The hazardous chemicals wake-up call happened for Construction Specialties (C/S) and me in the early 90’s after a hazardous waste incinerator was to be sited in a small, local community. We wondered “why here?” and knew we didn’t want it in our backyard. Thankfully the incinerator project was stopped by a strong grass-roots movement (O.U.E.). Watching that story unfold made us wonder about where our hazardous waste was going (and why do we have hazardous waste anyway?) - something we hadn’t thought about before. So we decided it was time to get to work.
Part of why C/S won the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence in 2003 was because we eliminated chemicals of high concern from our manufacturing process. Organizations like Healthcare Without Harm and the Healthy Building Network helped us get a better awareness of dangerous chemicals and their impacts. With earnest, in 2003 I began reading to try to understand why all the concerns about chemicals and materials, PVC in particular. The Healthy Building Network and Green Guide for Health Care websites were great resources for me. I read “Greed to Green” by David Gottfried, “Cradle to Cradle” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart and “Environmental Impacts of Polyvinyl Chloride Building Materials” by Joe Thorton, Ph.D. Too many resources to list here so if you’d like to know what else I’ve read, let me know and I’d be happy to give you that information.
I tried to read on both sides of the issue. One side says that these materials aren’t harmful. If this side is wrong, the damage and impact continues and so many millions of people are injured - that’s unacceptable. If the environmentalists are wrong - no one is injured (if dangerous materials are eliminated). Some think that the environmentalists are anti-capitalists. Through my association with the Business NGO Working Group for Safer Chemicals and Sustainable Materials, I’ve met several “activists” and learned this is not true. They know that if there’s a business case for the work, the changes will accelerate. They understand the market driven economy.
C/S has since established a chemicals policy, been certified ISO 14001 and has worked with MBDC to ensure safe chemicals are in place as we work our way back through our products (starting with Acrovyn 4000 and staying with it until we’re done). We’ve established an environmental policy that has enabled us to save energy and reduce the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. If you’d like to know more about what we’re doing to protect the environment and human health, visit www.c-sgroup.com. What was your (or your company’s) wake up call? I’d like to hear from you!