What We’ve Accomplished & Where We Want to Go
Some time has passed since we last updated you on our Operation Eco journey, so now that we’ve moved to our new Conshohocken office location, we wanted to tell you what we’ve been up to and where we’re going.
Our Conshohocken Move
As you may know, Strata has two locations – one in Plymouth Meeting and one in Conshohocken. Our Plymouth Meeting facility primarily houses our production team and equipment, along with several other production-affiliated employees. Our Conshohocken location, on the other hand, is home to many other Strata team members – from IT and advertising to marketing and campaign coordination. We’re excited to announce that our Conshohocken team has moved, and will now be working out of 1100 East Hector Street (also known as the Spring Mill Campus).
We’re very excited about this new (refurbished) space, as it was chosen due to its excellent atmosphere, room for the company to evolve and expand, natural lighting, clean, modern, and industrial feel, as well as its flexibility and sense of community. We knew we could renovate and add to the space without overusing new resources and materials or conducting a complete redo – which was a primary goal for us. Additionally, it’s right down the road from our original Conshohocken office location and is yet another “small change” for employees with big current and potential impact.
Our Conshohocken Office Eco Choices
To innovate and refresh this new (yet used) space with minimum impact on our environment, we worked with Re:Vision Architecture, a company well-known for “re-visioning and restoring the balance between natural, built, and social environments.” We knew they could help us evolve this office space with environmental care and green consciousness to the best of our ability.
Although as a tenant, we didn’t have control over everything, we were able to use a lot of existing materials and remodel in an environmentally conscientious manner. Here are some of the details…
First and foremost – the building we chose (Spring Mill Campus) was a tire factory from 1912 to 1980 – so it has a ton of history and feels that way. It’s an older building with modernized refurbishing and a unified, community feel across offices and companies. So, all necessary structures and infrastructure were already in place. Reusing versus starting from scratch is the single biggest eco-benefit, as is the case whenever you find a way to reuse.
We were extremely happy with how close it is to public transportation (just a short walk to the train station, for example), as well as many food and coffee places. The building even has food options, like vending machines of various types, right within its walls.
The building’s HVAC system is a geothermal system, which, if you’re unfamiliar, is one of the most efficient HVAC systems out there.
Energy & Air Quality
The space is outfitted with an energy recovery ventilator, which constantly exchanges indoor air with outdoor air, recovering 90% of heat energy. This basically means that while saving energy, we have a lot more outdoor air in our space than in most standard offices.
The office space, in general, has an incredible amount of natural light and exposure to the outdoors, as it’s surrounded by large, tall windows. This ample sunlight reduces our need for lighting fixtures and will help heat the office in the winter. We’ve also installed south-facing shades to reduce glare and summer heat, and ultimately lower our need for air conditioning. These shades are vinyl-free from Mermet’s eco line, with partially natural fabric and highly recycled content. For us, it was imperative that we found non-vinyl shades since vinyl is toxic, can’t be recycled, and offs gases throughout its lifetime. Additionally, according to the DOE, if we manage the usage of these shades, we can reduce heat gain by 77%.
Furthermore, all lighting fixtures are energy efficient LED and occupancy censored. This means that their sensors will detect the presence of people and turn them on and off as needed. Even better? The finial lights in the main cubicle area have daylight sensors – so they dim as the sun goes down.
We chose a drywall product that has a higher level of recycled content than typical drywall. Additionally, the sound insulation within these walls is mineral wool insulation, which is made of 95% recycled content.
Most notably, we made use of the existing polished concrete subfloor in the lobby, lunch area, and back of house, instead of applying another flooring over top – which would have left a larger carbon footprint. The chosen carpet tiles for the rest of the office are by Interface, and are known for their “cradle to cradle” material. This material is highly recycled, and when it’s at the end of its life in our office space, the company will take the tiles back, recycle them, and turn them into new carpeting. Additionally, the tile format stops us from having to replace the entire floor after just a few spills. If needed, we can simply just replace a few tiles.
