Green as a Lifestyle and a Way of Doing Business
Everybody has a story to tell on this subject (and no doubt we left out some good ones, for which we apologize in advance).
From new advancements in packaging reeds to water treatment centers to one company angling to achieve a big fat “zero” in what they take to the landfill, the music instrument industry continues to evolve along “green” lines. Products are being made out of scraps, and every action in the office and the warehouse is being evaluated to see if things can be tweaked to conserve even more. It’s helping the planet, it’s saving money, and it has become less “trying to do the right thing” and more a way of life.
As with guitars and non-traditional woods, selling the concepts to the public can be a slow process, but that doesn’t seem to be discouraging anybody. And there are some creative ideas we can all learn from.
As of January of this year, the Alfred Cares initiative was launched and has helped the company produce 1.2 million units (around 150 million pages) on 100 percent recycled paper, amounting to approximately 95 percent of the books and music published during this period. Also, over 250 thousand DVDs have been produced with 100 percent recycled packaging.
In upstate New York where their warehouse is, Alfred switched to energy-efficient fluorescents, which last longer and use approximately 50 percent less power. This change saves approximately 140,000 kilowatts annually. Meanwhile at their Los Angeles HQ, they have an aggressive recycling program that includes batteries and electronic “e-waste.” The offices have also completely switched to water-free urinals, each of which saves approximately 40,000 gallons of water from being used each year.
“I started the Alfred Cares initiative because I care,” says CEO Ron Manus. “I drive a Prius. I installed a highly efficient tank-less water heater in my home. I recycle everything. Being environmentally responsible is important to me and I wanted to extend that lifestyle and culture into our company. But it also can make great business sense. For example, the Prius saves me a lot of money on gas, and in Los Angeles we drive everywhere!”
For Alfred, the amount of paper required to support our business is staggering, he notes. “I worked closely with all our printers and production folks to find a way to minimize our impact on the environment, and the sell-through is higher on our books with environmentally responsible branding. The consumer cares and would rather purchase a product that is environmentally responsible.”
“No one would dispute that there’s no single area to have the potential to reduce the carbon footprint more than the lighting industry,” says Joe Fucini, spokesperson for ADJ Companies. “It is ‘ground zero’ for the environmental impact of this industry.”
Fucini is, of course, speaking of the LED revolution, and how the little light that could went from mere eye candy to a functional light source using significantly less electricity, being lighter in weight, and reducing bulb replacement in the matter of a few short years. But Fucini makes the case that LEDs are just the beginning of saving energy. “It’s also the design of the engine where strides have been made. If you take the Elation ZFX Pro, it’s basically a RGBW moving head wash and zoom combination and while it’s only 190 watts, it has the brightness of a 700 watt lamp.”
How the lights are projected and directed, how colors are mixed, and how much of the light source can be captured all figure in as well all.
“We were the first company to be licensed to use Phillips MSD Platinum Technology, which is in our ADJ VIZI series. It is an extremely lightweight, high intensity beam that is one-third the size of a traditional spotlight. That saves in transportation. It’s 700 watts with the output equivalent to a 1,200-watt lamp, taking up about 25 percent less energy. The lighting industry is high tech now and advancing by leaps and bounds.”
Dealers who handle installs of churches and clubs are benefiting from all this technology because it means they can sell more, and often provide significant upgrades at cost savings beyond electricity use because upgrades can be done without involving contractors doing extensive remodeling.
“The lighting industry has morphed into a high-tech business,” Fucini adds. “Because it’s so high tech, all this will look different next year.”
Since 1996, Buffet Group has been selling their Green LinE clarinets, which was a reaction to the amount of wasted wood that happened in their wind manufacturing process. “During production, much of the African Blackwood is lost in the form of dust,” says Matt Vance, woodwind product specialist. “This wood dust is collected and bonded with a resin to create the Green LinE material. As the supply of the African Blackwood has become more depleted, the usage of Green LinE is even more crucial now.”
From a player’s standpoint, one huge advantage is the stability of these instruments. “It’s not a porous material, so there are minimal change in how the instrument plays or responds in reaction to temperature and humidity variations,” Vance says. “Because Green LinE is a material made from African Blackwood, it retains the acoustic properties of the wood, giving the player the best of both worlds.”
