USG has set goals to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 percent, and reduce operational waste-to-landfill by 50 percent by 2020, using 2005 as the base year, according to the company’s first annual Corporate Sustainability Report (PDF). The company also plans to conduct product environmental life cycle assessments on 100 percent of its products by 2020.
The report is organized into three sections about environmental, social and economic sustainability. Here are some environmental highlights.
In 2009, the manufacturer and distributor of high-performance building systems introduced EcoBlueprint, a commitment to reduce the company’s environmental footprint throughout the entire product cycle from raw materials to use, recycling and reuse. The program aligns USG’s corporate strategy with environmental sustainability and focuses on three priorities: develop responsible customer solutions, enhance energy management, and improve resource utilization.
As an example, most of its products including SHEETROCK brand gypsum panels, contain recycled content, emit no or low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), use minimal packaging and perform throughout the life span of the building with minimal routine maintenance.
USG says SHEETROCK gypsum panels are made primarily from gypsum, one of the most naturally fire-resistant minerals, or synthetic gypsum, an environmentally friendly byproduct of coal-fired utility plants. Starch, made from renewable resources such as wheat or corn, and 100-percent recycled paper form the bulk of the remaining materials.
In addition, gypsum panel production is a low-waste process with nearly 100 percent of the raw materials used in the finished product.
However, the company admits that waste is an issue at construction sites with a significant amount of that waste from wallboard scraps that are often sent to municipal waste landfills.
Diverting new-construction wallboard waste from landfills would help reduce the maintenance requirements of current landfills and prevent the need for more in the future, says USG. However, the United States does not have a robust infrastructure to collect and return new-construction wallboard waste.
A study commissioned by PPG industries last year shows that USG was perceived as one of the top green product building leaders.
Since 2008, the company has implemented specific energy-reduction targets, management accountability and training for all of its manufacturing facilities in the form of its “Back to the Basics” program.
Some of the company’s energy-efficiency projects include the use of heat-exchange processes throughout its manufacturing operations to conserve energy and maximize efficiency. In addition, two major USG paper mills, in Otsego, Michigan, and Oakfield, New York, use combined heat and power technology. Cogeneration supplies clean power and steam for its mills’ manufacturing processes while consuming 30 percent less fuel.
In addition to energy-saving measures, the company also is working to reduce its water consumption. USG says both wallboard and ceiling tile manufacturing operations consume process water and emit excess water as steam from the emission stacks. During the past 10 years, the company has reduced water consumption by about 15 percent by decreasing the amount of water required to produce wallboard.
The company also recycles water at its paper mills and ceiling plants, which also cuts down on effluent discharges to municipal treatment systems.