Greening your aircraft, shop and maintenance to reduce costs, protect employee health and meet regulations

Even with all the talk today about going green, the fact is when I speak with people about greening their maintenance operation and aircraft cleaning they usually roll their eyes back and turn green. Seriously, to most people, greening means lower performance products and a lot of headaches, simply because so many erroneous claims have been made that people don’t believe them. Which begs the question. What does Green mean anyway?

In the aviation world, the most highly regulated industry on the planet, this signifies that the individuals performing the work have to be especially skeptical of product performance claims and are required to meet stringent government regulations. Quite a dilemma.

So what’s the solution? The goal of this article is to provide people with a scientific baseline defining what are chemical reduction and pollution prevention. These steps are the real meaning of green. Remember, science trumps sales pitch.

When I am asked to give a mini seminar to maintenance staff in aviation operations, I’m usually greeted with looks that are shouting “bullshit”. Tough crowd.
So what I do is start with the basics. I ask which is the most important of the three R’s we’ve been taught: reduce, reuse, or recycle. The answer is reducing, because if you don’t use it to begin with, there is no problem and you did not have to pay for it. So why is a guy selling chemicals telling you to use less chemicals? Simply put, this is proper science not sales pitch.

When maintenance staff and managers are empowered with a proper scientific baseline, they can now make logical decisions in an area that is very difficult, that being chemistry.
This opens people’s minds to the core concept “Chemical reduction and pollution prevention”. In other words, we reduce the amount of poison in our environment to the lowest level possible and we stop the pollution going out. “No toxins in, No toxins out”.

When staff and management grasp this core concept, there’s a huge change in the organization because you now have a baseline founded on good science, good logic, and common sense enabling the implementation of a valid program.

Newly opened minds allow me to introduce the second core concept. Science trumps regulations. Let’s discuss the regulatory environment. If you can prove that the products and practices in use at your facility meet and exceed all forms of regulation then you have nothing to worry about.

Put yourself in the shoes of an enforcement officer from whatever branch of government. This person has a responsibility to minimize the harm being done to other people or the environment which can be a very frustrating job. Imagine one day an enforcement officer walks into your facility, you greet the person, reach into a file or point to a sign on the wall which states “ Best Management Practices”, and then you pull out a list of every single chemical you use and show him/her why this is the best scientific choice. You proceed by demonstrating how you’ve minimized your hazardous-waste and you’re at zero discharge for pollution. At this point, the official either has to sit down or rearranges his/her jaw because this is an unprecedented event.

OK seriously, what do you think the response is going to be? The person’s going to shake your hand say thank you very much and wishes you a nice day.

With all that being said, we really need to get to the heart of the matter. Poisoning yourself or your employees is not really an acceptable choice; secondly, if using toxic cleaning products is poisoning you, it’s also going down the drain, and it’s poisoning the fish and all animals or birds who feed off the fish. There’s no question that we’re all in this together. To add insult to injury, it’s costing the company far too much money.

The business case for going green should be looked at from all levels of the company. Unhealthy employees cost the company money and they don’t relish working in an unsafe environment. When you switch out toxic chemistry or poisonous chemistry from the work environment, everybody benefits; staff have a much better day at work and as a result are more productive. Not to mention, they feel good about what management’s doing because they know you care.

When you add it all up the bottom line is, your employees feel better, you’re protecting the environment, and you’re saving the company money while meeting all the regulations. When you think about it, there really is no excuse to not green your facility starting today.