyclable that it is sufficient to categorize it as “green”? Yes. However, other important factors make the product environmentally attractive. Creating consistent eco-friendly choices takes a lot of determination.
What are the key factors that help us keep the planet green?
- Efficient use of materials is one of the keys to sustainability. Reusable and recyclable products reduce waste and allow for the extended use of these materials.
- Another way to go green is to reduce the amount of materials that the manufacturer uses to make a product.
- Salvaged materials that meet all the requirements conserve energy and resources.
- Durable products do not have to be replaced frequently, as they can withstand demanding environments.
- Low-cost cleaning and maintenance also contribute, because there is no need to use harsh chemicals to maintain the products.
Although the Federal Trade Commission does not recommend using such terms as “green,” “eco,” “environmentally friendly” and “recyclable,” marking them as being potentially deceptive, these terms are familiar to global consumers and recognizable in various industries worldwide. Truly green companies adopt sustainability as a key consideration in their decision-making process and apply sustainable practices throughout their operations. Green leaders eliminate, or at least significantly minimize, the use and the production of harmful chemicals, excess materials, and waste byproducts. Thorough and careful specification of such products has become critical for manufacturers in achieving credits toward their products being certified as green.
Green Business vs. Green Politics
Environmental law is based on the assumption that economic development pollutes the environment. The goal of environmental policy is to provide the cleanup after the pollution has occurred. As opposed to the political debate, sustainability management states that economic prosperity is based on a healthy environment and that pollution should be prevented by implementing sophisticated production cycles, efficient use of raw materials to reduce waste, a shift to renewable and recycled materials, and the use of innovative materials that have no impact on the environment. Thus, it is a myth that we must trade off environmental health for economic growth.
Motivation for Going Green
A wide range of reports from industry influencers and academia lead to the conclusion that going green is becoming an increasingly attractive business strategy. In 2011, MIT Sloan School of Management measured sustainability efforts, and released a study that found that:
- 68 percent of respondents said that their organizations increased their commitment to sustainability. This was a substantial increase compared to 2009 when only 25 percent of respondents reported that.
- 67 percent stated that sustainability strategies were necessary to be competitive, a 12 percentage increase compared to 2009.
- 28 percent believed sustainability was a core strategic consideration, and 42 percent said that although it was not a core consideration, it was on the agenda permanently.
In 2012, a similar study conducted by Siemens and McGraw-Hill Construction noted that 42 percent of companies agreed that “Sustainability plays a key role in their business operations,” which is significantly up from 18 percent in 2006.
Green businesses are reporting a substantial advantage over their competitors because of the “green stickiness” factor. They are able to develop high-trust relationships with conscious consumers who are willing to pay a higher price for a green product. A 2009 GMA/Deloitte Green Shopper Study found that “once a more sustainable product has captured the shopper’s commitment, it tends to retain the shopper’s loyalty.”PricewaterhouseCoopers indicates that companies that make substantial sustainability efforts report having a greater return on assets than companies that do not make such efforts.
Green Technologies Transform Locker Rooms
Forward-thinking manufacturers strive to make a fresh statement by applying green standards to their products. The information is collected from green chemistry, environmental science, and conservation biology. For example, manufacturers of locks and lockers have responded to the market demands for sustainable products by providing a wide range of “green” lockers and related locking hardware to suit customer needs and satisfy strict industry requirements.
Standard with this green type of locker solutions are keyless electronic locks and quality hardware including European soft-close hinges and a heavy-gauge steel body, ensuring high security, reduced noise level, elegant style and the convenience of a keyless locking solution.
Steel has always been valued as a clean recyclable material. To improve inside air quality, manufacturers have developed environmentally friendly powder coating for steel lockers, eliminating the presence of volatile organic compounds. Although many managers prefer the durability and ease of use of steel lockers, facility managers of locker rooms in moist environments, like swimming pools and spas, are looking for alternative solutions. This motivates manufacturers to continue working on creating and providing innovative security solutions for sports and recreation facilities that meet the customer needs and at the same time meet sustainability standards.
Facility managers now have an opportunity to choose from a wide array of lockers that satisfy their aesthetic preferences and functionality requirements while also being environmentally friendly.
Lockers are available with glass, metal, wood or phenolic doors in a number of designs and colors to effortlessly fit into any sophisticated design and décor. Solid surface glass doors are made of recycled and rapidly renewable material, and ensure durability and ease of maintenance as they resist moisture, scratches, and heat. Elimination of the need for frequent replacement makes them a good choice for heavy-use environments, such as schools, recreation centers, and sports and fitness clubs.
Surprisingly, the widespread use of synthetic materials is a noticeable advancement in green locker manufacturing, because they have a high amount of post-consumer recycled content. Lockers with solid high-impact-resistant phenolic doors are an increasingly popular choice among architects and consultants. The composite nature of the phenolic resin in a wide array of colors and patterns direct from nature makes it a perfect product for humid environments.
Lockers composed of wood are especially popular in higher-end health clubs and collegiate athletic locker rooms. Environmental groups criticize wood clear-cutting as being destructive to the water, soil, and atmosphere and recommend the use of sustainable alternatives. Healthy ecosystems and environments are necessary to the survival of humans and other organisms. The movement protesting the cut of virgin woods created an opportunity for the scientists to develop a composite wood material. In comparison to virgin wood, composite wood recycles mill waste and old pallets. The enhanced durability of composite wood makes it the best long-term investment for sports and recreation facilities.
Every aspect of environment and operation affects the experience the sports and recreation facility provides to visitors. It is easy to enhance that experience with “green” lockers and continue to make a positive impact on the environment. By combining architecturally-inspired design with precision engineering, lockers can be designed to create truly exceptional spaces while contributing to sustainability. It is no wonder why green lockers are a preferred choice for contemporary health and fitness facilities, athletic locker rooms, educational institutions, hotels, spas and office environments.
Why Choose Green?
According to the National Green Buying research conducted by Opinion Research Corporation in 2009, four out of five people say they are buying green products and services. Twenty-one percent of consumers say a product’s reputation is the main factor influencing their purchasing decisions, 19 percent indicate word of mouth, and 15 percent, brand loyalty. Surprisingly, only 24 percent of consumers verify green claims by reading the packaging, and 17 percent by reading and doing research online. One in three consumers does not know how to check if a green product claim is true. One in 10 customers trusts green product claims without checking. Nevertheless, green perceptions now drive half of consumers’ purchase decisions. In 2015, a poll conducted by Time Magazine found that almost 50 percent of Americans valued environmental protection over economic growth, more than 60 percent had purchased organic produce within the previous year, and nearly 40 percent made purchases based on the social values of the manufacturing company.
Sustainability has an impact on our business decisions and lifestyle choices. There is mounting evidence that human and business activities are having a global effect on the environment. To play an active role in supporting green activities in communities, consumers should start with supporting environmentally responsible local businesses that have a long-time commitment to sustainable business practices.
This Guest Column was originally published in Recreation Management magazine in October 2015.