Inching toward green

Commercial integrators take small steps toward environmental friendliness
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Sunday, July 1, 2007

YARMOUTH, Maine--While few commercial security systems integrators would claim to run environmentally friendly businesses by design, many have taken small, logical steps to reduce their impact on the environment. Some efforts are as simple as organizing internal recycling campaigns, others are as complex as actively searching out new vendors for tried-and-true solutions, but most are simple common sense.
Maybe it should come as no surprise that green efforts aren't being more emphasized. The security industry is definitely customer driven, and a survey by Security Systems News of more than 100 integrators and installers shows that just five percent of customers are asking integrators to consider power usage when they design security systems. Further, a scant six percent mentioned environmental impact as a reason for switching from a traditional analog system to an IP-based system.
What motivation, then, is there for the 16 percent of integrators who've explored using solar power as part of a system, the 68 percent who favor RoHS-compliant manufacturers, and the 34 percent of integrators who consider environmental impact when designing a system?
"We deal with it as it comes to our faces," said Daved Levine, owner of SCI in Albuquerque, N.M. "We just try to be careful about it and not just throw things in the garbage. We say, 'what's the best way of handling this.' Sometimes, it's just being afraid of throwing something away that has value."
This same practicality led Tim Collins, sales manager at NSSC in Willowbrook, Ill., to move away from the use of hydraulics in vehicle barrier systems. "The biggest problem is leaks," he said of hydraulics, "and probably 50 percent of the operating or maintenance costs are hydraulic-operating related; then there's just flat-out leaks and that has to be treated as a hazardous material." So, though the end result was less hazardous material being introduced to the environment, the reasoning behind the switch to electronic bollards made by Robotic Security was that "one of our clients just flat-out said they did not want a hydraulic system," said Collins.
"As far as the cost, there may be a few more bucks for the unit," allowed Collins, "but they're much easier, and cheaper, to install."
Savings is a motivator for many integrators to get greener. Glenn Younger, president of Grah Security in San Diego, saves time and energy by avoiding trips to distributor locations, choosing rather to order online or by phone and have products delivered. He feels "will call" or drive-up business is a waste of labor time and gas. The industry should "ask suppliers to use packing material that is reusable or recyclable," as well, he wrote in response to the SSN survey.
Sometimes, going green is even a way to make eco-conscious employees happy and involved. Wells Sampson, vice president of American Alarm in Arlington, Mass., said an employee recently inquired as to whether the company could start recycling all of the cardboard that's currently thrown away. Already, American had hired a company to "come in and empty our recycle bins for us," he said. "We had tried in the past to recycle, but now it's more organized." American has also taken steps to reduce its gas consumption, finding a diesel-powered vehicle to substitute in for its service vehicles going forward.
Most integrators are making relatively painless choices, but they are not insignificant in their impact and they do require a certain consciousness and a willingness to go outside of a comfort zone. "We actually went away from our tried and tested supplier that does all the recycling of batteries," Sampson noted. "That was an important factor in the purchasing decision."