Porsgrunn Local Authority
Read about how a Norwegian local authority saved NOK 500,000 and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 tons in just six months.
About Porsgrunn Local Authority
Located in one of Norway’s largest industrial regions, Porsgrunn has around 2,700 employees and 37,000 residents.
In support of the municipality’s climate project, digital solutions provided by EcoOnline were used to monitor, report, and assess the risks of chemicals.
Norwegian local authority leads the way on chemical reduction
In early 2022, Porsgrunn Municipality, a local authority in Southern Norway, presented its first climate budget to contribute to reducing greenhouse gases. The results were remarkable.
After six months, the region had already reduced the use of over 1,000 chemical products and made a significant financial saving of NOK 500,000 (around £41,000).
Many local authorities in Norway have established climate budgets to put measures in place to reduce their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. Porsgrunn is the first to include the reduction of chemicals as a concrete measure in their climate budget.
Rose-Marie Christiansen, a councillor in Porsgrunn said, “We are proud to see that the climate budget, which is part of the municipality’s action program for 2022-2025, is already showing positive results. As a municipality in the country’s largest industrial region, we are keen to work with sustainability at all levels and to reduce our climate footprint in everything we do.
“In addition to the financial and environmental gains, we also see the value this project has for the health and well-being of the municipality’s employees and residents.”
Safe use and handling of chemicals
Recent figures from the Norwegian Occupational Safety and Health Administration show that over 200 Norwegians receive a cancer diagnosis each year from exposure to dangerous chemicals in the workplace. Research also highlights that 20% of all lung cancer cases and 10-15% of all asthma cases in adulthood are due to work-related exposure to hazardous substances.
Employees in Porsgrunn have gained a better understanding of the impact that everyday products can have on health. Christiansen said, “Most people associate chemicals with test tubes in laboratories. But when they learn that everyday products like detergents, glue, and paint are chemicals, it is easier to understand that this is important for everyone.”
“In a municipality, many professions are represented, from teaching to cleaning work. Therefore, we believe that our experience is something that all companies who handle chemicals can benefit from.”
Tove Sørensen, Porsgrunn HR advisor
At the start of the project, Porsgrunn had 4,000 registered chemicals distributed among 44 businesses and 119 departments within healthcare, environment and urban development, education, and administration. The municipality action program aimed to reduce 10% of chemicals by 2023. Incredibly, after just six months, they had already exceeded this target and reached 16%.
Porsgrunn’s HR advisor Tove Sørensen, who is responsible for leading and implementing the project, said, “Some people probably thought that including the reduction of chemicals in the climate budget would only have a small impact.
“However, the fact that we got approval for this project has meant a lot to the employees. When I talk to the various businesses, they feel they are helping to make a difference that impacts health and the environment.”
Many of the region’s employees are directly involved in the project through training and practical implementation. Ewalina Pracon works as an assistant and safety representative at a local nursery, she said, “For me, the most important thing about this project is to be able to save the environment and create a safer environment for the employees and children.”
Greater awareness of the risks associated with chemical use has led to EHS improvements throughout the region. It has promoted safer alternatives and methods, such as replacing chemical products with microfibre cloths and water. A considerable number of workplaces were guilty of carrying unused chemical products due to inadequate purchasing procedures.
Elisabeth Bjørsrud, a nurse in the municipality’s ambulatory service, said, “With fewer products, there has been less to think and worry about. This is not only positive for our working environment, but for all those we help in their homes.”
Firefighters in the region have also benefitted from the project. Despite their increased workplace risk of hazardous chemical exposures linked to toxic smoke, EHS advisor for Grenland Fire & Rescue, Silje Fehn, believes the project has led to positives for firefighters beyond chemical safety.
Fehn said, “The most important thing about this project has been focusing on the health and safety of all crews. We have also significantly benefitted from coordinating routines for risk assessments and procurement across the different fire stations in the municipality.”
Measuring the impact
The project needed to produce concrete results. Porsgrunn collaborated with EcoOnline to help calculate the impact.
“Seen from a global perspective, the chemical industry is one of the most energy-demanding industries in the world. It is important to remember that everything is connected. For us, it is about the meaning of ‘all streams are small,’ for example, that our measures also have positive consequences by reducing the negative footprint throughout the entire value chain.
It doesn’t help if we live a nice, green life here, but pollute another place on the planet," said Yngvil Holt, Climate Coordinator in Porsgrunn Municipality.
EcoOnline’s Global Head of Sustainability, Helene Brodersen added, “To quantify the reduced number of chemicals and understand it financially and environmentally with kroner and climate footprint, we have used a method developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“The formula is used today by many government agencies, companies, and non-profit organisations to calculate carbon footprints and environmental challenges. To ensure credibility and account for possible error margins, we use the factor with the lowest value when calculating, responsible for sustainability in EcoOnline.”
The municipality is currently looking to explore further possibilities to generate more significant results.
“In a municipality, many professions are represented, from teaching to cleaning work. Therefore, we believe that our experience is something that all companies who handle chemicals can benefit from,” said Sørensen.
“The next step is to investigate the possibilities of using the principles of the circular economy better to utilise the reserves of chemicals across businesses. A bit like Gumtree for chemicals,” said Christiansen.
Porsgrunn wants to share its experiences so that other local authorities across the globe can achieve effective results quickly and without incurring high costs to implement.
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