The glass doors into the various rooms are of reused glass. Not only are they recycled, but they help to further promote the abundance of natural lighting and a connection to each other as well as the outdoors.
We chose to use acoustic ceiling tiles by Armstrong, which feature high amounts of recycled content and environmentally friendly, plant-based binders.
Paints & Coatings
All of the paints and coatings used as finishes within our space are low-VOC. The products are primarily of maple wood and have clear finishes – natural materials that do not emit gases over time.
Appliances & Supplies
All kitchen appliances are energy-star rated appliances, and the sink and dishwasher within the kitchen are low-flow appliances – which means they have around a 1-gallon-per-minute restriction. We also installed the dishwasher to help promote the use of plates and silverware as opposed to paper products and plastic utensils with single-use applications.
Living Our Mission
Lastly, we’re not just placing eco-friendly elements within our space and renovating conscientiously, but living in an eco-friendly manner, as well. We’re promoting the use of plant-based or phosphate-free dish detergents to help reduce the number of phosphates that end up in the environment, especially in our lakes and streams. We’re using silverware, plates, mugs, and other dishware instead of one-time use plastics. We’re also promoting other reuses with the eco-swag we’ve distributed. This swag includes things like beeswax wrap, reusable snack and produce bags, grocery tote bags, and more.
The Plymouth Meeting Office Beginning Changes
We’re excited for the more in-depth Plymouth Meeting renovations to come and appreciate you for keeping up with our eco-efforts. Since we own the Plymouth Meeting space, there are more possibilities for change and impact. We’ll provide exciting updates about this in the near future – but until then, follow us on social media (Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn) to keep up with our eco initiative and look out for future blogs.
What Choice is Best?
You’ve probably noticed that, within the last few years, there’s become a bit of a paper shortage in the US – to say the least. Paper has been much harder to come by – and with that, many companies are looking into alternatives as well as ways to combat the shortage. Today, we’re discussing eco-friendly paper options that, in the long-run, may not only help with the shortage, but aid our environment to positively impact the world we live in.
Why is there a Paper Shortage?
Not too long ago, we posted a blog on the paper shortage. We discussed what’s causing it, what it means for marketers and their print projects, and how we can combat it. Overall, the shortage is due to the many changes in our world that have happened over the past few years. Between the pandemic, lumber scarcity, changes in supply and demand, and a decrease in transportation, several things made the perfect storm to decrease our paper resources. Learn more by reading the full blog, here.
Myth vs. Fact of Tree Waste
Before we go into some paper options and alternatives, we wanted to bring a few statistics from ChoosePrint.org to your attention:
- Myth: Paper is Made from Fresh-Cut Trees
- Reality: Paper is Made Primarily from “Waste” Products
- Myth: Print Leads to Deforestation
- Reality: Print Promotes Trees
- Myth: The Tree Population is Shrinking
- Reality: More Trees and Forests Exist Today Than 20 Years Ago
Questions? Dive a bit deeper into these, here.
Why Look Into Other Options?
Right now, the world “consumes around 300 million tons of paper each year.” So, although there are many trees being planted each year, and a lot more people are focusing on the environment, to keep up with what we’re taking away, we need to stay cognizant of our paper resources and usage. No matter what we’re doing to combat the negatives of paper creation, there are still forms and instances of paper creation (for example, deforestation of tropical forests) that take away wildlife habitat and emit greenhouse gases into the environment – so it’s important to be sure you’re not contributing to these negative practices. It’s estimated that “28,000 species may become extinct in the next quarter of a century from deforestation”, and that the burning and clearing of forests “accounts for about 20% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions.”
What are My Eco-Friendly Paper Options?
Although it may be your go-to and first guess, recycled paper may not be your only or best option. Eco friendly or “alternative” paper has a “smaller carbon footprint” and less overall impact on our environment.
Overall, there are currently two kinds of eco-friendly paper options. Recycled and curated.
