In EHS program areas for environmental compliance, sustainability applies in two ways. Naturally the first is complying with regulatory requirements for hazardous chemicals and waste to contribute to a sustainable environment. The second, is making risk management and compliance reporting a more efficient and sustainable process for EHS operations. 

Automated notifications and compliance reporting drive sustainability from both ends of this EHS program spectrum. As importantly, they provide a collective safeguard against non-compliance violations.   

Reasons for Automated Notifications and Reporting

Tracking updates and notifications within EHS program areas

A notable obstacle for many enterprises with distributed facilities is tracking compliance updates and notifications specific to an EHS program area or regulatory level. Especially when sites are located in various states, monitoring changes in each facility on a continuous basis is demanding, if not impossible. 

While updates to regulations and exceeding thresholds based on site-specific data are common triggers for notifications, so are actions such as adding or updating a facility’s emergency personnel and contact info. Outdated or incorrect facility contact information is in fact one of the most common errors for compliance reporting. Triggers like these and others can add up, which is where the value of automation for notifications comes in. (Read more in the Encamp eBook: Guided Environmental Compliance.)

By as much as 98%, based on Encamp customer data, automated actions reduce the number of facilities that are behind or out-of-date on compliance updates and notifications. Technology research firm Gartner offers additional insight on the value prop. For businesses in general, Gartner analysts predict that 70% of organizations will track data more rigorously for accuracy and quality in 2022, reducing operational risks and costs by 60%. Applied to EHS operations, reducing the risks of non-compliance and costly fines is always a positive.

Gartner analysts predict that 70% of organizations will track data more rigorously for accuracy and quality in 2022, reducing operational risks and costs by 60%.
– “12 Actions to Improve Your Data Quality”

To take advantage of automation, the most effective way is with technology that incorporates rules-based triggers and automates the process of recognizing necessary updates or notifications. Even better is when that technology also automatically submits updates or notifications in the right format and with audit-ready documentation. 

Setting sustainability goals

According to Program Manager Katie Wascom of Encamp’s Compliance & Customer Success team, automated notifications can also serve other critical purposes. 

“They can help tremendously in setting sustainability goals, especially regarding waste,” Katie said. “If an EHS team is able to accurately and timely capture chemical amounts on site (using notifications), including changes within a certain percentage, they can proactively tackle on-site management. This in turn sets the site up for success because they’re always prepared.”

Case in point: One chemical manufacturer and valued Encamp customer reported that “We were able to bulk upload chemicals, and add notifications for changes over 10% to notify (EHS staff) and have a meeting to discuss.” The notifications have helped the company identify potential threshold issues and address them accordingly.

“We were able to bulk upload chemicals, and add notifications for changes over 10% to notify (EHS staff) and have a meeting to discuss.”
– Large U.S. chemical manufacturer

Another potential aspect of goal-setting for sustainability comes from Julie Ragains, Encamp’s director of Customer Success and Fulfillment. “Imagine a notification to automatically alert you when something is quite different from your previous year’s report.” 

The issue in such a case could be the amount being reported for a product that, when compared to the previous year’s compliance report, has increased or decreased below a regulated threshold. As Julie explained, in a scenario like this, an automated notification could conceivably help the company avoid a non-compliance violation for submitting inaccurate data in their latest Tier II report.  

Automating task suggestions

A bit of background first on the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) for hazardous waste. RCRA requires such wastes to be properly managed from the point of generation — the “generator” — to the point of final destruction. Generator categories are based on the amount of waste generated per facility per month (i.e., a threshold).

An activity that causes a generator to exceed the threshold for its normal generator category for that month can be unplanned or planned. For an unplanned event, a company must notify regulatory authorities within 72 hours of the activity. When the event is planned, notification is required 30 days before. Jess Martin, a compliance program associate at Encamp who has an extensive background in RCRA, brought up the concept of automated task suggestions for when a generator exceeds their compliant generation limit.

“They could evaluate and either determine it was an unplanned episodic generation event and submit the proper forms for that,” she explained, “or completely update their generator status and submit necessary forms.”

Jess adds that tracking waste that’s generated, shipped, or both on a monthly or annual basis is instrumental in reaching sustainability goals. “You can’t track progress when you don’t have the data,” she said. For notifications, “the automation aspect could come from syncing with existing data pipelines, such as waste vendor data or internal waste tracking software.”

