At Irwin Seating Company, we manufacture products to the highest standards of quality. Our seating solutions experts listen to our clients and follow the market trends closely, and we tailor products to the unique requirements of our customers. As part of this system of excellence, we look at our designs, materials, processes, and wastes with an “environmental eye” toward improvement. We are committed to protecting the environment through the development of pollution prevention programs and practices, and by implementing technologies to safeguard and preserve our natural resources. Irwin Seating has been evaluating environmental aspects for many years and benchmarking and tracking progress. These activities and accomplishments allow us to share our story.
The Irwin Seating Company Environmental Leadership story contains a wide variety of topics, including:
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Programs
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The mantra of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” has been part of the Irwin Seating Company culture for many years, and it has only continued to prosper and flourish through our on-going efforts toward a lean enterprise. Lean is where we, as an organization, have focused on giving the customer exactly what they want, when they want it. We recognize that our customers demand a quality product. They do not want to pay, either directly or indirectly, hidden costs for the disposal of excess waste created in the engineering, purchasing, or manufacturing processes. They do not want to be connected with irresponsible manufacturers who could damage or harm their reputation. Customers of Irwin Seating Company can rest assured that we are committed to upholding the highest standards of environmental leadership.
We recycle our scrap metals, scrap wood, skids, batteries, packaging, excess fabric, light bulbs, cardboard, computers, and a variety of paper products. We have also worked with our vendors on efforts such as reusing packaging for shipping. Several of our suppliers now ship us their materials in Irwin Seating Company boxes that are then reused to ship finished goods to the customer. The results of these efforts save thousands of pounds of cardboard annually!
Additionally, the foam used for our seats contains 10% bio-based content, replacing the standard non-sustainable content, and all of our post-industrial scrap foam is shredded and recycled into carpet padding.
In addition to manufacturing new seating products, Irwin Seating Company also has the capability to refurbish old, worn seating to be reused in venues — the ultimate in recycling! Our restoration department will strip and repaint standards, refinish and reupholster seats and backs, and restore decorative end panels to return old chairs to their original luster and beauty.
In 2009, Irwin Seating Company formed a team whose purpose is to drive the company to a “zero-landfill” status for the Grand Rapids location. Within two years, this goal was achieved, and we have been able to avoid sending any waste to a landfill.
There is no doubt that the integration of programs to reduce, reuse, and recycle protects our environment. We can reduce damage caused by mining, logging, and manufacturing of raw materials. We can also reduce the risks of air and water pollution. It is estimated that for every ton of steel we recycle, we can save 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,000 pounds of coal, and 40 pounds of limestone!
When customers select products manufactured by Irwin Seating Company, they are demonstrating their environmental leadership by making a decision to work with a company which strives to take the best possible care of the environment.
For both environmentally responsible and cost conscious organizations, there is major concern regarding their consumption of gas and electricity. As part of our role in environmental leadership, we have educated and encouraged our workforce to look at energy consumption from all angles. This includes the simple things such as turning off lights and equipment when not in use, closing factory doors immediately upon unloading a shipment, and selecting lower energy consumption lighting. It also includes more complex opportunities, such as looking at how much energy it will take to produce a particular product or the replacement of equipment with energy efficient models.
As part of our annual environmental leadership efforts, Irwin Seating Company tracks energy consumption, sets a goal to reduce its consumption, reviews its usage, and structures teams and projects to go after opportunities. One such project was through Irwin Seating Company’s participation in a voluntary EPA program called “Green Lights.” This program focused on energy reductions through the installation of energy efficient lighting throughout our office and factory area. The program introduced us to a variety of options of efficient lighting and resulted in an excellent opportunity to reduce energy consumption. In 2009, we systematically installed auto-shutoff lighting throughout our lower warehouse and all restrooms in our facility. Portions of the office were retrofitted with indoor LED lights as opposed to the old incandescent bulbs, and timers were added to the lighting in the Employee Center to ensure that lights were on only when the facility was in use during lunch hours and break times. These efforts have resulted in an 18% reduction in energy usage since their implementation.
Another way we have supported energy conservation has been through our purchase of “green power.” The term “green power” is used to define power generated from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, geothermal, hydropower, and various forms of bio-mass. Irwin Seating Company’s purchase of “green power” supports the development of renewable energy sources, which can reduce the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Greater reliance on renewable sources also provides economic benefits and can improve our national energy security.