That said, he admits there’s been a mix of reactions from players. For some, there is a stigma because some incorrectly view it as a composite (“It’s not real wood!”), but most of these players change their opinions in a positive way once they play it. Others are immediately open to the concept.
“A principal clarinetist from a North American orchestra was selecting a new Tosca B-flat clarinet for themselves,” Vance says. “The clarinetist narrowed it down to three clarinets – two wood and one Green LinE – and had a panel of colleagues make their recommendations after listening to all three in a blind listening test. All three colleagues preferred the Green LinE Tosca!”
He says Buffet Group continues to develop instruments using the Green LinE material, including the new Orfeo oboe, which is endorsed by Minnesota Orchestra oboist Julie Gramolini Williams.
Jim Cavanaugh, maker of Super Sensitive and Black Diamond Strings and Bari Reeds, says their Bari synthetic reeds are popular for a number of reasons, including the fact that they last longer than traditional reeds. “Though they are a little more expensive, they are more consistent, so you’re not throwing a third out like you do with a traditional reed pack.”
Sales are steadily growing, and a recent improvement is helping. “Today they are machine scrapped just like cane, and the materials we’re using are closer to cane. Still, not everyone is going to like it. It’s not made for everyone because musicians can be very particular, but we think we have something that is very consistent and plays well. But newer players are definitely more open to trying it. ”
Players are also realizing other benefits besides the environmental aspect and the durability: “If you’re performing and you’re doubling up on saxes, you’re constantly trying to keep the reeds moist,” he explains. “With these you easily go from one to another and back again without a problem.”
The packaging for their strings has been redesigned and using less paper, and they have forgone individual envelopes in favor of a sealed bag and a header card. The plastic keeps the strings fresh longer.
“We cast our own alloy, which means we recycle virtually every shaving, particle or scrap of metal we produce,” says Dream Cymbal’s Andy Morris. “If it didn’t make it into a cymbal the first time, it will the second.” The finest bits, those stuck to the side of crucibles, are ground up and sent out for processing at a facility that will harvest down to the micron. “We also currently use no chemical coatings of any kind on our cymbals, and in 2009 received Chinese government assistance to convert some heating ovens to newer, more efficient technology.”
But perhaps most interesting, they’ve launched a cymbal recycling program – an idea that came from one of their fans.
“A customer wrote and told me his other branded cymbals had broken and he was thrilled to have great sounding Dreams, but did I know what he could do with the old busted ones?” Since their own factory recycled, it was a simple leap to have a program where customers trade in their failed cymbals for a new Dream one.
It works like this: The player brings in a broken cast cymbal from any manufacturer and Dreams rebate $1 per diameter inch towards the purchase of a dream cymbal. So that busted 22-inch ride gets you $22 off your Dream purchase. The store rebates the customer on the spot and holds the broken cymbal for them to pick up.
“It’s win-win for every one,” Morris says. “Customer gets paid for his scrap and gets a great new cymbal. We increase sales and harvest literally tons of bronze to make new cymbals from, while giving back to our community by diverting broken cymbals back into working ones, which not only removes them from landfill but also reduces the amount of new resources mined from the earth.”
He adds the dealer has a valuable new service to add to their lineup, plus they become a destination solution for a specific but ubiquitous problem. “It drives customers to their store and generates sales on the spot. We have had single customers receive over $1,000 in credit, and that means a lot of sales for those stores. On top of that we are currently developing over 5,000 pounds of broken cymbals into new products, which have a specific limited edition quality due to the nature of each alloy mix will be a bit different.”
D’Addario has been on the forefront of this issue, and up next is a goal that is a seemingly Herculean task: becoming a zero landfill company. “We can’t say we’re there yet,” reports Jim D’Addario. “But we’re trying to qualify ourselves for that and it looks like we can afford to do it. Maybe a year from now we’ll be there.”
D’Addario says his teams were inspired by some car companies who were able to do it and realized they were already more than half way there. “We literally already separate every alloy, wire scrap, et cetera, so we see it as doable.”
They’ve also given over their 400- acre cane facility in France and Argentina to fully organic practices. There are no chemical fertilizers and the company is recycling a significant part of the cane waste. “When you can only turn about 30 percent of the cane into quality reeds, there’s quite a bit left.”