Improving Tier II reporting and data quality

Another common problem in many EHS program areas is data quality. Ideally, compliance data and Tier II reports should undergo QA/QC checks throughout the report compilation process. But the reality is that submissions are often hurried to meet due dates and quality goes largely unchecked. Are reports being filed with the right data? Going to the right agencies? In the right format? On time?

Along with standardizing processes and making them repeatable and sustainable across EHS program areas, automation reduces the “friction” of manual work — like pulling compliance data together from scattered sources and constantly checking the quality of information they have. 

Within the reporting process, automation can be applied to: 

Data collection

Data validation

Task notifications

Report submissions 

Some further numbers to confirm automation’s value: Based on Encamp’s  customer data for reporting, automation helps them reduce the time to complete and file compliance reports by more than 90% — and often eliminates 100% of errors before they occur. Relatedly in a study by Smartsheet, with employees in multiple industries estimating that a quarter of their workweek is spent collecting, copying, and “cleaning data,” 66% said automation would help reduce data errors. And finally, a study from Gartner research has found that organizations believe poor data quality to be responsible for an average of $15 million per year in losses.

In more ways than one for the environment and EHS program sustainability, automation is invaluable.

Organizations believe poor data quality is responsible for an average of $15 million per year in losses.
– Gartner

Transforming the way enterprises stay in compliance 

Encamp is on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

Katie Waskom is a Program Manager at Encamp, and is one of the top proponents of our mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. Given the growing relationship between environmental compliance and sustainability, we got her thoughts on the current state of sustainability, and how digital transformation fits into the sustainability equation with advancements in environmental compliance management and reporting.

Here’s what Katie had to share (responses have been edited for clarity and length).

Putting Environmental Compliance and Sustainability in Perspective 

Where did your interest in environmental compliance and sustainability start? 

I first took an interest in sustainability in college when I was part of an on-campus initiative and recycling program. Then when I studied abroad in Germany, my course work was in sustainability. Germany is extremely forward thinking in those terms, and they actually embed sustainability in their laws and environmental regulations. That’s where I learned what being sustainable really looks like — how it affects some 4,500 German companies and plays out in day to day life, how easy it is to transition, and especially how environmental compliance and sustainability work together.  

After college, I took what I learned in Germany to my first job, which was at Cummins, Inc. Cummins is a global manufacturer of power systems for industries including trucking, agriculture, mining, rail, shipping, and others, and they have an extensive ESG | Sustainability Reporting program. They had some lofty goals for sustainability while I was there, and a lot of pieces to still put in place. So it was a very good experience. But Encamp is where the environmental compliance aspect has come into a much clearer focus.

How would you define sustainability and its current state? 

Sustainability applies to a lot of different things. Right now, the sustainability movement is based largely on the three pillars of environmental, social, and economic concerns. For businesses in particular, an effective sustainability program considers how such an initiative gets paid for and its economic benefit, plus the initiative’s social reach and who will benefit. Businesses also want to show they’re good stewards of the environment. This is where environmental compliance and sustainability are becoming more aligned. 

As an investment decision-making criteria, sustainability reporting is becoming more and more critical… It allows people to determine a company’s stance on social issues and protecting the environment. 

Yet as ESG has taken center stage, sustainability has increasingly involved environmental and social governance as a financial component, especially for investing. This is why sustainability reporting is so critical now, since it allows people to determine a company’s stance on social issues and protecting the environment as investment decision-making criteria. 

Writer’s note: As the Corporate Governance Institute says, Environmental, Social, Governance criteria are “a set of standards for how a company operates regarding the planet and its people.” (See our related Encamp blog on ESG.)

How does digital transformation contribute to a company’s sustainability cause?

Technology contributes to the mix of environmental compliance and sustainability in multiple ways. For a company’s sustainability program, knowing where data originates and where it resides is integral to pursuing sustainability goals. Encamp’s unified data system, in particular, enables companies to centralize compliance data and validate its sources and quality. Data also becomes more visible for compliance reporting, which lets compliance teams and other organizational stakeholders track and QC/QA data in a more thorough manner to ensure its accuracy.

forest filled with trees at sunriseAlso on behalf of our customers, we partner with a non-profit called One Tree Planted to plant a tree somewhere in the world for every Tier II report a customer files using Encamp. The effort ties directly to carbon offsetting. Since 2018 when Encamp started working with One Tree Planted, we’ve had more than 18,000 new trees planted!

