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 and sustainability. Because what do shoes have to do with the environment, right?

The answer is, thanks to Nike, shoes now have everything to do with the environment and sustainability.

Earlier this summer Nike released its new Space Hippie shoe collection (the new line dropped in July), and they’re reported to be their 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 in promoting their new shoes and the approach they’re taking to producing them.

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

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.

So that’s how you have the upper half of Space Hippies. On the bottom half, their 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. 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 is good for the environment.

Today I want to talk about a company that is 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, what Diageo does is they always keep sustainability top of mind in almost 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.

This year, in fact, Diageo announced they’ve achieved most of their sustainability goals that they set back in 2008. They’ve cut their greenhouse gas emissions in half across its direct operations, improved its 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

A few months ago, the company also announced they’ve created their first 100% plastic free bottle made of paper 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 mean paper based. Diageo’s new bottle will be made entirely from sustainably sourced wood to meet food-safe standards and will be fully recyclable in standard waste streams. It will debut with Johnny Walker in early 2021.

Likewise, this new bottle will allow 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 is good for the environment.

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.

And while it’s only one tree at a time, our count is already closing in on 3,300 new saplings. (Most likely more after this is posted. See the counter at the end of our Home page.)

Here’s how it works, and why we’re doing it.

The gist is, for every Tier II report that gets filed through our system for EHS compliance, 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. 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.

Quick fact from One Tree’s site: 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 itself, 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!”

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

This allows Encamp to cut down on paper costs, Jacobs explained, both by digitizing paper-based processes for its customers and by going the extra mile to get more trees planted across the country.

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

One Tree Planted started in 2014 and planted 150,000 trees its first full year. In 2019, they were able to get 4 million more trees in the ground worldwide.

One tree at a time, we’re proud to be contributing to that number.

Where do we even start? COVID-19 and the coronavirus pandemic are still running rampant. Masks and plastic gloves and face shields have become staples of our daily wardrobe. And safe to say, most people now know as much about Personal Protective Equipment — PPE — as any medical professional ever has.

Right now, until a proven vaccine gets here for COVID-19, PPE is our best protection. You know, wash your hands, distance… wear a mask. But the coronavirus and PPE are also converging on a different path. And the environment is suffering because of it.

Some numbers:

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization projected the global production of PPE supplies would need to increase by 40% every month to keep pace with the pandemic. Translated, that means 89 million new masks, 76 million pairs of gloves and 1.6 million pairs of goggles. Every. Month.

Consultants at Frost & Sullivan additionally predicted the US alone could generate an entire year’s worth of medical waste in just two months. Credit the pandemic again.

Yet governments at the international, national, state and local level are still trying to decide where these millions of products will end up after they’re disposed of.

Not a new problem

Although COVID-19 has intensified the PPE issue, 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,” said Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet. 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,” said Claire Potter, a marine plastic expert in the United Kingdom. “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,” said Sander Defruyt, head of the plastics team at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “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 guard against COVID-19, and PPE is everywhere. And 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 recent 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 the 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 (WHO) 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 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, recently 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 has partnered with TerraCycle to create a face mask recycling program. And at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers have 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 are developing (and already applying) 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, preliminary findings from the two agencies show 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 subsides, EHS practices will be just as critical as the efforts to discover new ways to treat and prevent COVID-19.

Meantime, wash your hands, distance, wear a mask… and dispose of it wisely when the time comes.

Contact us. We can help with your EHS compliance in the battle to beat COVID-19.

It’s weird to think of the cannabis industry in the U.S. as a thriving commercial market. Yet it is. Led by the likes of Colorado and California, 10 states thus far have legalized marijuana for recreational use and 33 now permit it for medicinal use. And get this. As a business sector in our country, cannabis generates billions of dollars in revenue and jobs — with no signs of letting up.

But from an environmental perspective, the industry’s emergence is spurring some important questions, such as:

What are the environmental impacts of growing marijuana? Are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions influencing ozone formation? How is the industry being regulated at state and local levels?

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. She was even featured in a recent Forbes article on the topic. So when Kaitlin joined us for our latest Campfire Session video, she offered some unique insights on the industry’s environmental impacts, social impacts, and the new regulatory efforts she’s been spearheading.

“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.”

Here are a few excerpts from our discussion (edited for conciseness)…

How are you helping the cannabis industry reduce their 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 and 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 compliance coaching.

What are the major environmental impacts of the 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? Those kinds of things.

A bulk of the information you’ve been studying is air quality and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and emissions. Talk about the air quality 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 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 this year 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 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 the cannabis industry. Watch this Campfire Sessions episode to get the full story.

Check out our previous Campfire Session episodes, too.

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

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 chemicals in personal care products. Yet as mind boggling as it seems, the rules haven’t been updated in 80 years!

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 a Solutions Engineer 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. 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. And at the state level, California recently signed a bill that will ban the use of 24 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 chemicals.

This episode features Luke Jacobs (CEO & Co-founder) and Brandon Barlow of Encamp along with Dr. Michael Washburn and Julie Mouton of Antea Group discussing 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, go to Encamp.com

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

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This episode features Brandon Barlow of Encamp and Adam Estes from Knauf Insulation as they discuss building an Environmental Sustainability program for your business. They will discuss the definition, benefits, and importance of sustainability; how Knauf is approaching sustainability and its goals for 2020. Then outline how you can implement these concepts into your business.

To learn more about Encamp, go to Encamp.com

To learn more about the Knauf Insulation, go to knaufnorthamerica.com

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