3 P's of Sustainability - The 3 P's of Concrete Sustainability
Some of the talk about sustainability these days can get confusing. When people talk of the 3 P's of sustainbility, they are almost always referring to People, Planet, Profit. You might also hear triple bottom line. We understand the broad concept of sustainability, but how can we relate it to the concrete industries?
Most concrete sustainability talk seems to deal with the sustainable aspects of concrete itself, like the advantages of using ready-mixed, precast pieces, etc. Sure, these products all exhibit sustainable characteristics, certainly, but is this the whole picture?
I'd like to introduce what I call the 3 P's of sustainability relating to the concrete industry - Plants, Process, and Product.
3 P's of Sustainability - Plants
Plants refer to exactly that - the concrete plants that make the sustainable products. A concrete producer can easily make a "sustainable product" but if that plant doesn't operate in an environmentally sound, sustainable manner itself, then are they participating in the sustainability movement? There's been time I've been at plants which weren't up to snuff environmentally at all, yet these plants are trying to latch onto the "green" or sustainable movement. This isn't just greenwashing folks, the sustainbility movement is real, and people demand proof. To me, it starts at the plant. You've got to be doing the right things, be in compliance with all necessary environmental rules and regulations, and be engaging in sustainable practices (such as recycling concrete, conservation of water, conserving energy, etc.) in order to really be a part of the movement.
3 P's of Sustainability - Product
The second P of the 3 P's of sustainbility, and the one getting the most emphasis, seems to be the product. There are many construction materials out there trying to promote and market their green qualities. Some are more sustainable than others, and with good information easy to find, consumers can, and are, making their own smart choices about which they feel is most sustainable and which one they'll ultimately use based upon research into the product, the manufacturer, and the...
3 P's of Sustainability - Process
The third P of the 3 P's of sustainbility, process, is also vitally important, yet somewhat neglected. It's the process, and by that I mean each step of the way throughout the entire manufacturing process of the material. I'm talking about initial development of raw materials by outside parties, to transportation, activities of employees, marketing and distribution of the products, to finally the delivery and use. Basically, the entire impact of that product, from inception to end of use. Cradle to grave anyone?
Any comprehensive program that evaluates the level of sustainability should take this into consideration, such as the NRMCA Sustainable Plant certification program does.
There's a lot of things to think about when it comes to these 3 P's of sustainbility, like carbon footprint, water footprint, material choice, down to what kind of power you use and what kind of trucks you drive. To really determine how your operation works, and how environmentally friendly and/or sustainable you are, you need to consider all these areas. However, focusing on only one of the areas, or putting too much attention on any one at the exclusion of the others, can provide a false view. Sustainability is not something that takes 5 minutes of thinking and you're done. It's an evolving process that can be beneficial monetarily and environmentally, and is something we should all strive for, regardless of what we make or produce.