Another positive contribution for sustainability is that advancements in digital technology make data management and reporting more efficient with a digital transformation approach. Along with digitizing their compliance records, EHS teams can turn report compilation tasks into standardized, sustainable processes through automation. In addition to centralizing compliance data, for instance, the Encamp solution also automates final report submissions to all applicable regulatory agencies at the federal, state and local level. Depending on the number of facilities they have to file compliance reports for, our customers routinely save hundreds of hours every year just in the reporting process. 

How can businesses drive sustainability efforts by way of compliance?

Back to sustainability’s environmental aspect, companies can reduce their carbon footprint significantly just by adopting sustainable business processes. This is why environmental compliance technologies like Encamp continue to build more automation into the process for compliance data and reporting management, which continually improves productivity by maximizing technology resources as well as human resources.

For social responsibility, environmental compliance enables companies to report hazardous chemicals they manufacture, use or store on-site to regulatory agencies. With consistent monitoring, environmental compliance and sustainability goals alike are easily tracked and achieved. Here again, utilizing a unified data system provides comprehensive monitoring capabilities to know the status of a facility’s chemical list and inventories at all times and stay in continuous compliance.

When a company’s compliance program becomes sustainable this way, it benefits nearby communities and society as a whole — which can enhance a company’s environmental responsibility as well as its brand, customer base, and even decision-making and profitability. This is what we mean at Encamp when we say what’s good for business can be good for the environment.

Lastly for the economic part of sustainability, non-compliance with environmental regulations can be costly in more ways than one. For the most severe or repeated violations, financial penalties and legal fees can easily reach six figures, or sometimes in the millions. But unsustainable practices for compliance and reporting management can be also expensive because they’re largely inefficient and often fail to put the right resources to use. Sustainable business practices for environmental compliance can help companies and their EHS operations pinpoint areas of improvement and reduce such inefficiency, including costs.

What is your outlook for sustainability in the next few years? 

I think sustainability is definitely a topic people are becoming more aware of. And whether as consumers or B2B decision-makers, they’ll want to do business with companies that are like minded. This is a really powerful dynamic, and will continue to make environmental compliance and sustainability a package deal for businesses and consumers alike who want to protect the environment and take a sustainable approach to doing it.

I also see the economic aspect of sustainability being an even greater consideration for investors than ESG has already made it. If a business wants to attract investors, expand operations, or even position itself for acquisition, its sustainability efforts will have to be of top level importance in the eyes of potential investors as well as customers. In that sense, a company’s sustainability efforts are visible. They’re tangible. And especially with a well-managed sustainability program, businesses can make a positive impact with it. 

Organizationally, larger enterprises will continue to make the most impact with sustainability programs. Primarily, they have bigger carbon footprints that benefit from sustainable practices. But larger brand-name companies also tend to have boards of directors who are very forward thinking toward environmental and social causes. They’re environmentally and socially responsible, naturally, but they also understand how their businesses are perceived by the public. And they certainly have the financial and economic clout to promote sustainability. 

These enterprises will increasingly set the tone for companies of all sizes to implement sustainability initiatives going forward. Environmental compliance and sustainability will also continue to become a common cause for businesses in general.

Transforming the way enterprises stay in compliance 

Encamp is on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

We call it Better for You, Better for Nature. PR campaign? Nah. Encamp is just doing its part to help replenish the environment by planting trees. The initiative actually stems from Encamp’s  ongoing mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment.

And while it’s only one tree at a time, approximately 18,289 new saplings have been planted since 2018 on behalf of Encamp, our customers, and our employees. It’s a count we intend to grow as our company and base of loyal customers does.

How it works, and why we’re doing it

The gist is, for every Tier II report that gets filed through our environmental management system, Encamp makes a donation to have a tree planted somewhere in the 50 states. So first, thank you to every one of our customers who file a Tier II report from those states. Knowing every report is better for nature, please keep them coming.

The next big thanks go to our friends at One Tree Planted, who do all the critical work. They grow new saplings, plant them, maintain them, and then tell how these new trees are benefitting our planet. One Tree Planted is definitely better for nature…

From One Tree’s website: Trees help clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, and provide habitat to over 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. They also absorb harmful carbon from the atmosphere and are key ingredients in 25% of all medicines. Trees even provide jobs to more than 1.6 billion people around the world.

