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With a long history of sustainable practices, Armstrong Flooring has led the way in manufacturing green products and running a business that works with the environment, instead of against it. This has held true since day one when Thomas Armstrong took the waste from his cork factory and used it to manufacture linoleum flooring. As a founding member of the United States Green Building Council and the 2nd member to join the council back in 1993 when it was formed, finding ways to reuse materials, reduce waste and improve efficiency in order to bring products to market wisely has always been the core of how Armstrong runs.
One of the most impressive examples of pushing the envelope in sustainability is the story of the Armstrong Manufacturing Plant in South Gate, California. Built in 1938, this plant was intended to be sustainable from the get-go. It was strategically built to service the West Coast market and support the local economy. By building on the West Coast, the need for cross-country transportation of flooring was eliminated, reducing further environmental impact. From the saw-tooth roof which allows daylight to illuminate the factory floor to the piping of the building that enables the reuse of water, Southgate was built for environmental reasons far beyond its time and is the only plant that manufactures vinyl tile on the West Coast.
In 2014, the plant that once generated 168 tons of waste per month became the first Armstrong plant with zero process waste generated. In addition, South Gate was selected as THE Greenest Business in L.A. in 2015 because of its recycling program bringing back materials and reusing them, and its overall efforts in reducing waste.
Leading this effort was Amy Costello, Armstrong Flooring Sustainability Manager. As a licensed environmental engineer with 25 years experience, Costello is responsible for driving sustainability in operations and on the product side. Her extensive knowledge of sustainable practices allows her to understand what is needed to fully integrate and drive sustainability throughout the business.
“The reason our South Gate Plant has been able to have such an amazing reduction is because Armstrong invested in the equipment needed to process the waste material that the plant was generating, which was a big driver for reducing waste,” said Costello.
Becoming Armstrong’s first plant to reach the goal of zero process waste was no easy feat. Through extensive lifecycle assessments of process and workflow, Armstrong® was able to identify areas of inefficiency and waste. The lifecycle assessments are the key step in understanding the plant’s carbon footprint, what impacts are associated with it, which levers to pull to make improvements and how operations can be made better from an environmental perspective. A product like Armstrong BBT Bio-Based Tile, which went through an entire Lifecycle Assessment, is proof that you don’t have to sacrifice quality and performance for sustainability – the same goes for the manufacturing plants.
“The buildings that our customers are designing and building are relying on more innovative and sustainable products every day. We’re meeting those needs through constant innovation which deliver benefits,“ Don Maier, Armstrong Flooring CEO, said. “Operationally we have relentless focus on ways to reduce energy usage, manage water usage and minimize the waste which ends up in landfills through the work and ingenuity of engaged employees around the world. At Armstrong sustainable business equals good business. It’s a key element in making Armstrong a trusted resource for our stakeholders, one that can be trusted and relied on for innovative products and services, and standing behind our products around the world.”
All Armstrong Flooring plants are on a journey to reduce their impact and each have a unique story that showcases sustainable efforts. Through all of this hard work, Armstrong has realized the very first thing that needs to be done is measuring current operations and waste. From there, improvements can be made based on the measurement findings. The effort to make every plant aware of its energy, water and waste impacts has created incentive internally for each plant to exceed sustainability goals and live the values that Armstrong has always held close to heart.