Irons Brothers Construction, in Shoreline, Wash., is the first remodeling company in its county to join the businesses certified by the EnviroStars program. Created in 1995 as a service of the local hazardous waste management program, EnviroStars addresses hazardous waste generated by small businesses. The program has expanded to include more than 600 EnviroStars businesses in five counties. The businesses include car repair shops, colleges, dental offices, dry cleaners, printers, and government facilities.

Irons Brothers Construction displayed an EnviroStars poster at its booth during an Earth Day event and promoted the program during a recent house tour. Company owner Joseph Irons uses the EnviroStars online directory to find participating businesses and encourages clients to do the same.
courtesy Irons Brothers Construction Irons Brothers Construction displayed an EnviroStars poster at its booth during an Earth Day event and promoted the program during a recent house tour. Company owner Joseph Irons uses the EnviroStars online directory to find participating businesses and encourages clients to do the same.

According to Laurel Tomchick, EnviroStars program manager/business incentives, the primary focus of the certification is to help businesses prevent, reduce, and properly manage hazardous materials and waste using an objective, third-party assessment. She says it also gives the public an easy way to identify and support environmentally responsible businesses.

Joseph Irons, president and general manager of Irons Brothers Construction, includes the program logo on the company website and marketing materials. “If someone is into green, they probably know about it,” he says. In addition, being a member allows Irons to network with like-minded business owners.

The program includes site visits by an EnviroStars representative to first assess a company’s existing waste disposal practices and to create an action plan, and then to verify the results once the plan has been implemented. In the case of Irons Brothers, the site assessment included not just the office, but also vehicles, as they are an extension of the business.

Taking Additional Steps

It was relatively easy for Irons’ company to meet the program’s guidelines because it already had policies and systems in place for recycling jobsite materials, using nontoxic caulks and low-VOC paint, and installing Energy Star products. But Irons Brothers made these changes after meeting with the EnviroStars rep:

  • Switched from using Simple Green cleaning products — which contain a glycol ether that is toxic — to using baking soda, vinegar, bleach, and Murphy Oil Soap as alternative cleaners.
  • Purchased secondary containment tubs ($5 to $10 laundry tubs to hold hazardous materials so spills are contained) for the office and three trucks.
  • Bought $20 spill kits for spill clean-up. Between the kits and the containment tubs, Irons spent about $50 per truck.
  • Started keeping chemical-soaked rags in a metal can and disposing of them in the county’s hazardous waste area.

Irons also asked an EnviroStars expert to talk to his staff about the program and to explain the meaning of the hazardous symbols on chemical products.

—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.