Sustainability has been a focus of Steven Eisenstein, CERP, president and chief event officer, Classic Tents & Events, Norcross, Ga., ever since he purchased the business in 2010.
“The priority for me always has been taking care of my employees and customers. For me it was always looking at ways to expand and grow the business, which we have done and still are doing. Realistically, the whole thing has become: How do we be good stewards of our rental equipment and of our Earth? That is what it boils down to. Sustainability to us is about implementing practices that are good for my employees and customers while also being good to Mother Nature. That has been a thread from the beginning,” says Eisenstein, who serves as ARA of Georgia president.
The biggest initial step in that direction took place in 2015 when Eisenstein installed 192 solar panels on his roof.
“We dry our tent tops outside using the sun and the energy that is free to us. We thought if the sun is so good, why don’t we add solar panels? It cost us $132,000. At that time, there was a huge tax credit, which also was attractive to us. We have a seven-year lease on the solar panels. It has cut our energy cost in half from Georgia Power, and next year the system will have paid for itself. That is very exciting,” Eisenstein says.
He didn’t stop there. Other environmentally sustainable measures that he and his team have implemented include:
Using Earth-friendly cleaning products and recycling water. “When we clean our tents outside, we are not going to use chemicals that will hurt our grounds. We also reclaim some of the water used in our washing machines. We paid a little extra for that, but we are saving water through that system,” Eisenstein says.
Utilizing concrete ballasts. “Ballasting for us is huge. We are putting up 50- and 40-ft.-wide tents all the time. They always need weight. We are bringing 700-lb. ballasts. We switched over from using water barrels to concrete ballasts quite a while ago. Block and Roll sells the forms to us. We make our own cement ballasts. That is saving a lot of water each day,” he says.
Making every inch count in the warehouse. “During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we met with a consultant to figure out ways to maximize space in our warehouse. One of the things that came from it is that we added 72 more slots inside our warehouse for items to go to. We also added three more loading docks in the last three months — going to eight loading docks total. That project should be wrapped up in the next six months,” he says.
In addition, “we sent guys to Six Sigma programs to be more efficient and learn best practices for our warehouse. And we added a lot more carts. Everything we have that we pack is on wheels, so they don’t have to handle it more than once. They put it on wheels, put it in the truck and then wheel it when they get there. They are saving time,” Eisenstein says.
Recycling. “We recycle plastic bottles and cardboard,” Eisenstein says.
Changing to LED lighting. “LED lights are brighter, work better and take less power, which is awesome for us. If they take less power, it is better for the environment. We have gone one step further and now have battery-powered LED lighting that can be used over and over again for weekend parties. No wires or power needed at the job site,” he says.
Implementing more flooring to protect the ground. “Selfishly, it is for our movie clients who are using hair, makeup and dressing rooms to keep their costumes from getting dirty and having to send them off to the cleaners all the time. For us, in a way, we are building small ballroom spaces all over the place, which helps our clients be more sustainable for the things they need to do and helps us protect the ground,” Eisenstein says.
Creating reusable organizers. When we go to The ARA Show™, we like to look for things that are sustainable — items that can be used over and over again and have a long life. Then we have to immediately figure out how it will be packaged and moved around in the truck to get it from point A to point B and keep it safe, which is key. It has to live in a case of some sort. We have worked with a subcontractor in helping us make these solutions. For instance, we put our LED lights in cool boxes that have a bunch of foam inside, like cutouts. We do the same thing for our fans and even our fire extinguishers. When we are on the road, we want our items to be stacked and safe in the truck. These packages keep them protected and safe,” he says.
These efforts have reinforced the overall sustainability of his business.
“A big aspect of sustainability is using our products over and over again. During COVID, we learned what is necessary and essential and what is not. Tents were still needed. When the movie production stopped, what started was that the Fulton County Board of Health began putting up testing sites. We were referred to them by another one of our clients. We started putting up tents in all different locations over town,” he says.
“Then health care operations started calling. We ended up selling some big structures to one of the hospitals. After that, schools started figuring out that they wanted to meet in person, but they had to meet outside instead of inside. Schools became clients. Then other places, such as warehouses, needed tenting for break rooms. We have added to our inventory to keep up demand. Tent sizes got larger. When movie production returned, they needed more space — going up to 150 sq. ft. per person. By all means, our company is definitely sustainable,” he says.
For Eisenstein, the bottom line to sustainability — whether environmental or economical — centers around safety and the ability to continue operating with the available resources.
“Sustainability is important to me because we want to be safe and here for a long time, serving our customers. I would rather use the extra money to use cement blocks as ballasts so I can sleep at night. To me, it is better to be safe and help others than anything else,” he says.