2013 Legislative Preview

Just as 2012 was coming to an end Environmental Initiative hosted their popular 2013 Legislative Preview. Guests eager to hear from a variety of Minnesota Senators and Representatives packed the University Club in downtown St. Paul, MN. Two panel discussions covered the topics of “Land, Water & Natural Resources” and “Energy & Transportation.”

To set the stage, there was a brief overview of the 2013 Budget Forecast. Among the notable facts shared was this: less than 1 percent of the total state budget is directed towards environment, energy and natural resources. In all fairness, the number increases to 3.2 percent with the contribution of federal dollars. Therefore it’s helpful to realize, as Representative Melissa Hortman District 36B explained, our lowest cost form of new energy in our system is weatherization and efficiency.

The discussions continued with a focus on energy efficiency. This approach is most effective in cost savings as well as reduced energy consumption, directly resulting in a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Representative Hortman listed the top three ways to achieve this goal: better building codes, appliance efficiency standards and more efficient vehicles.

It’s clear why this event is so well attended. State Senators and Representatives from both sides of the aisle talk amicably about environmental issues and solutions we all face together.

Happy New Year!

Whether or not you enjoy making New Year’s resolutions, the start of a new year is a great time to rethink our daily routine. When addressing topics related to sustainability, the multitude of environmental, social and economic issues can quickly overwhelm our mere mortal limitations.

Good news: There are small, easy things we can do every day that make a difference! Take a gander at the list below, make your own list or partake in a friendly competition with your friends!

Buy less stuff – quality over quantity.

Buy used – one-of-a-kind finds at big savings!

Re-gift – declutter and repurpose unused treasures.

Reusable bags – you’ll like ’em better!

Buy local goods – support your communities.

Buy local and seasonal foods – help your health!

Go outside – rediscover nature, even in the city.

Drive less – batch errands and try biking – it’s more fun!

Recycle – donate unused stuff.

Give back – support organizations aligned with your values.

We’ve heard it a million times: “It’s the small things that matter most in life.” Equally, it’s the small actions we do daily that will change the world.

Celebrating 20 years of Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Initiative (EI) celebrated its 20th anniversary last week with a warm reception in their cool warehouse space in downtown Minneapolis, MN. The foot and a half of fresh snow didn’t deter guests from attending the open house. Stories were shared of past accomplishments, current projects and future goals, all of which support their mission of tackling complex environmental issues through partnerships.

Georgia serves treats!

Awards were presented to 2012 Board Member of the Year (Susan Schmidt) and Member of the Year (Stan Mierzejewski), along with an Environmental Legacy Award given to long-time member and staff Ron Nargang., In collaboration with many corporate and individual members, these folks have worked to help facilitate partnerships between non-profits, business and government leaders.  

One of EI’s most notable accomplishments is Project Green Fleet. Environmental Initiative won the National Clean Air Excellence Award, among others, for the role they played in providing free or low-cost diesel engine retrofits to transportation fleets. This project alone resulted in a substantial reduction of airborne pollutants. Other accomplishments addressed reduction of mercury and carbon dioxide as well as shaping legislation to help facilitate additional improvements. The efforts and accomplishments by Environmental Initiative directly align with Andersen’s values of corporate citizenship, partnership and innovation. We’re grateful for their work and continue to support the mission.

Product Labeling

Andersen Corporation and its peers are collaboratively developing the window industry’s first product category rules (PCRs) for North America. These rules are designed to help guide and shape the future of product labeling. The intent is to provide a more uniform way for manufacturers to communicate the environmental impacts of their products.

Making the most environmentally conscious purchase is not easy! With hundreds of eco-labels found on store shelves, consumers are often left with more questions than clarity. Enter the alternative – an environmental product declaration (EPD). These labels differ from certifications as they’re designed to report facts (data) as opposed to certifying superiority in a single area. They’re similar to the nutrition labels found on packaged food. Rather than listing calories, carbohydrates and fat content, an EPD will list water consumption, energy use and greenhouse gas potential, for example. Along with providing clarity for eco-conscious consumers, EPDs can help drive product improvements.  

An industry’s PCR must be in place before an EPD can be issued. Other countries including France, Germany and Japan are further along in development and use of product category rules and environmental product declarations. Canada and the United States are quickly getting up to speed. Andersen is pleased to be working with the window industry in developing the first window PCR for North America. We look forward to continually learning about and improving them, and ultimately lessening our environmental impact.

Greenbuild: Product Transparency

The 11th annual U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC’s) Greenbuild Conference and Expo took place this month in San Francisco, CA. It is the largest green building expo in the world, and while the official numbers are not in yet, most agree they’ll far exceed last years’ 23,000 attendees in Toronto. The resounding theme this year was clear – transparency.

During the opening plenary, USGBC President and CEO Rick Fredrizzi announced Google’s $3 million donation to spur transparency in building materials. The donation supports efforts to reduce toxins and improve indoor air quality. The theme continued on the expo floor as vendors displayed programs and software systems that track material ingredients and resource consumption.

When it comes to environmentally friendly products, there’s no shortage of labels, certifications and programs aiming to make the selection easier and more transparent for consumers. Attempts to simplify the confusing world of single attribute green certifications by evolving toward a more holistic approach of product labeling, turns out to offer many options as well.

