Going green is all the rage today. From fashion to automobiles to housing, everyone is talking about "being green." We've been "green" for years–you could argue that the LBM business was the original green industry. But let's talk about more than just building with green lumber products. How can you "go green" in your every-day business?

Mike Butts Some examples from my recent travels demonstrate what I'm talking about.

My firm has an LBM dealer client in the mid-South that caters to both the retail and builder trades. It has a repair facility on-site for vehicle maintenance primarily because of the size of the fleet. That's no big deal; many of you do this to conserve time and money. But this company takes the process one step further. The mechanic collects all the waste oil from trucks, forklifts, and other equipment, stores it on-site, and uses it to fuel the heaters in the maintenance shop during the winter. This doesn't provide all of the heat needed, but it goes a long way toward offsetting the cost of heating a maintenance facility, prevents dumping the waste in another facility, and costs the dealer nothing. The result is a well-maintained fleet of vehicles, little or no down time for maintenance, lower maintenance costs, lower energy costs for the shop, and no dumping the oil into the environment.

Another example: a dealer runs two manufacturing lines, truss and panel, on-site. There is a lot of waste product in a manufacturing facility like this, usually small pieces of material that cannot be used for anything else, as well as sawdust and other bits. The owner elected to collect all of this material and give it to a service that grinds up the waste wood for use in other processes. This doesn't cost the LBM dealer anything. He would have had to pay a landfill cost to dump it; now it's hauled away free. Saves the landfill, reduces operational cost, and the material is reused in another industry.

Another, similar example in the New England region is a dealer that collects logs and cut timber from builders that are clearing construction sites. The dealer cuts this material and burns it in the furnace to heat the shop. The company supplements this with other "clean" material from the facility (pallets, stuff that fell off during manufacturing, etc). The wood fuels most of the heat in the millwork facility, and it's basically free. This dealer also has replaced all of its lighting fixtures with fluorescent lights set on motion detectors. When someone is active in the warehouse or shop, the lights operate, but if the facility has been quiet or empty for 15 minutes, the lights shut off.

Solar and wind power are popping up in other parts of the country, especially in the Southwest and West. These devices save more natural resources, reduce costs, and help the industry maintain a green image.

We are a green industry and have been leading the charge with recycling, using renewable resources, looking for alternative manufacturing processes and products, and becoming good stewards of our environment.

–Mike Butts is president of LBM Solutions, a DeWitt, Mich.-based LBM supply consulting and training firm.
E-mail: mike@ lbmsolutions.biz