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Sustainability with Solus

Pacific Rim

A look at the growth for sustainability in garden design and garden products and how Solus Decor are working to ensure that this a clear focus in their products and business.

 

You couldn’t escape the desire for sustainability and more eco conscious gardens in the Society of Garden Designer style predictions for 2020; recycling and repurposing items,  planting for wildlife, edible flowers and romantic vegetable plots all featured in the 2020 design trends.  This comes as no surprise as climate change and sustainability is now part of every day discussion and we are all approaching lifestyle and design with a greater emphasis on the need for sustainability in all aspects of our lives.

We have been steadily improving our sustainability in both our products and the company as a whole as we recognise how important this is as an international business and this starts at the very core of the business and the products we create.  We believe that sustainability and durability go hand in hand so we create products designed to last a lifetime to counteract the throwaway culture that has become an increasing problem in today’s society.

We recognise that in the world of building products there is no such thing as a totally “sustainable” material. Rather, we can use materials in ways that provide for the best opportunity for sustainable use. We design our concrete and our products with this goal in mind.

Sustainability at Solus:

Recycling

  • Wood is recycled into wood pellets for high-efficiency stoves
  • Containers are recycled into various consumer products
  • Paper and cardboard are recycled
  • Rejected concrete is crushed and used as aggregate and fill
  • Wash water is filtered,  treated and then reused

Power

Our manufacturing is largely human powered. Concrete is cured at ambient temperatures with no superheating required

Indoor Air Quality

When cured, our concrete off-gases nothing more than trace amounts of water

Local Materials

We utilize largely locally sourced and manufactured materials.

Embodied Energy

When initial and recurring embodied energy are considered together, (i.e. the overall energy to produce and maintain our products) our concrete performs better than most other materials in comparable use according to Canadian Architect.

Office Materials

Wherever possible we use recycled, reusable and refillable office products.

 

Solus worker smooths fire pit

Sustainable Solus Products

Water Features: Traditionally any water feature is another way of wasting water as they require a constant water supply.  However the Scupper, Water Dome and new Pacific Rim is the exception to this, all our water products are self circulating  and simply require a power supply to allow the small amount of water to circulate and provide the tranquil sound of flowing water.

 

Fire Pits: We offer a variety of fuels for our concrete fire pits; natural gas, LPG and bio fuel. Our gas fire pits provide a more energy efficient alternative to a wood fire pit.  They provide a clean flame, that is quick to light, efficient and designed to last as gas burns more cleanly and produces fewer emissions into the atmosphere. The use of gas also eliminates the release of fine particles caused by wood smoke that can cause respiratory issues and prolonged exposure can cause long term health issues. For those looking to avoid gas completely we also offer a bio fuel option eliminating the need for any gas supply but still providing the same warmth and ambiance provided by the gas fire pits with the ultimate in flexibility within your outdoor space.

As we continue to design and produce our signature concrete products, sustainability and durability remains at the forefront of the process and we continue to evolve our processes throughout all aspects of the business.  Get in touch with us to find out more about our products and approach to sustainability.

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Solus now a part of Climate Smart program

Solus part of Climate Smart program

Since 2012, we have been busy working behind-the-scenes on the Climate Smart program and we now have some exciting news to share with you about the great initiatives we have put in place to cut our carbon emissions.

What is Climate Smart?

Climate Smart helps businesses measure and reduce their carbon footprint while cutting costs. They help small and medium-sized enterprises, like Solus, calculate emissions and strengthen businesses while building a resilient economy.

What we measured:

In 2012, we measured everything that contributed to the production of our products from energy used to heat produced and the production of concrete all in the goal of identifying where the biggest producers of carbon were.  From this we made a plan to make some changes to cut our carbon. In the end of 2014, we will re-measure our carbon output to see how successful we were at reducing our carbon footprint.

What we learned and implemented:

The main area where we concentrated our efforts was in shipping. Shipping heavy objects takes a lot of gas which contributes to carbon emissions. So we are in the middle of a sustainability plan to switch from wooden crates to crates made of recycled cardboard.

The second area was in the production of concrete. In order to make concrete, we use water, cement, aggregated stone and sand. In simple terms 1lb of cement = 1lb of carbon. By replacing 10%-15% of cement with fly ash which is an industrial by-product, we have reduced our carbon count by 15%.  We are also investigating the use rice bran husks, another by-product, and will see which works out better.