About One Tree Planted

They’re an environmental charity “dedicated to making it easier for individuals and businesses to give back to the environment.” Their mission is to let companies like Encamp help create a healthier climate, protect biodiversity, and aid reforestation efforts around the world. “All by planting trees!”

Recently, Diana Chaplin, who’s the Canopy Director at One Tree Planted, was nice enough to host a lunch & learn for everyone at Encamp. She filled us in on the non-profit’s six new pillars of reforestation — Air, Water, Biodiversity, Social Impact, Health, Climate — as well as some updated stats.

Since One Tree Planted started in 2014 and planted 150,000 trees its first full year, their numbers have grown significantly. By 2019, for instance, they were able to get 4 million additional trees in the ground worldwide. In 2020, the count was more than 10 million trees planted in 28 countries. And by year-end 2021, the number was well over 23.5 million trees in 42 countries.

Restoring the ecosystem

As Chaplin said, “One Tree’s efforts serve as prep work to restore the ecosystem after wild fires, floods, other natural disasters, and especially after mining sites are closed.” The process has also become increasingly sophisticated, she said.

For reforestation, as one example, One Tree staff now use drones and work with local authorities to more closely to match tree species to geographic areas and climates. Species are also determined based on criteria such as changes in land use, expansion, mining, and, of course, climate change.

Where Encamp fits in

In just one example according to Chaplin, Encamp’s backing led to nearly 3,300 trees being planted for forest recovery efforts in California’s San Joaquin Valley after fires and related disasters in the latter part of 2021. Mostly, the recovery is helping landowners in the Valley to both restore their land and reestablish healthy forests. Beyond that, Chaplin noted, the new trees will also help stabilize the local climate, improve water and soil quality, reduce the risk of future fires, and improve habitat connectivity for native wildlife.

“We’ve been committed to aligning our business goals with environmental goals from the very beginning,” said Luke Jacobs, Encamp’s CEO and co-founder. “Even before we had paying customers, we were committed to the idea of planting a tree for every Tier II report we file.”

“Our mission at Encamp aligns well with the goals of One Tree Planted,” Jacobs added, “and we’re excited to keep striving towards a world where good for business can equal good for the environment.”

One tree at a time and better for nature. We’re proud to be contributing to One Tree’s total.

Transforming the way enterprises stay in compliance 

Encamp is on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

Welcome to another EHS Moment from Encamp… This time I want to talk about two things that don’t even seem to fit in the same sentence: My interest in shoes, and my interest in the environment, sustainability, and lowering the carbon footprint. Because what do shoes have to do with the environment, right? (Encamp is all about protecting the environment through environmental compliance.)

The answer is, thanks to Nike, shoes now have everything to do with the environment and sustainability — driven by the lowest carbon footprint their shoes have ever provided.

Lowest carbon footprint shoe ever made

In July 2020, Nike released its Space Hippie shoe collection, and they were reported at the time to be the lowest carbon footprint shoe ever made. Space Hippies consist mostly of recycled material — yes, they’re literally made of trash! — and Nike offers four models to choose from. (My favorite is the Space Hippie 01, which provides the traditional lace-up with the one-of-a-kind Nike Crater Foam outsoles.)

With Nike leading the way, shoe companies’ efforts towards waste-free carbon neutrality and keeping sustainability at the top of mind is a huge step. Nike says as much with their Space Hippie lineup and the approach they’re taking to producing them to provide a minimal carbon footprint.

“Space Hippie,” as Nike puts it, “is the result of sustainable practices meeting radical design.”

Recycled materials are key

When you take a closer look at Space Hippies, the material the shoes are made of stands out. Overall, the fabric is 85% to 90% recycled, with 50% of that coming from plastic bottles and other plastic waste. Along with recycled plastics, 25% of the shoes’ material consists of old consumer goods, like t-shirts. The remaining material is a mix of Nike yarn or other leftover materials in their factories. It’s a low carbon footprint all the way around.

So that’s the upper half of Space Hippies. On the bottom half, the carbon footprint stays low. The cushion sole is made of Nike Zoom X foam, or what Nike calls crater foam, of which 15% is made from grain rubber. That’s where you get the Nike proprietary mix and little flecks and specks inside the foam, which really stands out stylistically. And as a shoe enthusiast, I think the new Space Hippies are really good-looking shoes.

