The majority of companies in the woodworking industry consider themselves pretty green, and they are achieving that greenness by implementing a variety of strategies, according to a recent survey conducted by Wood & Wood Products among its VIP advisory panel. Panelists include top managers and owners of woodworking companies of varying sizes from across the country.

When asked to rank their company’s level of green on a scale of 1-to-10, with 10 being “very green,” 60% ranked themselves at 6 or higher and less than 10% classified themselves as not green at all. (See chart below for details.) The majority fell between 5 and 8 on the scale, indicating that respondents are embracing green in a big way.

What Companies Are Doing to be Green
In terms of what they are doing, a large part of their strategies involve using green materials. Slightly more than one-half (51.1%) said they buy FSC-certified wood, 57.8% buy NAUF (no-added urea-formaldehyde) board products, 43.3% are using water-based finishes and 20.0% are using other types of green supplies, such as low-VOC adhesives and recycled or reclaimed wood. Only 12.2% said they use no green supplies or resources whatsoever.

Another oft-mentioned green strategy involves waste management. Many companies are working to reduce waste as much as possible, and many are utilizing whatever waste they do have as much as they can. For example, some burn wood waste to heat their own shops, some is being sold as animal bedding and some is donated to local schools or organizations or recycled in other ways. Many respondents also mentioned improved dust control as a method of controlling waste.

Some of those efforts most likely have been instituted because of the companies’ involvement with LEED projects. More than one-third (37.8%) of survey participants said they are involved in LEED projects. However, LEED projects still make up only a small percentage of their total work.

For example, for almost half of the companies that do LEED projects, it accounts for less than 10% of their total work. (See chart on page 35 for details.) A few firms also mentioned that they have someone on their staff who has become a LEED-certified professional.

A Green Future
Although companies already are doing quite a bit in green, the survey asked what else they plan to undertake or invest in for the future. A small number of respondents said they are not planning anything further right now. Those planning future additions mentioned activities that mirror what already is being done.

Among the items mentioned: switching to water-based finishes or low-VOC finishes and glues; recycling or other usage of waste materials; and switching to certified woods and/or NAUF board products. There are those too, that simply want to reduce their energy usage and maximize their plant’s efficiency.

Outreach and Promotion
Few companies have spread their green efforts beyond their own doors and into the community at large. Only 17.8% said they are involved in community education or outreach to promote green. Some of their activities involve helping customers and industry colleagues to understand more about green.

However, others have stretched their efforts further. For example:
• “We have donated labor and products for several community-oriented green projects and worked with other community groups to promote education on earth-friendly practices,” said the owner/president/CEO of one company.
• “...personally teaching green building classes part-time at a local community college,” said a custom woodworker respondent.

However, based on survey responses, it seems that most companies realize the value of marketing their green side. Of those who said they are green, 62.0% said they promote their green activities to their customers.
Most efforts come about during face-to-face discussions with customers, at sales meetings or appointments, and with vendors. Many companies also detail their green efforts on print promotional literature, on their Web sites and in their advertisements.

Some companies are quite pro-active in their efforts:
• “We put on a customer appreciation dinner at which we set up booths to promote green building practices and product availability,” said one production manager.
• “We have displays of green products, we work in community groups to further education of the availability of green products and we encourage our customers to choose products for their project that are eco-friendly,” said another company head.

Beyond the Stats, a Great Deal of Skepticism
Although the survey numbers show that most companies are going green to some extent, when asked an open-ended question about the subject, a large number of respondents indicated an attitude that is far from gung-ho. Although some were supportive, other comments ranged from total skepticism about the legitimacy of the green movement to lamenting the fact that the marketplace is unwilling to pay for green.

When asked to share thoughts about their company’s activities or attitude as they relate to green issues, the following answers were given:
• “We are striving to reduce our carbon footprint as much as cost issues will allow.”
• “We have been doing numerous green activities for many years, especially in the areas of recycling and waste reduction, and it has become such an ingrained part of our manufacturing practices that it now seems strange to be blowing our horn about stuff we have been doing for so long.
   “As an example, our saw dust has been collected and sorted by type [and end market] for more than two decades. Before that, it was still being used as animal bedding. Wood waste has been fingerjointed and edge-glued and used in certain products for more than 30 years, and it just seems strange that this is now being viewed as the ‘in’ thing. This has been smart business all along!”
• “In our market, green is the latest buzzword, but there has been very little interest from our customers in pursuing it.”
• “Mostly, an utter waste of time and money. Issues with reducing waste and recycling are valid. But the LEED program, as it applies to us, is simply a vehicle for transferring cash to another arrogant class of bureaucrats.”
 â€¢ “Our clients, mostly residential, ask for the green resources. Then, when they find out the additional cost, it is forgotten about.”
• “We spent a lot of money and resources to become green. We did it to help the earth, but we’re in business to make money and we really thought going green would increase business. After all, everyone is going green, and we thought that if we separated ourselves from our competition by going green, green business would pour in. Not so — it’s still the lowest bid. We’ve had projects change from green to non-green when the lowest bid was determined not to be ours. It’s still about money.”
• “I believe that every company, regardless of what industry it is or what the company’s green policy is, should have a culture of reducing waste, not only for environmental reasons, but for economic reasons. I also believe that indoor air quality is important and respect the use of NAUF materials to support this.
   “However, I get frustrated with all of the excess paperwork generated and additional time and energy expended to make people feel that they are making a difference. FSC certification, in particular, frustrates me and feels very much like an opportunity for a ‘nonprofit’ organization to extort money under the guise of making a difference.”
• “Help promote real green, as in carbon footprint. Most of the rest is green wash.”

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