Philippe Cousteau, Jr. speaking at Greenbuild

The intended end result of increased transparency, reduced material consumption and lower impacts is the right thing to do. The way in which manufacturers choose to reach this goal can vary. Complex products, global companies and a basic definition of terms make achieving transparency not so clear. Andersen Corporation supports increased transparency and is participating in an industry collaborative to develop product category rules (PCRs) that lend uniformity to the process. Stay tuned to this blog for more information about PCRs and product labeling.

Greenbuild Bound

The much anticipated, well attended annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo will take place next week, November 14 -16 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA. The event is the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building and is hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

 

Multiple tours, summits and educational sessions are offered. Workshops dedicated to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) offer continuing education for LEED accredited professionals and those wanting to learn more about the rating system for green buildings. Experts will touch on topics ranging from water and energy use to social responsibility and global sustainability.

One thousand exhibitors will share their knowledge and products to over 20,000 attendees from over one hundred countries. Architects, builders, contractors, engineers, students, designers, developers, manufacturers and more will gather to share their passion, learn from each other. They will also promote the mission of the USGBC – to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.

Andersen Responds to Hurricane Sandy

Transformer at North Brunswick manufacturing site of Andersen Corporate is damaged by Hurricane Sandy

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we’d like to thank our customers for their patience as we continue our work in the midst of disaster recovery on the eastern seaboard. Teams across the country worked around the clock to resume operations, while at the same time tending to their families and their homes. From the beginning, our priorities have been employee and customer safety and customer service. 

Andersen has manufacturing facilities, multiple distribution sites and Renewal by Andersen retail operations in the area. As of Sunday evening, all our facilities have regained power and resumed production. Our Carlisle, Penn., facility, which has worked overtime to support the impacted areas, continues to do so in transportation and distribution operations. We expect to be current on all customer orders as of the end of this week. 

While the Silver Line plant in North Brunswick, New Jersey, was without power for the entire week, they have been hosting the National Red Cross Command Center. We have supplied their 500 coordinators with 48,000 square feet of rent free space in our Lakeside East facility. When the Red Cross generators ran out of fuel on Thursday, we pulled diesel fuel from our storage tanks to keep the Red Cross operational. Our team has done a fantastic job supporting the relief efforts, including setting up and keeping the Red Cross connected with their vehicles and volunteers, while at the same time working to get our operations up and running.

We are extremely proud of how our people are responding to help coworkers, our customers and the company to manage through this crisis. Thank you all.

ENERGY STAR® Awareness

This week Andersen employees across the country are encouraged to test their knowledge around energy efficiency. As an ENERGY STAR® Sustained Excellence Award recipient it’s important to us that we help improve energy efficiency at home as well as at the office. This week, posters and internal communications direct employees to an on-line quiz, “Test Your Energy IQ”, offered by ENERGY STAR.

Andersen Corporation strongly supports energy efficient products and operations to help consumers and our company save money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to energy efficient products and facilities, educating and engaging our employees is important. Many helpful tips on saving energy at home are offered on the ENERGY STAR website.

The ENERGY STAR program is a joint effort between the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Their goal is to help consumers save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. At Andersen, we’re proud to offer a wide range of products meeting ENERGY STAR version 5.0 performance requirements, an ENERGY STAR certified building and ongoing education to employees and the public on the benefits of ENERGY STAR products.

The EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park

The EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park is San Francisco’s first 100 percent “off-grid” building. The innovative, LEED Platinum® educational center is open to the public and received the 2010 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Justice Achievement Award. The center helps teach green building and environmental justice through demonstration.

The EcoCenter boasts a long list of innovative, green building technologies ranging from low to high – tech. However, it’s the way in which these technologies work together that yield the greatest performance. Design elements and solutions contributing to the sustainable systems within the EcoCenter include the following:

  • Solar panels and a wind turbine
  • Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs)
  • Recycled and sustainable building materials
  • Rainwater harvesting system
  • On-site wastewater system
  • Vegetative living roof
  • Permeable pavement
  • Native landscaping

A more detailed description of the design features can be found here and here.

Photo from Eco Center blog

Andersen 100 Series windows made with Fibrex® material, containing up to 40% reclaimed wood fiber by weight, were used in this project. Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certified Andersen 400 Series windows (FSC-C016636) were used as well.

The EcoCenter project took ten years from vision to completion and was a collaborative effort between Literacy for Environmental Justice, the Port of San Francisco, San Francisco Environment and the State Coastal Conservancy. Kudos to all those who transformed this industrial, military dry-dock shipyard to a beautiful, sustainable learning environment for everyone to enjoy.

A Visit with Friends

Recently we had the pleasure of meeting with our friends from The Nature Conservancy at our manufacturing headquarters in Bayport, MN. For more than a decade, Andersen Corporation has supported the Conservancy’s efforts to preserve plants, animals and natural communities as it protects the lands and waters needed for survival.

Photo by Ken Mason

Using a scientific approach, the organization has preserved ecosystems for nature and people around the world. Their Northern Minnesota Forestry Project works to blend conservation science with traditional harvesting. This approach to harvesting mimics natural forestry selection and protects diversity, preparing forests to be climate ready and thrive into the future. Additionally, The Nature Conservancy works closely with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) to ensure forestry certifications remain strong.

Photo by Scott Copeland

One word best describing the work of the Conservancy is collaboration! Its globally diverse staff of scientists, foresters, policy experts and others is among the best. The staff members excel in their respective areas of expertise with a keen eye to the interests of others. As described on the organization’s website, “The Nature Conservancy pursues non-confrontational, pragmatic, market-based solutions to conservation challenges.” It’s always engaging, enlightening and encouraging to visit with our friends from the Conservancy.