Our environmental leadership and success in the area of air quality can quite literally be defined as a breath of fresh air. Although that might be said with obvious humor, the issue of air pollution is a real problem for all of us. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “The average adult breathes over 3,000 gallons of air every day. Children breathe even more air per pound of body weight and are more susceptible to air pollution. Many air pollutants, such as those that form urban smog and toxic compounds, remain in the environment for long periods of time and are carried by winds for hundreds of miles from their origin.” Sadly, air pollution is known to cause a variety of health difficulties, and in some cases, very serious health issues.
Recognizing the problems related to air pollution and understanding that everyone must play a role in prevention, we identified all sources of potential air pollution and have instituted practices, product changes, and new systems and processes to eliminate excessive pollution. While a participant of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 33/50 Program, Irwin Seating Company voluntarily joined to reduce air pollution by 33% in its painting operations by converting our metal finishing over to all powder coating.
Most recently, we converted from solvent-based glue in our upholstery operation to water-based glue, as well as replaced solvent-based stains in our wood finish line with water-based stains. These changes reduced our VOC emissions by 45%, while allowing us to maintain the same high quality standards for which Irwin Seating Company is known and our customers have come to expect.
Our commitment to improving air quality is real and it comes with results, from which our customers and community benefit.
Irwin Seating Company’s commitment to the environment is not one of words, but of actions. As part of our commitment, we actively participate and support several environmental organizations. Our participation allows us to:
Learn best practices
Develop our understanding of environmental concerns
Network with other organizations committed to protecting our environment
Benchmark and assess our own performance
Gather information that is useful not just at a manufacturing or industry level, but also from an individual and personal level, that can be taken back to our homes and families — reinforcing the message that everyone plays a role in protecting our environment
Some of the organizations with which Irwin Seating Company has partnered include:
West Michigan Environmental Action Council
West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum
The Land Conservancy of West Michigan, Michigan Business Pollution Prevention Partnership
The Michigan Recycling Coalition
Working with the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, we assisted in the development of a guidebook called the “Concise Self-Assessment Guide to Environmentally Sustainable Commerce.” This guidebook provided organizations with a way to analyze and measure their environmental performance in the areas of Environmental Management Systems, Product/Service Design, Facilities Management, Purchasing, Operations, Packaging, Delivery and/or Installation, and Marketing and Sales. This assessment has been a part of Irwin Seating Company’s own internal benchmarking process since 1997.
As a member of The Land Conservancy of West Michigan, we work to support and protect key pieces of land essential to the area habitat. It also gives us another opportunity to educate and share information about plant and animal life threatened by urban sprawl and pollution.
In 2014, Irwin Seating Company donated land and resources for the construction of a parking area and bike trail through its property in Grand Rapids. Eventually, this will allow two existing trails to link, creating hundreds of miles of continuous trail through the rolling hills of West Michigan.
As a customer of Irwin Seating Company, you benefit from our involvement in these organizations and become linked to our efforts, improvements, and contributions to protecting our environment.
At Irwin Seating Company, our objective is to protect the environment through the elimination or reduction of waste and emissions. We will do this through the development of pollution prevention programs and practices, and by implementing technologies that safeguard and preserve the environment. In addition, we will review our products, processes, and services for continuous improvement opportunities. When wastes or releases cannot be avoided, we are committed to recycling, treatment, and disposal in ways that minimize any undesirable impacts on the environment.
Irwin Seating Company will continue to adhere to all relevant environmental laws and regulations, and will seek opportunities, utilizing cost-effective technologies and creative approaches, to exceed environmental requirements. We will also continue to make our environmental information available to our employees and to the public. Through Irwin Seating Company’s Environmental Leadership Team, our programs and systems will regularly be evaluated to ensure that they continue to be effective.
Looking forward Irwin Seating Company’s commitment to the environment requires us to strive to continually improve upon the foundation of stewardship we have created. Our workforce is constantly looking for ways to reduce our company’s impact on the environment, from the smallest gestures to the grandest ideas, and will continue their efforts for years to come. Being good stewards of the Earth isn’t simply good for business; it’s our responsibility to future generations.