Yet while making shoes from recycled materials is a positive step for Nike and the environment, it isn’t necessarily a new concept for the global shoe and sportswear maker. To date, Nike has already been recognized for diverting roughly 1 billion plastic bottles from landfills to be recycled for greater sustainable good.

Beyond Nike, other shoe companies are also now escalating their efforts toward waste-free carbon neutrality and sustainability in the materials they use. On that list: Saolo, Indosole, Timberland, North Face, MOVMT, and Nike competitors adidas and Converse, among others. It’s a move in the right direction both for our environment and for the business world itself.

These efforts also reinforce what we always say at Encamp: What’s good for business can equal good for the environment.

Read about another EHS Moment: Diageo’s 100% Plastic Free Bottle
Transforming the way enterprises stay in compliance
Encamp is on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

Today I want to talk about a company that’s quickly becoming one of my favorites — and not just for the items they make. The company is Diageo, and for the record they’re the spirit company that produces Johnny Walker, Guinness, and Smirnoff.

Now, making scotch, ale and vodka is all well and good. But environmentally, Diageo always keeps sustainability top of mind in most everything they do. The company is known for their industry leading environmental goals and achievements as much as they are for the spirits they sell.

In 2020, in fact, Diageo announced they had achieved most of the sustainability goals they set back in 2008. They cut their greenhouse gas emissions in half across its direct operations, improved water efficiency by 46%, and achieved zero waste to landfill at all production sites and offices.

So kudos to Diageo.

The first 100% plastic free paper-based bottle

Also in 2020, the company announced they had created their first 100% plastic free bottle, made entirely of paper-based products.

Ok, ok, I know what you’re thinking. We’ve all used paper straws, and not all of us are fans of paper straws. As you drink more, they tend to break down. I hear you.

But by a “paper bottle,” I’ll reiterate it’s paper based. Diageo’s new bottle, which debuted with Johnny Walker in early 2021, is made entirely from sustainably sourced wood to meet food-safe standards. It’s also fully recyclable in standard waste streams. 

Likewise, this new bottle now allows other brands to rethink their packaging designs and go plastic free. Safe to say, Diageo is pushing sustainability and environmental innovation — which is what we all want.

Look for more of our daily EHS Moment videos on your favorite social channel. And please, give them a like or leave a comment. You can also watch the entire video series on the Encamp YouTube page.

Remember, what’s good for business can equal good for the environment.

Transforming the way enterprises stay in compliance 

Encamp is on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

 

Covid-19 and the coronavirus pandemic might never fully be in the rear-view mirror worldwide, at least in the near future. Which means the virus and masks and plastic gloves and face shields — Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) — will continue to converge on a path that impacts human health as well as the environment.

Some numbers on the environmental side:

In the earliest stages of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) projected the global production of PPE supplies would need to increase by 40% every month to keep pace with treating Covid-19 patients. At the time, that meant 89 million new masks, 76 million pairs of gloves and 1.6 million pairs of goggles. Every. Month. 

Thankfully, since the onset of Covid-19, vaccines and advances in treatments have dramatically stemmed the pandemic . Yet it still persists, and governments at the international, national, state and local level continue to struggle with how best to dispose of millions of PPE products.

Not a new problem

Although Covid-19 intensified the PPE issue significantly, disposing of plastics in general was a problem long before the pandemic.

“PPE is just the tip of a mountain of toxic plastic waste that we’ve been ignoring for years,” Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, said. A 2020 study co-authored by the not-for-profit group along with the sustainability firm, SystemIQ, backs him up, and it cites the ocean as taking the brunt.

The study forecasts that, by 2040, 29 million tons of plastic will find its way into oceans worldwide every year if governments and industry don’t take immediate and significant action. That annual rate would be nearly triple of what it is now.

“A new breed of single-use plastic”

“PPE is a whole new breed of single-use plastic that we didn’t have even in January,” Claire Potter, a marine plastic expert in the United Kingdom, said. “We’re now seeing it being washed up onto the beaches — it’s coming in, we’re also seeing it left on the beaches as well.”

