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Sustainability Basics For Venues & Venue Operators

By Anne Chapman

December 3, 2020

Patriot with Rear CH Auburn 44

Environmental stewardship is possible in any business, but entertainment venues are perhaps among the best positioned to make a difference. The country's top 200 stadiums bring in nearly 181 million visitors every year. Movie theaters host guests night after night and playhouses often present new shows every week. This sort of high traffic means that even small changes can have a huge impact.

At Irwin Seating Company, we're passionate about sustainable practices and protecting the environment. These are some of the measures that we've taken. We hope they serve as an inspiration to venues who are interested in cutting their environmental impact.

Cutting Waste At Every Stage Of Production

The "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" mantra is a common one at Irwin Seating. We work with our vendors to reduce and reuse packaging that is used for shipping. Many of our suppliers now ship materials to us in Irwin Seating company boxes, which we, in turn, reuse to ship finished goods out to our customers. The net result is thousands of pounds less cardboard used every year.

We believe in preserving existing seating when possible. Because of this, one of the services we offer is restoration and refurbishing of old, worn seating. Our restoration department strips and repaints standards, reupholstered seats and backs, and refinishes and restores any decorative end panels. The existing seats are returned to their original beauty, saving them from being sent to the landfill. And, instead of new materials being used, existing ones get a new life. If your venue's seating is due for an update, talk to us about restoration options.

We recycle everything we can from production, including scrap wood and metal, excess fabric, light bulbs, cardboard, paper products, packaging and more. All post-industrial scrap foam from our line is shredded and recycled to make carpet padding. We set a goal in 2009 to bring our Grand Rapids location to a "zero landfill" status. Within two years, we accomplished that goal and now send no waste to the landfill.

Many venues have the option of using more easily recyclable materials such as compostable plastics in drink containers or recycled paper in napkins. These actions allow us to keep more out of the waste stream and cut down on the use of new materials.

Improving Air Quality

Air pollutants can remain in the environment for long periods of time. Often, they are carried hundreds of miles from their origin, which can have strong impacts on people in the surrounding areas. We have identified potential sources of air pollution in our production and have made changes to eliminate pollution whenever possible. As participants in the EPA's 33/50 Program, we voluntarily pledged to cut air pollution related to our painting operations by 33%. This was achieved by switching all of our metal finishing to powder coating, which has far lower emissions.

Paint is not the only area where we've made changes. By switching from a solvent-based glue to a water-based one in our upholstery operations and changing our wood finishes to water-based stains, we've cut our VOC emissions by 45%. The products we've chosen cut pollution while still maintaining the high quality our customers expect.

Reducing Energy Use

Cutting energy use allows us to be more sustainable while also cutting production costs. We've instituted policies in our work environments that help cut energy consumption whenever possible. Some of the actions we take are simple ones that can be put into effect every day, like turning off lights when they aren't in use. Closing factory doors as soon as a shipment is unloaded means lower heating and cooling energy use. Shutting down equipment that isn't in use reduces energy waste, as well. We also look at more complex opportunities like auditing our equipment to see if there are more energy-efficient models available.

As participants in the EPA program "Green Lights," we reduce energy use through the installation of more energy-efficient lighting. We also added auto-shutoff lighting in restrooms and our lower warehouse to ensure that lights go off when they aren't in use. Portions of our office have been retrofitted to use LED lights in place of old school incandescent. Timers in the Employee Center ensure that lights are only on in that facility during the times that workers are there. Together, these efforts have resulted in an 18% reduction in energy use.

Where our energy comes from makes a difference, as well. Fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas lead to higher emissions. We purchase green power whenever possible that relies on renewable options like solar, wind, hydroelectric and biomass. Not only does this reduce the use of disappearing resources, it increases our national energy security and self-reliance.

As a customer of Irwin Seating Company, you can be secure that the products that you buy for your facility were produced in a way that is sustainable and environmentally friendly. This is just one of the choices you can make to make your own facility more sustainable. Together, we can work toward a more sustainable future.