A leader in the custom cabinet market, Crystal Cabinet Works Inc. also is quickly becoming an industry leader in sustainable initiatives.

An innovative and forward-thinking company, Crystal Cabinet Works introduced in 2006 Green-Core, a product “made with materials that have a reduced effect on human health and the environment.” Just one year later,  the company became one of the first cabinetmakers to achieve certification under the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn.’s Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP). Crystal Cabinet meets the requirements for sound environmental business practices, including: air quality, resource management of its products and processes, stewardship and community relations. The company also is certified sustainable under the Composite Panel Assn.’s Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP) Downstream Program.

“Crystal has always been in pursuit of best practices in corporate responsibility, simply because it fits with who we are as a company and as people,” says Boyd Hedin, COO. “People ask ‘why now?’ We believe everything has its time in business, usually driven by the consumer. While we might have had the desire to be more ‘green’ in the past, the lack of consumer-driven initiatives held back many of our efforts.”

“We are FSC chain-of-custody certified and offer FSC-certified cabinetry in maple, heartwood maple, birch, cherry, rustic cherry, hickory, rustic hickory, red oak and quartersawn white oak, plus others by special request,” says Angela Ewald, Environmental Health and Safety manager.  All of the aspen used in its dovetailed drawer boxes is FSC certified as well, she adds.

In addition to using environmentally sustainable products, Ewald estimates the company has recycled more than 30 tons of paint, cardboard, mixed paper, plastic transport packaging and scrap metal in a year through its aggressive waste-saving strategies. An additional 3,000 tons of wood waste is down-cycled each year for use as animal bedding or as a biofuel energy source.

“We have installed optimizing, computerized equipment in our rough mill and machining areas in order to reduce our wood consumption. We also use wood recovered from our own processes to create unique accessory designs,” Ewald says.

In an effort to further reduce its carbon footprint, hybrid cars recently were added to the fleet of company vehicles and by converting factory lighting to energy-efficient products, the company estimates it has saved enough energy to power 40 homes a year. The return on investment from using energy-efficient air compressors installed at one facility was just nine months.
Challenges in going green
There are unique challenges involved in being green. First and foremost, Ewald says, “We wanted to determine what made a green product. We are aware that companies attempt to ‘greenwash’ their products. Our corporate ethic dictated that we needed to research and be able to verify that the products in our GreenQuest product line were actually green — meaning healthier or more sustainable than their conventional counterparts.”

GreenQuest cabinetry uses UV water-based, self-seal topcoats, which are ultra-low VOC water-based finishes that meet strict California VOC requirements. The company says it also plans to change its standard clearcoats to ultra-low- emitting finish formulations in the near future. In addition, the cabinetry is constructed from FSC-certified lumber and GreenCore plywood and particleboard, made from renewable wood fiber, with no added urea-formaldehyde resins.

GreenQuest earns points under green building rating systems, including LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and the National Green Building Standard, as well as some local programs. Under LEED-2009, GreenQuest cabinetry can earn points for: recycled content (particleboard and MDF); use of regional materials if from within a 500-mile radius; the rapid renewability of products (use of bamboo); use of low-emitting wood coatings and composite panel products; and use of FSC-certified species.

Time, effort and expense were involved in Crystal Cabinet’s pursuit of the FSC chain-of-custody certification. “This involved many months of planning, a thorough analysis of our lumber and sheet stock supply chain, and an extensive two-day audit at our facility,” Ewald says.

Although Ewald admits the FSC certification process is very expensive, “It is a cost we must continue to incur every year to maintain our certification. Due to research and development investment, cost of low-emitting resins and process changes, we pay more for our green products, [and] some of this increased cost must be passed along to our customers.” However, she adds, “We expect increased sales, due to a new market niche, as well as improved profitability and financial strength due to better and less wasteful practices.“

Crystal Cabinet actively works to educate others on the benefits of green products. On the Web site are user-friendly materials explaining the company’s green products and processes, how certification is earned, as well as a 12-page brochure entitled: Earth Matters: Better Company. Better Product. Better World.

The educational push extends to its own staff. “Ensuring that our national sales team, our dealers and our internal staff are properly trained and understand the attributes of our green products has been, and will continue to be a challenge, but a critical issue as we grow our green product sales,” she says.

Ewald adds the company’s focus on environmental sustainability is a long-term one. “It is our intent to continue pursuing all avenues to ‘green’ until it truly becomes a way of life. We have a strategic objective to be a leader in green, both in terms of our product offerings and our manufacturing processes.”

She says that they are evaluating additional measures for waste, emissions and the use of reportable chemicals. “We intend to set goals to better utilize our wood waste back into the product as well as reduce our wastes and emissions per cabinet.”

Crystal Cabinet Works offers FSC-certified cabinetry, including the GreenQuest line (pictured). The company also is certified under the KCMA’s ESP and CPS’s EPP downstream Program.

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