For PPE itself, the underlying culprits are that most of these supplies are used only once and often contain various types of plastics. (Prior to the 1980s, most all PPE was reusable.) These plastics can range from polypropylene and polyethylene in face masks and gowns to nitrile, vinyl and latex in protective gloves.

In many western countries, at least, companies have long incinerated hazardous medical waste like PPE on site to prevent the transmission of infectious disease. “Other than burning it, there is nothing really we can do,” Sander Defruyt, head of the plastics team at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said. “It’s designed to be waste.”

So now, add millions of citizens to the thousands of medical staff who must wear single-use protective equipment to continue guarding against Covid-19, and disposing of PPE continues to be a concern. If it isn’t being incinerated, it’s showing up in conventional waste streams or being dumped in the open air.

“If it’s on your streets, it’s going to the ocean because it’s one rainfall away from getting into a storm water system, and then being carried into a river and into the ocean,” warned Mark Benfield, a zooplankton ecologist and professor at Louisiana State University.

Or as a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report puts it, even if only 1% of PPE masks are disposed of incorrectly, some 10 million of them could infiltrate the natural environment each month — polluting rivers, waterways and oceans around the world.

What regulatory agencies recommend for PPE

To properly dispose of used PPE “with potential or known Covid-19 contamination,” recently updated OSHA guidelines advise waste disposal workers to handle office and home solid waste just as they would any other non-contaminated municipal waste.

Typically, OSHA says, managing such waste “does not require special precautions beyond those already used to protect workers from the hazards they encounter during their routine job tasks in solid waste and wastewater management.”

Guidance from the World Health Organization says employees should place their used PPE in a bag, seal the bag tightly, and place it in a sturdier garbage bag for pick up.

A medical setting is much different and far more regulated, however. In this case, the CDC and OSHA do not consider Covid-19-contaminated material to be a Category A infectious substance. Such material is still managed as regulated “medical waste.”

The general guidance OSHA uses for medical waste is if the person or item is “known or suspected” to be hazardous. This especially applies to single-use PPE. As OSHA says, it is the generator’s responsibility to determine if a waste is known or suspected to be hazardous and, in the event of Covid-19, infectious.

In industrial settings, under most circumstances PPE waste is not considered regulated medical (infectious) waste and can be treated as solid waste. According to the CDC and the WHO, waste materials that are not assumed to be contaminated do not require any special precautions. and can be managed as they typically would for the flu.

Waste that is indeed suspected or known to be contaminated with Covid-19 should be managed in accordance with standard CDC and OSHA procedures and handled like other regulated medical waste.

What now?

So what does this ongoing collision course of Covid-19, PPE and the environment mean for the EHS industry? Aside from a new type of waste to worry about, expect new regulations and PPE disposal programs to be developed on a continuing basis.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) in the UK, for instance, has issued new guidance on the PPE topic. Among multiple issues in their document, Defra addresses the benefits of reusable face masks, how best to dispose of PPE if you own a small business, and cleaning up waste in non-healthcare settings.

In Las Vegas, the Venetian Resort partnered with TerraCycle to create a face mask recycling program. And at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers designed a new type of reusable face mask that can be easily sterilized and washed.

This is interesting, too. Beyond PPE, researchers at EPA and the CDC have developed (and already routinely applied) methods for measuring SARS-CoV-2 levels in wastewater. SARS-CoV-2 is the strain behind Covid-19. Public health officials will be able to use these methods to determine infectivity, persistence, and treatment efficacies related to SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater in their communities.

Thus far, findings from the two agencies have shown that monitoring wastewater for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 can be a sensitive early indicator of low levels of Covid-19 infections. At the same time, such monitoring in wastewater could also signal decreasing levels of infection within a community.

Until the coronavirus pandemic fully subsides, EHS practices will continue to be just as critical as the efforts to discover new ways to treat and prevent Covid-19.

Transforming the way enterprises stay in compliance 

Encamp is on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

It’s strange to think of the cannabis industry in the U.S. as a thriving commercial market. It’s even stranger to think that the industry falls under environmental regulations and EHS compliance. Yet it does. Led by the likes of Colorado and California, 19 states and the District of Columbia thus far have legalized marijuana for recreational use and 37 now permit it for medicinal use. Which makes it not as strange to mention cannabis, the environment, regulatory requirements and EHS compliance in the same sentence.

