Staying TRUE for the environment
ESFM has spearheaded an initiative for a life sciences client in South San Francisco, Calif., that resulted in achieving and maintaining Platinum TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) certification for zero waste, the first company of its kind to obtain this certification. The TRUE certification is awarded by Green Business Certification Inc., or GBCI, which rates how well facilities perform in minimizing their non-hazardous, solid wastes and maximizes their efficiencies in the use of resources.
Earning the highest certification rating, ESFM’s zero waste journey required a strong commitment from the onsite team and the client as outgoing waste headed to the landfill needs to remain under 10% of all waste.
In 2021, more than 11,500 pounds of waste was composted, more than 16,500 pounds was recycled and another nearly 30,000 pounds of waste was diverted or reused in other ways. The significant reduction in trash accumulation lessened the necessary dumpster capacity and frequency of pickup, resulting in an annual savings of $18,000.
Running a TRUE platinum-certified operation includes meticulous weighing of all waste — cardboard, compost, trash, etc. — with careful evaluations to ensure everything was being disposed properly and that every effort was made to make it easier for the building occupants to minimize their environmental footprint. The team went floor-by-floor at the client’s facility so that problem areas could be easily identified and appropriate corrective action taken.
Josh Bradley, formerly the site’s unit director who has since been promoted within ESFM to resident regional director, was the architect behind the initial implementation. He describes the process as a “culture change” that involved putting in tremendous effort to evaluate the systems that were in place and to adjust them to reduce waste.
“We started with a motto, ‘know before you throw,’ and people bought in, they took the time to sort their waste before throwing it out,” Bradley said. “As companies are looking toward their zero carbon goals, looking at diverting their waste can be an easy win — it’s something you can do right now. It just takes effort.”
Waste is weighed twice per day, every bag or item that goes out is logged and maximum effort is put in to ensure what can be recycled, is recycled. Cardboard and general recycling are sorted for pickup, but so are items that cannot be picked up by those services. Things like pallets, rubber gloves, Styrofoam and metals are diverted from the landfill using unique vendors. Large items, such as obsolete refrigerators or old furniture, are donated rather than tossed out, if possible.
Associates also inspect every bag before it is sent out of the building, rerouting any misplaced items.
Creativity is key and even looking at seemingly small things can have a large impact. Because the client location is a lab facility, safety glasses are utilized daily. A Lancer Washer device was purchased to sterilize used glasses with an acid wash, creating greater operational efficiencies and cutting the cost of purchasing new glasses.
Waste bins are clearly labeled, and signage throughout the building makes it easy to understand where items are to be placed for disposal. Digital boards with videos looping above bins, for example, make it easy for everyone to play a part in this effort, showing where waste goes.
“We all have to live on this planet,” Carla Gonzalez, ESFM operations manager, said. “We have to take it personally in order to succeed at these sustainability programs.”
Gonzalez added that as the associates have seen the positive results of their work, they have embraced the TRUE commitment.
“When they see the impact they are having, it empowers our team and motivates them to be engaged,” Gonzalez said. “They feel good about their work.”