Deeper Than Water
June 4, 2012
In the normal course of managing technical and marketing issues within a major trade association, the PMI staff has opportunity to visit members in their home offices and manufacturing facilities. These trips give us a chance to view things from a different perspective; one that isn't the normal most-common denominator perspective of an industry association. We always learn something new during our time with members in the comfort of their own backyards, and sometimes we get a fresh perspective that reminds us of who we really are and how we are perceived in the public domain.
During a recent trip to our Georgia/South Carolina members, executive director Barbara Higgens and I visited Vitra in Suwanee, Ga. Dawn Robinson, special marketing programs manager at Vitra, noted PMI members were not just run-of-the-mill manufacturers; they are stakeholders and stewards in the overall issue of water. There are always going to be business concerns as with any other industry, however manufacturers of plumbing fixtures and fittings are more than that; as Dawn put it, we're deeper than water.
That was a profound statement about the industry. PMI members have been manufacturing products contributing to the safety, health and sanitation of the global community for decades, and in many cases, well over a hundred years. Dawn added Vitra has focused on sustainability since its founding in the 1940s. Water and energy efficiency have been a continuous improvement goal, with recent reductions of 15 percent in power consumption and a one-third reduction of water use measured from all manufacturing operations in just the last three years.
Vitra is not alone in the industry. PMI members have not only designed and produced the most water efficient products in the world, but have implemented programs internally that have saved millions of gallons of water and saved significant amounts of energy in their production. Some of those programs from PMI members include:
--Manufacturing three-quarters of production from raw materials using recycled material;
--Each manufacturing plant recycles post-industrial gray water used in the building reducing water usage by 37 million gallons per year for the last four years;
--Developed a water-based degreaser for faucets and lavatory fittings;
--Recycling imperfect and damaged china into roadbed and construction projects instead of generating more waste for landfills;
--Green electricity is purchased from a gas-fired generator that uses methane produced at the local landfill;
--Recycling more than 13 million pounds of metal from faucets and fittings, 6.5 million pounds of cardboard and 3.8 million pounds of solid waste.
These environmental initiatives noted above are incremental to the current water efficiency levels set by national regulations, state mandates and voluntary certification programs.
The Energy Policy Act of 1992 went into effect in 1994 and prescribed water efficiency levels that reduced consumption levels of plumbing fixtures and fittings by 50 percent or more. The EPACT regulations have been supplanted by the voluntary US Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program which sets water consumption levels approximately 20 percent lower than the EPACT program. According to the US EPA, WaterSense has helped consumers save a cumulative 125 billion gallons of water and more than $2 billion in water and energy bills during the first five years of this program. By the end of 2010, reductions of 16.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and 6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide were achieved through the use of WaterSense labeled products. The overall water and energy saved during the last two decades through the use of PMI products is significantly greater that the WaterSense results.
Many of the environmental programs implemented by PMI members are driven by lean design and manufacturing efforts focused on environmental improvements. They are also supported by senior management and corporate boards that are committed to embracing the need to use our limited resources more efficiently in the creation of the plumbing products installed in each and every home. As an industry in the business of manufacturing plumbing fixtures and fittings, echoing Dawn Robinson; we are deeper than water.