Have You Figured Out the Green Thing Yet?
by Dan Barber
I saw a story in California recently about the latest trend
for car owners who want to go green. The results might surprise you. Instead
of buying a new hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicle, car owners were simply
keeping their old cars forever. The rationale was that the energy and
resources needed to create a new car far outstripped any long-term benefit
from using a more efficient vehicle. Whether or not you agree with this
approach, a great deal of the movement toward “green” is a matter of perspective.
I have encountered a lot of varying opinions in our own industry about
what is green. For example, we have wood door manufacturers promoting
their products as green due to the use of sustainable, renewable forest
lands. At the same time, fiberglass door manufacturers are promoting their
products as green for the opposite reason—pointing out that they do not
require the harvesting of forest lands and that fiberglass lasts forever.
Both sides present good arguments and, more importantly, both sides create
products that qualify for green credits. Much like the car example discussed
previously, both approaches are green, just in different ways.
During the current economic downturn it is important for businesses to
seek out new opportunities for expansion. The building materials industry
can benefit greatly from the promotion of green products. For consumers,
going green may make them feel good, but the benefits need to be quantified.
One of the most popular programs is the government’s energy-efficient
door and window tax credit. But, for some customers, it is important to
explain the long-term benefits of going green. Up-front savings are good,
but long-term energy savings is where energy-efficient products pay for
themselves, and this must be communicated effectively. The current market
has shown a dramatic decline in the number of new housing starts. Just
like our friends in California who are choosing to keep their current
vehicles, many individuals are making the most of their current homes
by focusing on remodeling and repairs. Building material suppliers have
the opportunity to sell new green products that are better for the environment,
provide monetary value to the homeowner and provide our own companies
with profitable sales.
"Now we sell this
same material to companies that reuse it for a wide variety of purposes.
A cost of doing business has now become a source of revenue."
For building material companies, going green also may result in substantial
cost savings. Our company used to pay a waste management company to haul
away wood waste to a landfill. Now we sell this same material to companies
that reuse it for a wide variety of purposes. A cost of doing business has
now become a source of revenue. We are now exploring other green cost-saving
avenues. Small changes in business practices can reap large rewards.
By putting hard numbers behind green products and operations, businesses
can begin to see the true benefits. Abstract idealism may be fine for Hollywood
celebrities, but companies operating in the real world will only embrace
new ideas if they help the bottom line. Building material companies have
the opportunity to embrace the green movement and benefit from one of the
few strong growth segments in the current economy. Doing so will lead to
lower costs and increased profits.
Dan Barber is vice president of finance and administration of Barnett
Millworks Inc. and AMD second vice president. His opinions are solely his
own and do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.
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