And from an environmental perspective, the industry’s emergence is spurring some important questions. Some examples:

What are the environmental impacts of growing marijuana? Are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions influencing ozone formation? And especially regarding cannabis and the environment in the eyes of regulators, how is the industry being regulated for EHS compliance at state and local levels?

Pioneering a Sustainability and EHS Compliance Blueprint

As an Environmental Protection Specialist for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), Kaitlin Urso has been a pioneer in developing a sustainability blueprint for the cannabis industry. A sustainability bridge builder between cannabis and the environment, if you will. She was even featured in a 2020 Forbes article on the topic, and we consider her an honorary member of Encamp’s Women of EHS forum.

Environmental impacts, social impacts, new regulatory efforts

In joining us for this Campfire Session video, Kaitlin offered some unique perspectives on the cannabis industry’s environmental and social impacts in Colorado, as well as the new regulatory and EHS compliance efforts she’s been spearheading for the State.

Following are a few excerpts from our Campfire discussion with her (edited for conciseness)…

“Despite people’s opinions on marijuana or cannabis or hemp, it’s a large industry sector here in Colorado. We have more marijuana businesses than we do 7-Elevens, McDonald’s and Starbucks combined.”  – Kaitlin Urso

How are you helping the cannabis industry in Colorado reduce its environmental footprint?

Part of my role at the CDPHE is to be a free environmental consultant for all small businesses in Colorado. I just happen to specialize in helping cannabis operations, as well as craft breweries, reduce their environmental impact. So I help both industries understand what those impacts are and what best management practices they can employ to reduce them. I also provide EHS compliance coaching. (As a sustainability bridge builder between cannabis and the environment, she’s the industry’s best friend, at least in Colorado…)

What are the major environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation in processing?

It depends on if you’re an indoor or outdoor grower. In Colorado, marijuana is grown primarily indoors, so the major environmental impact is energy use for artificial lights and HVAC systems. The second largest impact of indoor cultivations is the sheer amount of plant waste. In an outdoor setting, the impacts shift more to land impacts for soil and water. Where is your water coming from and are you disturbing the ecology of the area by diverting that water to your cultivation? Also with runoff of that water, are pesticides in it? Increased nutrients?

In the relationship between cannabis and the environment, these are the kinds of things people don’t always think of at first.

For air quality, you’ve been studying volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and emissions extensively. Talk about the study you’ve been working on.

Two questions we’re trying to answer with this research are: How many pounds of VOCs are there per pound of marijuana, and then what’s the resulting influence on ozone formation? When it comes to VOCs, odor does not always equate to concentration. In marijuana, there’s a really high odor, but a very low level of VOC concentration if you actually get to it at the concentration level. Because it’s such a low concentration, it has very little impact on ozone formation in our urban environment. So we’re not necessarily worried about the VOC concentrations that influence ozone. We’re more concerned about odor ordinances and treating that nuisance odor.

What are the next regulatory and EHS compliance steps for the cannabis industry in Colorado?

Marijuana is already highly regulated in Colorado. But I’m really proud of our marijuana enforcement division and that in 2020 we had a sustainability rule-making hearing where we looked at our rules. We said, okay, now that we’re a mature market and we have a lot of lessons learned, how can we keep our top priorities of safety and security and add in a layer of environmental sustainability? How can we become more environmentally efficient with maintaining our top regulatory priorities? Our 50-50 waste mixing rule was ideal for that. (The rule requires marijuana plant waste leaving a facility to be mixed 50-50 with non-marijuana organic waste to reduce the cannabis waste footprint.)

With new rules taking effect in January 2021, we allowed for more exemptions from the existing 50-50 waste mixing rule to bring the landfill footprint down and give cannabis marijuana operators a more viable alternative. So we’re addressing plant waste, and then also (marijuana) packaging waste. Our packaging footprint is driven by child resistant packaging standards, including multiple layers of packaging to keep the marijuana product safe from youth.

We’ll be doing stakeholder outreach to educate the cannabis companies on rules changes, help them with implementation, and even EHS compliance coaching. “Now that we have these new regulations, how do I participate in them?”

I’m excited that Colorado is not being stagnant in its leadership of the cannabis industry. The industry is continuing to evolve, and we’re constantly looking at our market and saying, what can we do better not only for the environment but for our citizens, for our community, and for the cannabis businesses themselves. You know, anything we can do to support this industry.