They are looking at taking all wood waste from drum sticks and reeds and burning them to fuel, maybe converting their factories to heating from that waste.
As far as making this part of their marketing, “I don’t think we’ve done a fair enough job on this topic,” says Jim D’Addario. “We’re in the middle of a re-branding exercise and are doing a complete corporate study of our branding and we want to make sure we’re delivering all the right messages about a culture and how it relates to the brand. But we really haven’t told the world enough about our issue and want to make sure we’re delivering all the right messages about our culture and how it relates to the brand. I believe we’re going to step that up in the next year.”
Conservation is nothing new at Ernie Ball, as Brian Ball points out that having operations in the green-sensitive state of California has made it so. They have the strictest air control laws, and most far-reaching environmental initiatives.
But they take it further then they have to.
“It’s one thing to be fundamentally responsible on this issue, and another to really practice it,” Ball says. “When you really appreciate all the amazing things our world has – wildlife, plants – it’s natural to want to do whatever you can to limit your carbon footprint. We place a high-priority on it, and it’s not just for positive PR.”
Ernie Ball has reached the point where nothing is emitted into the atmosphere in creating their products, and they have the air control board come in four times a year to make sure they are within all the regulations. They continually take scraps and try to reuse them, and recycle every single thing they possibly can.
“We used to just sweep up the floors of ball ends and throw them away. Now we polish and clean them – and get them cleaner than we get them from the vendor. Then we have a special machine that automatically separates the guitar ends from the bass ends and puts them back into use.” Ball adds that they make sure that all of these adhere to the strict quality demands of all their products.
“We continually try to reduce packaging, and even are working on re-sealable zip-lock packaging.” Though he knows that won’t necessarily be an easy sell. “Consumers really don’t like change and by nature we’re creatures of habit, so it’s tricky when you try to experiment with packaging,” Ball says.
“It’s everybody’s environmental duty to reduce their scrap,” Ball says. “We’re constantly looking for ways to reuse things and not have scraps at all.”
König & Meyer
Germany-based music stand maker König & Meyer has created an impressive facility in Wertheim.
“My favorite facts are that they actually purify their water used in the manufacturing process to drinking water quality,” says Grace Newman, Marketing Director for Connolly Music Company, and U.S. Distributor of K&M. They have two specialized examples of water use efficiency, including electroplating cascade connections (which allow for the multiple-switch use of water), and automatic water shutoff and water extraction protocols (which optimize the water consumption).
“And when we’re in their offices the blinds and lights automatically go up or down based on the amount of sunlight outside! Pretty cool stuff.”
They were also awarded the Environmental Prize of Baden-Württemberg for their achievements in promoting environmental protection and for environment-based management.
“An environmental management representative is responsible for overall environmental management oversight,” says Gabriela König CEO. “Our management monitors the adherence to the environmental laws in each division, and identifies and addresses any need for improvement. A special environmental team meets regularly to discuss environmental measures within the company. König & Meyer regularly prepares an environmental program in which the goals for the environment are defined. The attainment of these goals is evaluated annually.”
They recently installed a solar power plant on their roofs, allowing the facility to produce 280,000 kWh electricity per year. “This is enough to supply 70 households with electricity and saves more than 200 tons of hazardous CO2.”
König agrees that Germany’s regulations are stricter yet “in addition we voluntary got certification for our environmental management according to ISO 14001 [international standard] and EMAS III [European standard]. Therefore we have to fulfill additional standards, such as the introduction of an environmental organization, the publication of an environmental statement and an annual review by an external auditor.”
But she adds that the U.S. also has strict environmental laws. “In some areas Germany was quite a pioneer, for example with renewable energies such as solar power and wind power. One reason for this is that Germany does not have any oil. But meanwhile, the renewable energies in the U.S. are gaining increasing importance.”
Remo puts out memos and stats on their accomplishments in this area, and as of 2010 they’ve saved 32,808 trees/196 acres of forestland, 2.06 million gallons of oil translating into 288.5 billion BTUs of energy, and 14 million gallons of water – all certified by the Industrial Recycle Services of Sun City, Calif. They also continue to earn WRAP (Waste Reduction Award Program) Awards every year, and have collected a baker’s dozen of them.
