“The benefit of being a local company is that we can help our customers be more environmentally conscious,” said George Snyder, president and co-owner of DBI. “We actually put recycling bins for batteries at our customers’ locations and we’ll pick the batteries up and send them back, so there is no expense to the end users. We do the same thing with plastic water bottles. We recycle ink cartridges, where we actually package those up and send them back to the manufacturer. The money we receive for doing that is donated to the Lansing City Rescue Mission.”
DBI sells office furniture and has catalogs of more than 2,500 recycled office supply products, including paper, cleaning supplies and electronics. Additionally, Haworth, DBI’s main supplier, has been developing products to make office space more energy efficient.
“Haworth sells a raised floor system on which you can put moveable floor-to-ceiling walls and all kinds of furniture systems to go on that,” explained Doug Smith, vice president of the furniture department and co-owner. “It’s a panel-based system you can reconfigure relatively quickly and efficiently.”
One of the advantages of the raised floor is that it allows wiring for air conditioning and heating, data systems and electricity to run underneath the offices, rather than above the ceiling, making it easier to reconfigure the space as needed, while maintaining better temperature control.
“When you’re running [everything] under the floor, it’s sealed to the perimeter of the building,” said Smith. “You don’t have to have any ductwork anywhere. The floor is made of concrete and you can put air diffusers anywhere in that space. It’s a huge savings because traditional construction brings air through ductwork that drops it into the space. So, for example, if you’ve got a 10-foot ceiling, depending on the temperature you want on the bottom, you might have to drop that air five to six feet at 55 to 58 degrees. If it comes up through the floor, you can bring it in at 68 to 72 degrees and the cold air return goes up through the ceiling. That’s about a 15-degree differential, so you’ve got a huge cost savings.”
Haworth also has moveable walls, meaning that the walls have a longer lifespan since they can be reused and there is no drywall which needs to be discarded. These products are also made with a minimum of waste.
“In the past couple of years, Haworth has also introduced a new chair called Zody, which is produced with 52 percent or more of recycled material. At the end of its useful life, we will pick the chair up and send it back to Haworth and they will completely break it down,” Smith noted. “Ninety-eight percent of that material is recyclable at the end of its life. So Haworth continues to focus on making products that can be used again and again, and they are trying to be aware of the environment.”
While it is not considered green in and of itself, there is also sound masking available that doesn’t require the extra layers of drywall and/or insulation used in the past.
“It’s made it easier to react more quickly [to changes], and you don’t have all of that material that someday will have to go to the landfill,” said Smith. “So sound masking has had an indirect impact. If you were going to build a new building, you could build it less expensively and save the environment. That product can go underneath the floors, in a wall or a ceiling.”
DBI is also currently redoing its Michigan Avenue site to be more energy efficient.
“We worked with the mayor and his economic development group to retain our facility within the city,” Snyder noted. “You can’t get any greener than renovating an existing building. We’re not adding any more infrastructure to the environment. The mayor and the economic development group were very proactive with us because they wanted to retain the 60 employees within the city of Lansing. DBI did receive a façade grant from the city to help with the renovations.”
All of the materials being used for the renovation are recycled, and even the paint has low emissions to protect the environment. Windows are being added to allow for more natural light, and the heating and air conditioning system is being upgraded.
“In January, I had an internal directive to the organization that any office supplies or any products that we used were to be recyclable, from our coffee cups to our paper,” said Snyder. “Our light bulbs are energy efficient. We recycle paper, cardboard, plastic, batteries and ink cartridges.”
“We’re trying to live it as much as we can within this whole building,” added Smith. “We’re remodeling to help us with energy efficiency. We try to help the clients with some of the things they can do to be more environmentally conscious. We’re members of the U.S. Green Building Council, so we’re promoting as much information as we can to both our clients and with our personnel here.”
DBI opened in 1984, and Snyder, Smith and partner Steve Klaver, who is vice president of office products, bought the business in 2001. The company has 48,000 square feet of dock and storage space on North Larch St. and 16,000 square feet of office space at its main site on Michigan Avenue. DBI also has a location in downtown Jackson.
“Our theme is excellence in reputation,” Snyder noted. “Our green effort is part of that. Now that there are so many cost-effective choices [available to offices and individuals] that make it easy to go green, there is no longer any excuse not [to do so]. Going green means making everyday choices and taking actions that have a positive impact on the environment as well as the bottom line and it creates a better environment for our valued employees.”
George Snyder, Owner
Doug Smith, Owner
Steve Klaver, Owner