At Irwin, we’re committed to upholding the highest standards of environmental leadership—to challenge today with tomorrow in mind. From designs and materials to processes and waste, we are always looking for opportunities to innovate and improve.
Ever heard of Lean Manufacturing? At its core, it’s a production process based on maximizing productivity while minimizing waste. And for manufacturers like Irwin, those opportunities for reducing waste are everywhere. We recycle our scrap metals, wood, skids, batteries, packaging, excess fabric, light bulbs, cardboard, other paper products, computers, and more. We’ve worked with every vendor to reduce packaging. In fact, several of our suppliers now ship us their materials in Irwin-branded boxes that can then be reused to ship finished goods to our customers—that move alone saves thousands of pounds of cardboard waste annually. Even the foam used for our seats contains 10% bio-based content and all of our post-industrial scrap foam is shredded and recycled into carpet padding.
Back in 2009, Irwin also formed a team whose purpose it was to drive our company to a “zero-landfill” status for our Grand Rapids location. Within two years, the goal was achieved, and we’ve been able to avoid sending waste to landfills since then. Today, for every ton of steel that we recycle, we can save 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,000 pounds of coal, and 40 pounds of limestone!
Energy conservation includes simple things such as auto-shutoffs on lights and equipment when not in use, closing factory doors immediately upon unloading a shipment and installing energy-efficient lighting. It also means exploring more complex opportunities, such as looking at how much energy it takes to produce a particular product or the replacement of equipment with more energy-efficient models. To reduce its carbon footprint, Irwin even purchases “green power” from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, and various forms of biomass.
Irwin’s efforts to improve air quality have included converting its painting operations by converting metal finishing to all powder coating. We’ve also changed over from solvent-based to water-based glue in our upholstery operations and replaced solvent-based stains in our wood finish line with water-based alternatives. Changes like these have reduced our company’s VOC emissions by 45% while allowing us to maintain the same high-quality standards customers have come to expect.
The Four R’s
You’ve heard of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, right? Well at Irwin, we add a fourth R to that mix: Refurbish. Because Irwin also offers a Restoration Department to help our customers recondition and reuse the older worn seating in venues—it’s the ultimate in recycling! We are able to strip, repaint, refinish, and reupholster seats and backs, as well as decorative end panels to return run-down chairs to their original splendor.
Irwin’s commitment to the environment is not about what we say, but what we do.
Our company actively participates in and supports several environmental organizations and has even worked with the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum on a guidebook to aid organizations in measuring their own performance in the areas of Environmental Management Systems, Product/Service Design, Facilities Management, Purchasing, Operations, Packaging, Delivery, Installation, Marketing, and Sales. In fact, this assessment protocol has been a part of Irwin’s own internal benchmarking process since 1997.
In 2014, Irwin Seating Company also donated land and resources for the construction of a parking area and bike trail through its property in Grand Rapids—allowing two existing trails to link and helping to support hundreds of miles of continuous trailways throughout the rolling hills of West Michigan.
We champion the environment—and our customers—by continuing to adhere to all relevant laws and regulations while seeking out innovative new opportunities to exceed environmental requirements. We also continue to make our environmental information available to all of our employees and the public. Through Irwin’s Environmental Leadership Team, our programs and systems are regularly evaluated to make sure we always stay on top of our green game.
Because being good stewards of our community—and our planet—isn’t just smart for business. It’s smart, period.