But for Manual Solis the quest continues. “There are constantly new developments that we are able to do things with what previously might have been scrap,” says the plant manager. “And nothing is too small. We feel like if we do something that keeps just 10 pounds of something going to the landfill, it’s good; and if everybody would do it, it’s a huge amount.” If they exhaust all they can do with the scraps, he spends time finding someone who can do something with it.
They are doing a good job with coming up what to do with scrap. Recently they found a way to chop up all these little pieces of “trash” – even cardboard. They mix it with an epoxy and create something that, when it dries, becomes a play surface. It’s used in their Not So Loud (NSL) hand percussion. In another situation, scratch film that couldn’t quite live up to the pounding a drumhead takes was specially coated and sold to a banjo company. “They love it! Now pieces that might end up in a land fill are part of another great instrument.”
When Solis was interviewed, he was on his way to China, a trip he makes frequency. He was asked about just how stringent green efforts were going on over there. “The philosophy is the same in that factory as the one here,” he says bluntly. “Just like here, all film that is ‘true waste’ is gathered and trucked to some other company that makes polyester and other fabrics with it, carpets, or becomes part of a plastic toy. We care about what ends up in a landfill – wherever it is.”
Solis has been with Remo for 27 years, and says that for all his years there the company has never “transformed” itself to being green. “The last few years it seems people are jumping on the green bandwagon, but that green philosophy has been here since at least my first day. We were green before anybody used that term.”
“From the start, Tycoon has been committed to using only certified, plantation-farmed Siam Oak wood in the production of our instruments,” report Tycoon’s Ivy Yu. “As a result of relying on these carefully harvested resources, we do not encounter the same challenges that other manufacturers may meet in obtaining materials.”
All their congas are made from the wood that comes from the managed plantations, and is renewed every five to seven years keeping them reasonably sustainable. They have never incorporated endangered woods or wood taken from old growth forests. In addition, they are exploring non-traditional woods and composites for a small selection of products, the advantage (beyond the obvious) being that they offer a different sound and feel from their main offerings.
Otherwise, “Tycoon has continuously observed ecological practices when at all possible. In our manufacturing process, all the leftover wood from the production of our instruments is given to a large recycling plant, so it can later be manufactured as paper, boxes, and other recyclable products.”
She, too, sees more people being aware of the choices they make and purchases they make.
“With the world rapidly changing, every decision can make a difference for the future,” says Ivy Yu of Tycoon. “We all strongly believe in the importance of protecting our environment, which is why we continue to offer our consumers products that stand behind our values and speak to everyone’s unique needs. We are proud to say that every individual who plays Tycoon is making a responsible choice for the future.”
Since 2004, Vandoren has been IS9001 in how they grow, harvest, and use cane in their woodwind reeds. “We have thousands of acres of cane in southern France, and we don’t use any fertilizer of any kind,” says Dansr’s Michael Skinner, who is the exclusive U.S. distributor of Vandoren products. “And any cane they reject for whatever reasons – too small, bowed – they crush into mulch and put it back in the field.”
This completely natural process is not the result of following some new trend, but a process that has been going on for 30 plus years. “Going way back, they did it because it made sense, and while today it makes even more sense, the family has always taken a big picture view of what they do. They take care not to hurt the water, for example. They see the net value of doing things the best way with regard to the planet.”
That mentality goes all the way down to the packaging. He says their newest box is deceptively tall, but actually uses less material and is endorsed by the FSC. All the print on it is soy ink, and as for the reed itself, they use a light etching to mark the number rather than any ink on it. There’s a special cellophane wrap of a new grade, and very light. “Every reed is now individually wrapped, and the reed protector is PP5 recyclable and the whole thing is very environmentally sound.”
Getting around the various buildings of the factory complex is done on electric vehicles, and the building is heated in part by rejected cane that is crushed and put into a high performance furnace.
In 2000, Yamaha launched its Corporate Social Responsibility program, devoting serious resources to it. “Within that program, we contribute to promoting music and musical culture, for example,” explains senior VP Rick Young. “But we also work on environmental issues. Creating a better society and corporate culture has been a priority, because in addition to the good that it does, we believe it contributes to better goods and services, and a better place for our people to work.”
