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Peter Grazzini on Green Operations

Peter Grazzini, Founder, Perfect Settings, Landover, Md.

What got you committed to going "green" in your business operations? (Was it the release of the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" in 2006, or where you always eco-aware?)

I think the need to be more eco conscience is hard to ignore today. I have to admit, the first time I watched Inconvenient Truth I was not a true believer. On a personal level, I have traveled to China annually for the last few years. The extent of there pollution there is alarming. I may not be in a position to determine the cause of this extreme pollution but I do feel like I can do things both at home and in my business that can help influence positive change. One of Al Gore’s comments in Inconvenient Truth was that most people go from ignorance to alarm without stopping to ask “What Can We Do?” I guess that speaks to me. I also read a great book called “Living like ED a guide to the eco friendly Life” by Ed Begley Jr. It is a great book about the simple things to the major things you can do to lesson your personal impact on the environment. It’s a great book for people who are just starting to pay attention to green movement. It is funny and informative and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more.

What is the scope of your green initiatives? What have you changed about the way you do business to go greener?

First, I would like to point out that the rental business is inherently green. You would be hard-pressed to find a business that more specifically addresses the reuse initiative.

We have signed a contract to purchase our power from “Clean Currents”; our electricity now comes from wind power. We were able to save 2 cents per kilowatt, and our rate is locked in for two years.

We have recently started a recycling program to help reduce the amount of plastic and cardboard we send to area landfills. We accumulate an enormous amount of trash. Ninety percent of this trash is from the plastic bags from table cloths, the shrink wrap from new equipment and plastic sheeting used for floor covers or cardboard boxes that we purchase our inventory in. Last month I decided to pull my invoices from the people I purchase my disposable sheet or film type of plastic from. This is the plastic that is involved in the processing of my equipment. I wanted to see just how much plastic we are using. Then I weighed a case of each item to figure out the weight of that plastic. This maybe a little hard to believe; I had to recheck the results because it didn’t think this could be right--but it was. In 2008 through August, we have purchased 37,314 pounds of plastic. Morally, I felt the need to be more prudent and try to divert some of this plastic from area landfills.

So I hired David Troust, a local recycling consultant with Recycling-Saves, to help look at ways I could divert some of that plastic from area landfills. David told me this plastic could be recycled if it was baled. Based on David’s recommendation, we have leased a baler from World Recycling. If we baled our plastic and cardboard waste we can get paid rather than paying to dump it in the landfill. I signed a two-year lease on the baler that I will own at the end of the lease. I will need to make 6 to 8 bales per month to offset the lease payment. I will get a monthly statement with the weights and value of the bales that have been picked up, and then they will subtract the lease payment and either sends me a small check or I will send them a small check. I am planning on tracking how much of that 37,000 pounds we are able to recycle.

We are also encouraging our clients to recycle by asking them to return all their plastic from events so we can put it in our baler, and to return the hangers so we can reuse them.

This week we introduced a recycle bin rental program. Our clients can now rent the bins to be used behind bars and in beverage stations and kitchen to collect the empty glass and plastic bottles and cans. Each bin comes with a plastic bag in it. At the end of the event they only need to tie off the bag and leave it with the equipment for us to pick up when we return. We now have a special recycling dumpster on our back dock that we put the waste in. It is then picked up and brought to the recycling center to be processed.

I can see the program pays off for the environment—how about for your P&L? Does going green cost more or can it be cost-effective? Can you measure its cost-effectiveness?

As far as recycling goes, I am not sure yet. It should reduce my overall trash removal but as long as my cost does not go up in the next year, I will keep trying. There are many other things I hope to do over the next several years that will require substantial investment but will in the end would save the company a huge amount of money. Areas of my business I am looking at are lighting, water-saving devices, and solar and or wind to help generate power. My ability to do these things will depend on my business's ability to be profitable and continue to grow.

What are clients’ reactions to your green efforts? Are brides and bar/bat mitzvah parents concerned about going green, or do they make exceptions for these milestone events in their lives?

Every one of my clients likes the idea of recycling. I will need their support to be successful with the program. They should be able to benefit from lower trash removal cost if they have me do the recycling and be able to pass the nominal cost of the bins to their clients. I am optimistic that it will be successful and help to promote Perfect Settings as a company who cares.

I know many hotels are bashed for “green-washing"--that is, taking credit for going green when they are accused of being wasteful in many areas. Do you think this is true or is it unfair?

“Green-washing” is a problem. My wife was excited to find a new organic pizza parlor, and when she went it she looked at the menu in small print at the bottom it said that they used organic sauce (out of a can!). She asked the manager what made them organic; all he said was “the sauce.” That is just wrong. However, I don’t think it is always done on purpose. For instance, many people are starting to advertise the use of biodegradable disposable flatware and plates that are made out of corn. It is a great product but if you don’t compost it and it ends up in the dump, it won’t break down and it will still be there 500 years from now with all the rest of the plastic. Really renting real china, flatware and glassware is a much greener option.

Are there any green initiatives you tried that just didn't work out?

So far, no.

What do you say to people in the event industry who complain that truly going green is too expensive and too time-consuming?

Change is never easy and in the beginning it will take more time and may cost a little more, but in the end you should be able to save money and you will feel good about doing something positive for the environment.

If a green genius could come up with one product or process for you, what would it be?

A cheap affordable solar system and a replacement for plastic!

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