Remodelers can't escape the pressure to build green. It's a no-brainer that using natural and renewable materials and being better stewards of natural resources will reduce our impact on the environment and prove more cost-effective in the long run.

But I think there's an equally pressing issue. To extend the metaphor, I propose that remodelers — and the industry as a whole — get as serious about building a sustainable workforce as they are about climbing aboard the green-building bandwagon.

Are you training and nurturing your employees so they'll stay with you for 30 years? Or are you using them up until they're ready for the Dumpster?

Do you provide employees with a job they can do now because they happen to have what's needed at this moment? Or do you guide them to a career path marked with widening skills and opportunity?

Are you building a business characterized by well-crafted job descriptions and systems that let you pounce on opportunity? Or are you inventing as you go, wasting energy and resources each time you play catch-up?

Is your business helping to strengthen the image of the remodeling industry for the next-generation workforce? Or does it feed the perceptions of parents and educators who see dead-end jobs that will take their kids nowhere fast?

THE INDUSTRY STANDARD Let's talk about greening the industry as a whole. I believe that a collaborative attempt to create industry standards is imperative to creating a sustainable remodeling workforce.

One small step toward that end would entail uniting our two major trade associations to offer education that moves the industry forward, instead of financing competing programs.

Or consider the industry's use of the term “lead carpenter.” Ask the owners of 10 companies what their leads do and you might get 10 different answers. Technically, as defined by Tim Faller, guru of the “lead carpenter system” and a regular contributor to REMODELING, a lead carpenter plans the job, determines daily labor needs, supervises on-site labor, schedules and supervises subs, orders and receives materials, and oversees jobsite safety — for starters.

I've met a lot of “lead carpenters” who don't do many of these things. Instead of them meeting their company's job description, their company writes the job description based on who they hired. When these “lead carpenters” go to other companies, their new employers must either retrain them to fit their model or change their model to meet the employee's skill set.

This is not green!

A SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS Let's talk about greening remodeling companies at the individual level. As usual, I'll draw from experience. My remodeling company didn't do much with solar panels or geothermal heating systems, but it has proven sustainable in every way.

For example, when I met Terry, he was a gas pumper at a service station where I took my trucks. He told me, “I don't know much about carpentry, but I can't pump gas forever.” I hired Terry as a helper. He excelled and demonstrated a clear desire to learn. Over the next six years, he progressed on a career path that made him a lead carpenter and a valuable part of my team.

Terry left my company when he got married, but he left as a really good employee, and I understood and supported his decision. I still see him every now and then, and he is thriving in an industry that gave him room to grow.

By creating opportunity for all my employees, I encouraged them to tell their story to clients, prospects, vendors, friends — story-telling that attracted business and more good employees like themselves. In my little way, I made the industry stronger and more sustainable. It may not be easy being green, but it sure is rewarding.

—Shawn McCadden founded, operated, and sold a successful design/build remodeling business. A co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute and former director of education for a national K&B remodeling franchise, Shawn frequently speaks at industry events and consults with remodeling companies.