How we impact the environment around us has become an increasingly important question for everyone involved in business over the past few years. Now that man made climate change is accepted as having far reaching, possibly catastrophic effects upon the planet we have a responsibility to ameliorate our own impact as much as possible.
Of course, that’s easier said than done for any business. You have to weigh up the benefits of every step you take against the hit you might take on the bottom line.
So, it comes down to how important your principles and ethics are against your short-term need as a business to be profitable.
We’ve been deliberating our options for some time, but towards the end of last year decided that we should be a business that stands up and makes a difference.
Within Langstaff-Ellis we therefore conducted a comprehensive review of all our practices in order to assess where we could improve, leading to an ongoing plan that we are implementing and reviewing constantly.
Six Key Steps to reduce our environmental impact
Our policies have created positive changes in both our working practices and our work environment. Here are six of the core policies.
1. FSC Certified Timber
Working with the quantities of wood that we do we had to be very conscious of the provenance of our timber. We have always sourced our wood from responsible growers and suppliers, now it is a written policy of the company. What that means in action is that all of our timber is sourced from FSC certified sources.
FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council, a worldwide organisation recognised by over 80 governments, which guarantees the provenance of timber and composite products. Crucially it provides chain of custody certificates that track products from forest to shelf.
Using wood and timber products with FSC chain of custody means that timber is only sourced from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits. Trees in certified forests are grown and harvested according to a strict set of guidelines that benefit the local environment and indigenous peoples.
One of the reasons we do what we do at Langstaff-Ellis is because we enjoy the beauty of wood, whether it has been transformed into a luxurious piece of furniture or growing majestically in its natural habitat. We are committed to minimising our impact and ensuring beautiful forest are there to be enjoyed for future generations.
2. Water Based Finishes
We will only use water-based paint for the painted finishes on our cabinets. There are three crucial reasons for this:
Water based paints, known as waterborne acrylics are much kinder to the environment when used. Traditional solvent based paints contain numbers of chemicals which are difficult to dispose of, their modern water based equivalents are now equal in performance while being easier to dispose of safely.
Shelf life: water-based paints have a much longer usable life than their solvent equivalents. Waterborne acrylics therefore reduce our unnecessary waste of potentially toxic solvents.
The welfare of our team: the health and safety of our team in the workshop who use these coatings every day is vitally important to us. Modern waterborne acrylics are a much safer option for them to use, they have a low volatile organic content (VOC), in other words none of the astringent chemical vapours associated with solvent paint, in terms of safety they are therefore a much reduced fire risk.
3. Electronic Vehicles
We have always been committed to low emission vehicles, it made sense for us as a business working on prestigious developments in London to reduce our liability to the congestion charge, but now we have decided to replace all of our vehicles with Electric Vehicles (EV).
The government has announced that all vehicle sales from 2030 will be of EV only, but we want to be prepared well in advance and reduce our emissions as soon as possible. Therefore our whole fleet is being rotated and where there is a practical choice we will always replace with an EV.
4. Heating & Energy
Reducing energy consumption and our environmental impact from our workshop and office has been a long-term aim since 2019 and we have taken significant steps to reduce emissions and environmental impact ever since.
Renewables: All our energy is provided by a renewables only supplier
Biomass Heating: heating is provided by a biomass boiler that converts our waste into heat. As a wood working business, we produce large quantities of offcuts, sawdust and woodchips so it makes sense for these to be recycled into onsite energy, giving us a free supply of fuel that is also saved from landfill.
Lighting: Our offices and workshop are being upgraded into low energy LED fixtures. LED makes perfect sense as the bulbs have a much longer life, they have low heat outputs thus reducing the temperature in a busy workshop and consume up to 75% less energy than incandescent lighting.
Wherever possible we recycle whether within the workshop or onsite. We have a dedicated mixed recycling policy, all our organic, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal is split from general waste and recycled, therefore reducing our impact on landfill.
6. Education & Training
Without the input and dedication of our team none of the changes we have implemented to become a greener company would have been possible. While we conduct regular team training to help the whole company understand what we are trying to do, they have been crucial to implementing our policies.
One of the things we are proudest of in our greening campaign has been the input and ideas from the team, the people who have to make a lot of these policies actively work every day.
For other businesses looking to reduce their impact on the environment, we would say that you need to make it a company wide process where ideas and initiatives can come from anyone; it has worked for us and along the way re-energised our team spirit.
Positive impact of change
For the whole team at Langstaff-Ellis the process and implementation of our environmental policies have been nothing but positive. Of course, there have been challenges along the way and of course there have been short term costs. But the long term benefits for us as a business are both beneficial to our bottom line and, much more importantly beneficial to the environment we hope to sustain for the future.
If your business is looking to make positive environmental changes and is interested in how we approached the process, what our objectives were and what the challenges and positive impacts have been we’d be very happy to discuss the process over a (virtual) coffee.