Blog: John Bradburn

Haul away those dumpsters with John Bradburn, environmental engineer for the GM Worldwide Facilities Group. John waxes green this week on GM's clean innovations and landfill-free program and on why businesses need an eco-friendly infrastructure.

Post 2: Business Perspectives on Creating Green Dots

Because of the field I work in, I'm often asked about my thoughts on how companies can embrace green business practices and also help their bottom line. Following are some of my thoughts:   

Focus on waste management - I encourage all businesses to consider all forms of waste as resources out of place.   Look closely at your processes and know that virtually all materials, when managed efficiently, can have beneficial reuse. Ask yourself, staff, and others if your processes are as efficient as possible and if all waste is being managed in the following order: eliminated, repurposed, recycled, or converted to energy. A good first step for businesses to start reducing waste is to understand how materials are used or processed in your operations. Then you can begin to manage each use phase for improved waste performance.  I also recommend setting waste reduction goals and then holding all employees accountable to those goals.

Identify "cradle to cradle" opportunities - The old adage, "One man's trash is another man's treasure" is more important today than ever. To improve our sustainability, companies should work together to help identify where by-products from one company's operations can be used as inputs for another company's processes. This concept, described as "cradle to cradle," helps to keep valued resources in the use cycle, which can greatly reduce structural costs, create jobs, and enhance environmental sustainability.   

In the future, land use planning decisions will not only be based on traditional factors such as workforce availability, infrastructure, and natural resources, but also on material reuse synergies.  The challenge is for companies to connect their dots by working together and creating these sorts of increased efficiencies. The result will be improved environmental stewardship and reduced material costs.   

Revitalize old facilities and business sites – Updating a brownfield site can reduce your land use footprint and in many cases should enable faster start ups, permit approvals, tax incentives, and even uncover potential supplemental funding sources. You can also capitalize on the fact that urban and metropolitan areas offer existing infrastructure in the form of roads and utilities and can provide a more reduced environmental impact than greenfields. Sustainable building renovation and removal should also de-pollute, de-construct and then reconstruct - preserving historical artifacts and construction materials for repurposing into new building products and projects as well as other applications.  These activities all result in green jobs and are value-added with less environmental impact as compared to traditional wrecking ball demolition and landfill methods.

Beyond brownfields, businesses can also consider involvement in full circle land use business ventures.   Activities are taking place today to convert abandoned, deteriorated urban sites into various agricultural uses.  This relatively new phenomenon is a result of population shifting and sprawl and as the land use evolution occurs, it brings green business opportunities.       

Use green chemical alternatives - Seek green chemistry chemical use alternatives that reduce health, safety and environmental use risks.  If done correctly, engineering controls and management costs will be reduced as well.    

Engage in environmental groups and forums to add to your green dots - General Motors is a founding member of the Suppliers Partnership for the Environment (SP), which works with EPA and non-profit organizations such as Goodwill Industries.  The group's goal is to identify and apply technologies and innovations that enhance the environment and create economic opportunities for the auto sector.  Right here in metro Detroit, local businesses can seek out similar forums for their own industries or gain valuable insights by getting involved in groups like the Southeast Michigan Sustainable Business Forum.

There are many things businesses can do to promote sustainability. These suggestions are just a start but I hope they've gotten you thinking about how your own business or organization can look for opportunities to be more green. For more information on some of the things GM is doing with our own operations to help protect the environment, click here.