Sustainability Sense

Archive for the ‘green business’ Category

The Sustainability $ense Blog is Back

The Sustainability $ense blog has been on hiatus but we’re back with interesting stories and useful information. We’d like to begin our reentry into the blogosphere with a guest post from the President and CEO of long-time Minnesota Waste Wise member Murphy Warehouse Company. Murphy Warehouse Company recently overcame great odds when the solar array on two of their buildings was damaged by the tornado that ripped through North Minneapolis in 2011. We hope you enjoy the read.

Jill Curran
Acting Executive Director
Minnesota Waste Wise

Protecting your solar investment

By Richard Murphy, Jr.
President and CEO of Murphy Warehouse Company

Minneapolis-based logistics firm Murphy Warehouse Company strives to use green technology whenever feasible. So in the fall of 2010, we began installing solar panels on the roofs of our warehouse buildings. Since then, Murphy has become the third largest solar generator in Minnesota, generating 320 kW annually.

Getting to this production level has not been without its difficulties. In the summer of 2011 the durability of the Murphy Warehouse solar array was put to the test when a deadly tornado ripped through the North Minneapolis area. The path of the storm ran right over two of the company’s warehouse buildings in Fridley. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but semi-tractor trailers were flipped, warehouse doors were blown-in, and a large air handler was blown off the roof.

As the damage was being assessed, the Murphy Warehouse team expected the solar arrays to be heavily damaged or missing as they are not designed to be anchored via roof penetrations but rather rest on rooftops with ballast to prevent future leaking. Unbelievably, the panels never moved, but rocks and other debris carried by the storm left chips and cracks on the reflective glass surfaces of the panels. Since the solar circuitry within the panels must stay dry, the company needed to find a unique, cost-effective solution to fix the remaining panels if they were ever to be reused. Although the panels were covered by insurance, Murphy staff wanted to put them back into use, rather than seeing them go to waste.

Through connections with the solar installer, the Murphy Warehouse team worked with a producer of windshield sealers to develop a new glue that was able to seal the damaged glass panels without interfering with their solar capturing ability. Within six months, the repaired panels were put back into service atop the Murphy Warehouse logistics campus in Minneapolis. Even if these panels only last us five to ten years – well short of their 25 year lifespan – we will have made a full return on our investment in solar technology. A strong commitment to renewable energy and a little ingenuity can go a long way.

About Murphy Warehouse Company
Murphy Warehouse Company is a family-owned, full-service supply chain logistics company based in Minneapolis. Founded in 1904, Murphy Warehouse is one of the Upper Midwest’s largest asset-based logistics firms and serves more than 250 customers ranging from Fortune 500 to start-up companies. Murphy Warehouse works with their customers as strategic partners to create and maximize logistics solutions. The company provides a wide range of services, including 3PL, distribution, transportation, cross-docking, fulfillment, warehousing and administrative, as well as international logistics through their Midwest International Logistics Center. Follow Murphy Warehouse on Facebook.

U.S. Recycling….and a Slow Boat to China

In working with a variety of businesses and organizations, we often get questions – and subsequent comments – about whether a particular recyclable material is going to be sent to China. And just to clarify, the questions are not generally asked with the hope that China will be a recipient of our recyclable commodities. And oftentimes, the answer is “quite possibly,” but of course always dependent on what type of recyclable material we’re talking about.

“American-made” is a long-held ideal…..thus, it is the catalyst for many of the conversations about where our recyclables end up. And the topic has seemed to come up frequently in recent years with the recession having such a significant effect on businesses and jobs. The catch is that we are also living in a much more global marketplace; we are not on an island of isolated production and consumption. Recycling has, for the first time, has now become an integral part of the U.S. economy and therefore sees all of the impacts that affect the rest of global trade and industry. It is often forgotten that those recyclable materials that we ship to China – and other countries – comes back to us in the form of “stuff” that supports our culture of consumption. In other words, we’re buying the stuff and so the cycle continues.

Should Small Businesses Care About Sustainability?

A valid question in today’s time-strapped-cash-strapped business climate. It’s all too easy to write off new initiatives—such as sustainability—during an economic recession; and when most employees are already asked to do more than humanly possible in a 40 hour week. But sustainability should not be overlooked, even by small businesses. The pressures on disclosing environmental performance by customers, governments and even employees will continue to escalate. Large businesses are already feeling the heat, which has been trickling down the supply chain. Just look at Wal-Mart and its demands on vendors (many of them small businesses).

Beyond the reasons small businesses will have to address sustainability, there are many reasons why they should do so voluntarily. And ahead of the curve (if it’s not too late already). Sustainability commitments can yield more, and new, business. Sustainability can save on your bottom-line. And add to your top-line through innovation – an area where small businesses often excel. And sustainability, believe it or not, attracts and retains talented employees. Something all businesses are looking for these days.

So the short answer – absolutely.  Read on:

Greening your Holidays: Giving Gifts

 The first thing that often comes to mind when thinking about green gifts is the waste generated from gift wrap and cards. This waste becomes particularly significant when realizing that much of the waste is not reused or recycled – if it is, indeed, recyclable. We’re often drawn to fancy, embellished cards and gift wraps. The problem with many of these items is that, although they are made from paper, they have foil and other decorations that prevent them from being recycled. How about reuse? This option is ideal but not the first thing that comes to mind when we’re excitedly ripping open gifts.

What about the gifts themselves? How many gifts do we give – and receive – that are never used? How often do we give gifts “for the sake of giving something?”

As you draw names for Secret Santa or shop for loved ones during this holiday season, consider the environmental impact of the gifts. Consider replacing your holiday work party and gift exchange with a company-wide service project that benefits the community. If your company receives cards from clients or customers, consider donating them to a local school or daycare to use for art projects. Or better yet, request that your clients opt to donate to a local charity rather than sending cards or gifts. Hold your work party at a local nursing home or soup kitchen. If you purchase gifts, buy useful items that are wrapped in reusable bags.

There are many ways we can green our environmental footprint during the holidays. Is the gift thoughtful? Was it made in an eco-friendly way, does it contain post-consumer recycled content or reused materials? Are there “greener” alternatives to this item? Is there something that could be repurposed or homemade instead of buying new? Can it be easily reused or recycled? And so on…

Corporate Environmental Sustainability Still Strong in Tough Times

Historically, environmental initiatives have taken a backseat during difficult economic times.  Not this recession.  Consumers are still demanding ‘green’.  And, more importantly, companies large and small are realizing the economic benefits.

We live in a natural resource constrained world.  Millions of people are entering the middle class as new, hungry consumers.  With this higher demand for natural resources comes an increased cost, both financial and environmental.  Innovation, resource efficiency, cradle-to-cradle, zero waste – these concepts and actions are leading businesses out of the recession and into the future.

Similar to the technology industry’s rapid advancements (rotary phone-to-cordless phone-to-iPhone; typewriter-to-word processor-to-iPad), businesses that rapidly and continuously invent solutions to our environmental issues and incorporate sustainability as an ongoing business model will lead the way in environmental protection and shareholder profits.  This is why many top businesses are betting that this wave of environmental awareness and green innovation is here to stay – even in tough economic times.  After all, a sustainable business also means a company that stays around for many years to come.