How to Build a Green Construction Site

Reader Contribution by James White
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According to the United States EPA Clear Air Act Advisory Committee, construction equipment is one of the leading causes and contributing factors to dangerous pollution. More specifically, this equipment ejects dangerous diesel pollution into the surrounding environment during use.

A single bulldozer engine can emit as much particulate matter as more than 500 cars. This is because diesel exhaust can carry large amounts of carcinogens, ozone smog-forming compounds and soot. The resulting pollutants are responsible for a long list of health problems like asthma, strokes, lung cancer, heart failure and even premature death.

As such, the EPA created the Clean Construction USA initiative to promote greener construction, which calls for using cleaner forms of diesel and fuel along with tighter pollution controls. It aims to provide construction equipment owners with the means to improve equipment handling, at least when it comes to the environment. This is accomplished through the use of cleaner fuels like low-sulfur diesel, implementing greener technologies, and modifying old parts and equipment with updated tech.

Even after all these changes, both the environment and our health are still at risk. More dangerous emissions and pollutants continue to be pumped into the atmosphere on a daily basis. It begs the question, what can we do to help, aside from some of the more obvious changes, such as those listed above?

Reduce Equipment Usage Times

While on the job, you may need to get everything done in a timely manner, but there are certain things you can do to cut down on equipment usage. Think of it like this: To conserve water at home, you make sure to turn off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth or while washing dishes. You don’t leave the water running consistently during that time – at least we hope not – because it’s wasteful.

The same can be said of construction equipment. If your task doesn’t actually call for the equipment to be powered on, then shut it down. You don’t need to leave it running at all times.

Retrofit and Maintain Equipment

If a piece of equipment is not working properly or is inefficient, then it’s time to start repairs. Green operation can be achieved by equipment owners following proper maintenance protocols and by retrofitting machinery with new parts. There are a lot of parts in modern construction equipment that can be replaced or upgraded altogether.

While this might seem costly, neglecting to maintain equipment can be more expensive in ways that you might not immediately see. Equipment breaking down and more severe problems can result in higher maintenance and repair fees. It can also result in equipment malfunctioning for longer periods of time, thus emitting more dangerous pollutants into the air. The latter issue is a problem for everyone, and you’ll realize that eventually when your health is failing. Better to take preventative measures and keep your equipment efficient and optimal.

Recycle and Dispose of Waste Properly

Another contributing factor of pollution relates to how we dispose of our waste. For instance, just recycling glass helps reduce air pollution by 20 percent and water pollution by 50 percent. That’s not even factoring in harmful waste like certain plastics, metals and alloys, and various chemicals.

While on the job, you’ll be dealing with a lot of waste from equipment, from the actual work and from your own habits – like lunch. Learn to recycle and dispose of this waste properly.

Together, we can improve air and environment quality by ensuring we live to greener standards even in places where you wouldn’t think it possible, like a construction site.

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