Volume 11, Issue 2 - March 2010

AMD Headlines

Have You Figured Out the Green Thing Yet?
by Dan Barber

I saw a story in California recently about the latest trend for car owners who want to go green. The results might surprise you. Instead of buying a new hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicle, car owners were simply keeping their old cars forever. The rationale was that the energy and resources needed to create a new car far outstripped any long-term benefit from using a more efficient vehicle. Whether or not you agree with this approach, a great deal of the movement toward “green” is a matter of perspective.

I have encountered a lot of varying opinions in our own industry about what is green. For example, we have wood door manufacturers promoting their products as green due to the use of sustainable, renewable forest lands. At the same time, fiberglass door manufacturers are promoting their products as green for the opposite reason—pointing out that they do not require the harvesting of forest lands and that fiberglass lasts forever. Both sides present good arguments and, more importantly, both sides create products that qualify for green credits. Much like the car example discussed previously, both approaches are green, just in different ways.

During the current economic downturn it is important for businesses to seek out new opportunities for expansion. The building materials industry can benefit greatly from the promotion of green products. For consumers, going green may make them feel good, but the benefits need to be quantified. One of the most popular programs is the government’s energy-efficient door and window tax credit. But, for some customers, it is important to explain the long-term benefits of going green. Up-front savings are good, but long-term energy savings is where energy-efficient products pay for themselves, and this must be communicated effectively. The current market has shown a dramatic decline in the number of new housing starts. Just like our friends in California who are choosing to keep their current vehicles, many individuals are making the most of their current homes by focusing on remodeling and repairs. Building material suppliers have the opportunity to sell new green products that are better for the environment, provide monetary value to the homeowner and provide our own companies with profitable sales.

"Now we sell this same material to companies that reuse it for a wide variety of purposes. A cost of doing business has now become a source of revenue."

For building material companies, going green also may result in substantial cost savings. Our company used to pay a waste management company to haul away wood waste to a landfill. Now we sell this same material to companies that reuse it for a wide variety of purposes. A cost of doing business has now become a source of revenue. We are now exploring other green cost-saving avenues. Small changes in business practices can reap large rewards.

By putting hard numbers behind green products and operations, businesses can begin to see the true benefits. Abstract idealism may be fine for Hollywood celebrities, but companies operating in the real world will only embrace new ideas if they help the bottom line. Building material companies have the opportunity to embrace the green movement and benefit from one of the few strong growth segments in the current economy. Doing so will lead to lower costs and increased profits.

Dan Barber is vice president of finance and administration of Barnett Millworks Inc. and AMD second vice president. His opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.


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