International companies think and act both locally and globally. Their employees are eco-responsible, helped by a Household Eco Account Book Smart Life Guide. In it, they record their personal use of electricity, and gas, et cetera., and, speaking from experience, “You become more aware of the energy you’re using and become encouraged to cut back,” Young says. “We’ve had more than 2,000 employees participating each year since 2003.
“Since 1997, the Company has adopted ISO 14001 as the environmental management standards for ourselves and, by 2006, had all production-related companies who do business with Yamaha do the same. Today that translates into a total of more than 20,000 employees at over 20 different business sites participating.
“In our Asian offices and factories, we’ve promoted the ‘green eco curtain,’ planting vines right outside windows, which grow and provide shade. It doesn’t stop all the sunlight but is effective in reducing costs associated with cooling the facility.
“In China, we have installed a wastewater treatment facility that allows us to reuse 90% of the water used in the production process. At an existing main piano factory in Kakegawa, Japan, an old boiler was switched out and replaced with a new cogeneration system that uses liquefied natural gas, thus resulting in the reduction of more than 3,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
“In our Jakarta, Indonesia plant where we make combo products plus some B&O, we had the employees start planting trees in 2005, and after phase one, there were thousands planted.” A similar program is in its fifth year in Japan, which aims at restoring the Enshunada coastal forest. “On October 29, 2011, 160 people planted 160 trees.”
Yamaha also has something called Life Cycle Assessment. “We look at how the material is procured, the production, the transportation, the use, and the disposal to decide whether we can use different materials, whether we can make something lighter for more economical transport, and then we do it. For our A/V products, we look at the amount of energy a unit consumes and see if we can reduce it.
“Quite honestly, we haven’t done much promoting of our CSR,” admits Young. “We promote the quality of our instruments, the innovation, and the artists who use them.” As for the general population and if it matters what a corporation does and doesn’t do for the environment, “I think people are still coming around. Some are way into it, and others don’t really care that they are getting a trumpet that is soldered with environmentally unsafe lead, for example. People buying instruments that are made from wood products like pianos and guitars are a little more aware, because it is easier to see the transition from trees in the forest to an instrument than the transition from ore to molded brass.”
Dampening Sound the Green Way
For those retailers looking to be environmentally conscious in the practice room (assuming you’re using empty egg cartoons as we did circa 1974), there’s Acoustical Solutions, Inc. They have long offered products that help businesses earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credits. This year, however, they set out to offer a cohesive line that takes advantage of all recyclable and sustainable materials available, earning more credits and easing the decision of builders to choose green products.
“We have always been conscious of the need to offer ‘green’ or environmentally friendly products, and LEED has made them more appealing to our client base,” said Dave Ingersoll, sales manager. “But I think that the Sustainable Series we released this year will draw even more businesses and builders to LEED certification.”
The Sustainable Series line of Acoustical Products includes Wall Panels, Ceiling Tiles, Cloud Mount Panels, and Baffles. They all use Ecose Fiberglass inserts, which are made with post-consumer bottle glass and are 100 percent recyclable, and covered in a Sustainable Eco-Fabric, the industry’s first ‘no-compromise’ eco-friendly wall covering platform. Ingersoll says these are just as affordable as traditional acoustical treatment and the fabric is available in many patterns including practice room true, clean white.
For 20 years music stores have been part of their market, and it’s been good for them, Ingersoll reports, though few except the biggest – say GC Pro – resells their products. “And there is always the occasional situation where some parents comes in and say to the dealer, Johnny sure is loud when he practices, is there anything we can do? And in those situations it’s nice for them to know we’re out there.”
Also a lot of MI retailers have grown by doing installs big and small in their community, and to be able to offer their client a green alternative is a plus. “And we all know the best sound gear available isn’t going to be great in a bad room. So we encourage to talk to their clients right away about sound panels.”
For the last four years they’ve pushed to offer green products, “not just because it’s better, but because we’re a big believer in it in.” This new line has been well received, though like so many, the company has struggled to get it at the right price point. Plus they are fighting tradition. “There’s still a lot of designers who are going to choose aesthetics over sustainability, but as soon as you can create something that’s close in price and looks good, then it’s fantastic.”