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Local businesses become environmentally friendly

November 30, 1999|By PEPPER BALLARD

Seeing the forest for the trees, Hagerstown Kitchens Inc. has changed its all-wood custom cabinet company into an all-environmentally friendly business.

The company now uses recycled lumber and formaldehyde-free adhesives. Workers recycle rags. The company participates in reforestation.

It is one of a growing number of Washington County businesses that have taken steps to reduce their emissions and their overall effect on the environment.

Through a series of stringent tests, Hagerstown Kitchens received certification from the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association's Environmental Stewardship Program that ensures the company is "green-friendly" and is committed to sustaining the environment.

"We're an all-wood cabinet company," said Jim Lobley, the company's president and CEO. "For us, the building industry is pushing hard toward a green-friendly home, and to be part of it, we wanted to have a green-friendly cabinet."

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The changeover has not been without sacrifices ? Lobley said Hagerstown Kitchens had to drop two longtime suppliers because their products didn't meet the stewardship program's specifications. Workers had to adjust to differences in the new products.

But Lobley said he expects the changes will be good not only for the environment, but for the company.

Hagerstown Kitchens was the first all-wood cabinet company to receive the certification, which makes for a great marketing pitch, he said.

"It's a little more expensive, but the expense is well worth it," Lobley said. "In today's day and age, that's what the folks want."

Part of the job

Paul Crampton Jr., president of Paul Crampton Contractors Inc., said environmental consciousness is part of his job, too.

Crampton's company, which has built several hundred homes in Washington County, is "always cognizant of the chemicals and the things we put into our houses," he said.

Crampton said contractors constantly adapt to news of noxious products and adjust their purchases accordingly.

"Across the board, all builders, whether they know it or not, are becoming environmentally friendly because the (environmentally friendly) products that are being offered are more commonplace," he said.

Some companies have to get a little more creative with the ways in which they work to reduce their emissions.

St. Lawrence Cement, which is owned by international cement company Holcim, has for the past three years burned tires instead of fossil fuels to produce energy, said Gary Batey, plant manager.

The company has burned "over 2 million tires," which they collect from local garages and other places that collect them within 50 miles of the Security Road plant. Not only does the practice keep the tires from stacking up at landfills, but burning tires instead of coal reduces emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.

Holcim has set goals for the company to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as well, Batey said.

"The idea is something that's been done for quite a few years in the cement industry," he said.

The small amount of iron in steel-belted tires becomes part of the finished product because traditionally iron has been added to the cement mix.

Batey said the company is not stopping there.

"We're looking to burn wood chips down the road," he said. "We'd like to burn the paper portion of the garbage that goes to the landfill."

St. Lawrence Cement is not the only company that is thinking outside the recycling box.

Checking the impact

Volvo Powertrain North America, like St. Lawrence Cement, is ISO 14001 (International Organization for Standardization) certified. The certification means the companies have met requirements with an environmental management system and work on ways to reduce plant emissions, said Dave Smith, environmental manager for the local plant.

"Volvo's operating philosophy ? the holistic view of the organization ? is what is the impact of what we're doing?" he said.

Smith said he looks at how raw materials and energy are used at the 1.5-million-square-foot plant, which he said is one of Allegheny Power's largest customers.

"We're trying to get ourselves off that list," he said.

Beginning in 2003, the plant set out to reduce its energy consumption through 2008 by 35 percent. It already has reduced energy consumption by 54 percent.

Instead of using compressed air to run tools, the plant now uses electric torque assembly tools, which use less energy.

Light bulbs were replaced with T5 fluorescent lights. Old fluorescent lights, some of which contain traces of mercury, a hazardous substance, are being phased out, Smith said.

In 2004, the plant signed onto an Environmental Protection Agency program called "Climate Leaders," a voluntary program that demonstrates a commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.

"We burn a lot of fossil fuels," Smith said, adding that they are used by the plant not only to heat the building, but to test the engines that workers build.

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