Thanks to Kaitlin for explaining the environmental side of the cannabis industry. Watch this Campfire Sessions episode to hear her full interview.

Check out our previous Campfire Sessions episodes, too.

Transforming the way enterprises stay in compliance 

Encamp is on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

Mercury, formaldehyde, long chain parabens, and PFAS aren’t chemicals you’d expect to come in contact with every day. Especially direct contact. Hazardous chemicals like these, after all, are strong enough to embalm a body. They are, in every respect, a danger in cosmetics.

But what if I told you certain brands of make-up, face wash, personal care products, and cosmetics are indeed made with toxic chemicals like these. Yes, federal safety rules are in place to govern such hazardous chemicals in personal care products. Yet as mind boggling as it seems, the rules haven’t been updated in 80 years! This danger in cosmetics therefore remains a real issue.

A Bizarre Dynamic

It’s a bizarre dynamic, and to help dissect it, my colleague and fellow Encamper Julie Ragains joined in on this particular EHS Moment discussion. Julie is the director of customer success at Encamp, and we did a short Q&A to get her perspective.

I’ve summarized her thoughts here, although you can catch our full discussion in our EHS Moment video.

Q: You have a passion for seeking out natural and organic personal care products and cosmetics. Why is the topic important to you?

A: I started doing research and found that many of the ingredients in the products I use were endocrine disrupting chemicals and highly toxic. Essentially, they’re hazardous chemicals! And to say they present a real danger in cosmetics is an understatement. I’ve always cared about the ingredients in my food, and decided I needed to take the same approach to the personal care products I use in my everyday life as well.

Q: What now? Are states and governments making any progress in what chemicals can and can’t be used in cosmetics?

A: As you mentioned, the regulations governing this industry haven’t changed in 80 years. At a federal level, the Personal Care Products Safety Act has been introduced to protect consumer health and strengthen the FDA’s efforts to regulate ingredients in personal care products. You know, to try to limit any danger in cosmetics. Also at the state level, California has signed a bill that will ban the use of 24 different toxic chemicals in personal care products. This is huge!

Q: What else have you learned from your research?

A: What stood out most to me is how aggressively these dangerous products are marketed to Black women and how much the problem disproportionately affects them. Black women who dye their hair using these kinds of products, for instance, are 60% more likely to develop breast cancer. This statistic is incredibly alarming. (Actor and comedian Chris Rock made a documentary in 2009 on this very topic. Ironically, the documentary is titled “Good Hair.”)

Q: What natural and organic brands are you using?

A: FoxBrim Naturals is an awesome, affordable skincare product available on Amazon. Nubian Heritage is another one — the best lotion ever with some amazing scents! — which I get at my grocery store. Still another super affordable skincare option is Cocokind, whose products have five ingredients or less. And Honest Beauty cosmetics, which were founded by Jessica Alba, can be found at Target or online. These products work just as well as traditional makeup without all the junk.

Thankfully, other major personal care brands are making similar progress on their own. Covergirl, for example, recently came out with a line of Clean Fresh cosmetics that are free of parabens, formaldehydes, sulfates, talc, etc. It’s really good to see a brand that’s so accessible take this step.

As we see more awareness around this issue, I’d expect to see industry take the lead on this. The consumer wants what the consumer wants! They just don’t want their personal care products to be full of toxic, hazardous chemicals.

Transforming the way enterprises stay in compliance 

Encamp is on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

In this webinar, Women from all corners of EHS have great stories to tell. Learn about this inspiring woman of environmental, health and safety – Julie Mouton.p discuss the importance of water supply sustainability in the Food & Beverage industry.

Having clean water is important to every industry. Our guests from Antea Group explain why having a sustainable, clean water source is so important to the food and beverage industry, specifically. They also share some long-term effects that can impact the bottom line for your business.

To learn more about Encamp, request a demo.

To learn more about Antea Group, go to us.anteagroup.com/en-us.

Today’s EHS Moment explores how companies are looking to save money now more than ever. HUGE cost savings can be found in places as routine as monthly utility bills. Commercial and industrial companies have the ability to reduce energy costs in easy ways that might not have occurred to most.

If you are looking for a quick way to save your company money, watch as Mike Troupos, CEM and CEP from Foresight Management offers a few energy and cost-saving tips.

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