Solus firebowl
Walter pouring concrete for a Hemi firebowl using new efficient standards

The third area was in the pouring and production side of concrete. Here, our ultimate goal was to reduce wasted concrete and energy. We have (and are still in the process) of creating procedures that will allow us to make more accurate batch sizes. We want to make sure that every employee that makes a product, makes it in exactly the same way so we know exactly how much water is needed, for how long a batch must vibrate and make sure that moulds are cleaned perfectly so there aren’t imperfections in the finished product.

The Climate Smart program isn’t just reserved for production though, we were also able to make some improvements in our office too. For instance, we implemented a paperless system to reduce paper waste and now have implemented paying suppliers electronically. We also put in energy-efficient lighting in a number of areas in the  building and now use T5 fluorescents which are more efficient than our previous lighting.

In implementing all these changes, the biggest impact we faced was in changing our own habits which has resulted in a cultural shift in our staff. We were environmentally concerned before, but now having gone though the Climate Smart program, we’re so much more aware of the materials and energy we use and take the extra time to do the little things like, turn off the lights, not use an extra piece of paper etc.

Why we joined Climate Smart:

Fundamentally as a manufacturer we are always striving to produce a product that is better and become more efficient at producing it – it almost goes without saying.  But there is more to it than that.  By eliminating waste and changing our attitude to waste and over production we have eliminated literally tons of material from landfill and the recycling depot.

We feel good about this – it can‘t help but translate into less carbon emissions.  We are not sure we will ever be a zero-waste facility but we are trying. It has been a very worthwhile exercise from a production warehouse person putting up signs to turn off the lights at the end of the day to the office staff moving paper docs to the “cloud” when we used to produce countless boxes of paper documents.  More to come – for more information visit Climate Smart.

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Solus Decor Recycling Series – Part 1 – Concrete Elephants!

Since its inception 16 years ago, Solus has been conscious of its waste stream.

Background

Six years ago, we started to seriously consider our recycling streams and our carbon footprint.  We had conversations with a group at UBC who were just launching a program for companies called Offsetters, a carbon footprint management program.   They came to our plant and gave us some very valuable instructional tips.  This led us into a full on attack on our waste streams.  We had just moved to a larger production facility and built spaces and recycling depositories to accommodate our recycling program.

We found that as we became larger, we started to produce more waste.  Our customer base was also increasing and we began  to ship all over North America.  This was an exciting development, as it allowed us to create even more fabulous concrete products, like our line-up of outdoor fire pit products.

Yikes!  There’s a concrete Elephant in the room!

Having been around for 16 + years, we have literally poured thousands upon thousands of batches and therefore, our approach to production is quite scientific. Our formulas and mathematics when it comes to producing our concrete is accurate within 2%.  We minimize the waste whenever and wherever we can, but even at 2%, it adds up over time!  We had to address this.

It began to feel like the “ elephant” in the room.  And it was made of concrete!

Another use for a concrete Elephant!

After studying our recycling history and the countless recycling depositories, bins, crates, odds and sods that we now have at Solus one of our summer students, Sam, posed an interesting question.   How many concrete elephants (in weight) have we recycled since our program went into place over six years ago?

So this became a project for our fresh faced summer student.  How much concrete has been recycled and what does happen to the contents of the Solus’ recycling bins after they are taken off site? … this is what she found.

When there is any excess or reject concrete at Solus, the concrete gets put into a bin and gets picked up by a 1-800 Got Junk.  They take it to a Sand and Gravel company, and gets broken down.  Recycled concrete is used for a variety of construction purposes.

–         Aggregate base course (road base)

–         Untreated aggregate used as foundation for roadway pavement (under pavement surfacing) forms structural foundation for paving

–         Soil stabilization – the incorporation of recycled aggregate and using it in soil to stabilize and change the water susceptibility

–         Recycled concrete can be used as a foundation to lay on the ground around pipes as, is used as an alternative to virgin aggregate

–         Landscape materials

With 3,500 – 4,000 lbs of concrete recycled every 5-6 weeks, there has been an accumulation of approximately 220,000 lbs of concrete recycled since Solus first started recycling concrete in this manner. An additional 60,000 lbs was recycled when a thorough “house-cleaning” was conducted in 2010, giving us these rather grand totals,

280,000 lbs, or

127,000 kg, or

140 tons of concrete recycled!

To put that in perspective, the African Elephant, one of the largest land animals on Earth, weighs on average 9,500 lbs.

= almost 30 Elephants!

Or a herd of elephants!

All of this concrete was diverted from our local landfill.

Our next blog will talk about all the other waste streams and where they go.

Stay Tuned for Part II on the Solus Recycling Series.

 

Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_10883639_cute-little-elephant-cartoon-character.html’>teenbull / 123RF Stock Photo</a>