Recycled is made from “post-consumer waste rather than wood pulp from freshly cut trees”. This reuse of post-consumer waste reduces deforestation and keeps habitats for wildlife, plus, “recycling roughly one ton of paper reduces greenhouse gas emissions by one ton of carbon equivalent, and saves around 7,000 gallons of water.” But – and this is important – be sure to look at the percentage (which manufacturers are required to include). Several companies will only use a small percentage of recycled materials, when we really want the percentage to be as close to 100 as possible.
Curated paper is from a managed forest system – the most popular and well-known of those being FSC Certified paper. FSC Certified is Forest Stewardship Council certified, which means it was created sustainably. If you look further into this, it primarily means that the paper was created with consideration of the protection of our environment as well as ethical treatment of production workers. “So far, the FSC has certified around 174 million hectares (429 million acres) of forests worldwide.” Additionally, other certifications exist, such as Preferred by Nature, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and PEFC.
Lastly, you can use both. What do we mean? Curated paper that is made from (at least partially) recycled materials – the best of both worlds! Look into what makes the most sense and works best for your company. If you’re not sure, the best thing you can do is reach out to others, research, and simply try to do what’s best for our world.
Want to discuss your options with us? Looking for more information or resources? Contact Strata.
A Series for Growth
The pandemic has changed many things, in many ways. But oddly, in some ways, it may have brought us closer as organizations. Have you ever had so many one-on-one meetings (albeit by video conference) pre-pandemic? Or shared, for so long, a common challenge?
The workplace has been changed forever, no doubt. Although we, in a way, may have grown closer, my personal opinion is that this purely work from home culture is not sustainable long term. We need to see each other and connect in a way that only physical presence can provide. Yet, there’s still no way we’ll ever be back into the office, every day, 9 to 5, and experience all that comes with that routine. When we return to the office, things will look much different.
At Strata specifically, we’ve begun to put processes in place to move towards our vision of the future. A less constrained, more flexible work environment that we hope captures the best from both WFH and WFO, and offers work productivity while being conducive to employee morale. Successfully doing that will both enhance and sustain our existing culture and help us attract the best of the best new talent as we go forward. A large part of that evolution is renovating our spaces for cohesion, productivity and modernization – but also with environmental conservation at top of mind. Our hope is to conduct an office remodel that creates an eco-friendly work environment and also enhances employee wellbeing.
As our business evolves, we know we want to not just renovate – but renovate with purpose. Doing the very best we can to protect the environment consciously, ethically, sustainably, and thoughtfully.
We look to hire architectural and contracting teams that not only know the ins and outs of modern renovation and interior and architectural design, but have a knowledge, drive, and even devotion for environmentally conscious practices. We’re going into this project with the expectation that perfection in these renovations is not possible. Our goal then is to learn what is possible, grow in understanding, and to do our best to acquire knowledge of our own as we share our office redesign learnings with others who may not know where to start.
On the topic of perfection, we know too that we cannot possibly create a perfect environment for every Strata employee, as all of us are unique individuals with different wants and personal visions for working, but we will strive to offer a flexible work environment, with comfortable, collaborative spaces that cultivate productivity, proficiency, and most importantly – a trust of and loyalty to the organization and our team. While energy efficiency and sustainability are highly important to us, so are company culture and employee wellbeing.
Of course, when it comes to environmental impact, even specified down to workplace environments, there is a ton of information out there, most of which can be difficult to sift through and verify. Even more, we’ve already come across research that seems to fly under the radar – that construction and expansion itself can sometimes be much more detrimental to the environment than inhabiting the space thereafter. So, we’ve put together a small team to research different aspects of the renovation, from floor to ceiling and demolition to reclamation, to achieve our goal of determining just what one small company can do.
Our plan is to have our Conshohocken offices fully renovated by November 2021, and our Plymouth Meeting offices by January, 2022. These timelines may change, and that’s okay, as well thought out changes can take time. We wish to unify these two spaces, and ultimately, unify our team for years to come.
This is the start of our journey. Come back soon to read about our next steps.