Posts by Brooks Nelson
I love my job in part because I often feel like a
hall tree with all the different hats I get to wear for Rejuvenation. Mostly I wear a facility manager hat which is
typically a baseball hat, sometimes a hard hat, and occasionally a hat with headlamp
on it for crawling around or under something. I also wear the safety hat (yellow) and the
environmental officer hat (which is actually brown like the earth and not
green). Truly, I find it remarkable how
well all of these hats go together. For
example, if we keep things running smoothly and efficiently, we work well
together and safely while also decreasing our negative impact on the
My favorite part of my job is
getting to think and talk about sustainability in a holistic way that allows
room for debate and leaves no question --
sustainability is good business, profitable and in it for the long haul.
My hope for people interacting with this section of
the blog is that you is that we can have conversations about the complexities
of sustainability, talk frankly about good news and bad and keep moving. I am often in the position of guessing what
our customers think about sustainability and I am looking forward to hearing it
We have grown our environmental efforts over the
entire history of the company and over the past dozen years I have worked at
Rejuve with amazing people and been allowed to try new things, learn from
mistakes, and set BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) with a cross-functional
team to do something new or make an existing process better. That team has included people from throughout
the company, the local community and even our regulators. We have the opportunity to learn from all
sorts of experiences and people and for me, this makes the process feel
integrated into our work and not something put on or false.
Two truths and a lie –
My dog is named after my grandmother
My partner and I have a different door knob on every door
in our 1909 Craftsman bungalow
I have a very ugly living room light
Oh, the Portland rain. Though people here like to complain about it, it IS what help keeps our cityscape so lush and green. Of course, lots of places actually get much more rain than we do — Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, even New York – but what makes our climate special is not how much rain we get but how long the rainy season lasts. Yes, the gentle mist and gray starts in October and doesn’t end until late June, when we have our Rose Festival. The Rose Festival takes place Downtown, along the Willamette River waterfront to celebrate both the end of the long rain and the rose bounty it provided.
Our rain, our river, and our factory are all combined through our city’s combined storm and sanitary sewer. In other words, in many parts of Portland our storm water and our sanitary sewer share a pipe system with limited capacity. Unfortunately, when it rains sewage can be discharged into the Willamette river. Not so nice.
To solve this unpleasant problem, Portland has invested in something called the Big Pipe. This is basically a ________________________________________. Thanks to the Big Pipe initiative, Rejuvenation received an EPA Innovative Wet Weather Program grant to help manage storm water runoff from our factory.
Storm water planters slow about 12.5% of our roof run-off. That’s 178,000 gallons of water annually
Our main factory building is approximately 60,000 sq. feet. With our 38 inches of rain annually that makes 190,200 cubic inches of water off our building alone. That translates to 1,422,696 gallons of water that lands on our heads, or more importantly in the river. When capacity is taken up by storm water the capacity for sanitary sewage is diminished.
So, we went about trying to divert and slow down water from our roof. We came up with a plan that would divert about 12.5% of our roof run-off into movable, modular planting structures than then flow through, and into the combined sewer.
We slow down almost 178,000 gallons of water annually and the water that we release to storm has been filtered by plants and grasses living in the planters. At the time when rain is actually falling, 12.5% of the water off the building is slowing down to be filtered, then naturally metered into the system, leaving more room for sanitary sewage.
We developed the system in conjunction with Portland Bureau of Environmental Services with support of the EPA. The planters work pretty well, look pretty cool and we would love to share the info if it can help others manage storm water.
Pretty volunteer -- anyone know what it is?
Sustainability is such a huge topic and often viewed as boring, self serving, or both. One issue is that in many ways sustainability is actually self serving — it saves us money, helps us be more profitable, allows for us to plan into the future and feel good about our business. Sustainability provides a filter through which to look at company operations. That filter helps us identify waste and eliminate it, and help us look for efficiencies wherever we can.
Our spray lacquer system is a good example. When I started at Rejuvenation in 1998 we still used a dip lacquer system — with old school lacquer full of all kinds of solvents and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). We had an air quality permit from the city and state, however our lacquer use was high enough we were looking forward to a federal Environmental Protection Agency Title V permit. No fun, and a lot of pollution we wanted to eliminate from our processes.
By working directly with our regulators and suppliers we were able to identify a new process and product to protect the lighting and hardware. We were able to cut our VOCs by 85% and eliminate our need for the EPA permit, or air permitting from the state. Plus we found that it’s a better process! It provides a more even, durable coat that is less likely to stratch. Better for the environment AND happier customers Pretty cool.
What I would like to do is organize talking about our sustainability efforts around the products that end up in your home. So I will place an order for a typical fixture and walk us all through virtual green tour of the factory. Stay tuned…
CSR, TBL, TNS, GREEN, SUSTAINABLE, LEED, FSC, GRI – These are all acronyms that somehow relate to how Rejuvenation does business in relation to our surroundings. “It” can be called our environmental efforts and can just as easily be called our community effort, or our employee and customer effort.
Like any growing movement the “Sustainability” movement is rapidly evolving and organizations of all sizes are constantly trying to negotiate their way through changes in language and best practices — and Rejuvenation is no exception. What we do know is that there is not OTW — ONE TRUE WAY — but that individuals within our organization look across the field to see what can be applied to how we do business and what can help us do everything better. Everything? Eventually, yes, everything but we prioritize what we work on annually.
Basically, our approach to CSR (corporate social responsibility) is one based on the notion of a triple bottom line (TBL) which, in essence, states that in order to have a truly profitable bottom line aspects of economics must be balanced with impacts on the environment and its inhabitants. Bonus acronym of PPP is profit, planet, people.
Environmental certifications have different values for us. For example, so far we have chosen not to pursue LEED certification for our buildings at this point (although we can certainly talk about it) but opt in to sourcing our medicine cabinets to use Forest Stewardship Council certified hard wood. We voluntarily measure, set target reductions and offset our carbon emissions, but choose not to pay a premium to purchase wind energy from our local utility. We are moving toward a Global Reporting Initiative report but for the time being have focused on internal communication to get more folks across the company interested in our efforts.
Fundamentally, we use our company core values, common sense, principles of The Natural Step® and lean manufacturing as guiding principles. We leverage the expertise of others, and try and share what we have learned. We make advancements and also mistakes.
My blog posts will focus on these broad sustainability efforts within the company, so if you see or read something you specifically want more info about let me know. Otherwise I will just keep on keeping on (KOKO).