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In 2012, more than a billion people in 192 countries mobilized through the Earth Day Network to achieve “A Billion Acts of Green” in support of a sustainable planet. This year the event will have a global focus and encourage bold leadership by world leaders.
Here at home, many companies in Minnesota practice energy efficiency and sustainability year-round, including many of our readers. Now is a great time to celebrate your energy efficiency advances, and engage with your community and staff on the 43rd annual Earth Day. Embrace your inner green with these ideas!
Participate in Earth Day Events around Minnesota
Earth Day is an excellent occasion to find strength in numbers. Thousands of your fellow Minnesotans will be coming together to celebrate, learn and take action.
- Check out activities at the Science Museum of Minnesota (Saturday, April 20th), and bring the kiddos.
- Cheer on runners at the SCHEELS Earth Day Half Marathon race at St. Cloud State University (April 19-20).
- Enjoy visiting art galleries and museums during Art for Earth Day Hop in Duluth (April 20th).
- An Earth Day Open House and Animal Extravaganza is on tap at the Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester (Monday, April 22nd).
Host or Sponsor an Event in Your Community
Create an event with your organization, such as volunteering at Earth Day celebrations in nearby schools or parks, picking up trash in your neighborhood, and forming a Green Team to advance sustainability and energy efficiency goals at your business. Or invite customers to visit your facility to learn about your activities for reducing energy use.
Know Your Environmental Footprint
Whose conservation behavior can we influence most directly? Our own.
Sometimes our concerns about the planet’s largest sources of environmental degradation distract us from improving the choices we ourselves make daily. The Earth Day Network offers a great tool for measuring your footprint, tracking the results over time, and receiving practical suggestions for improvement.
Take the footprint quiz now, and evaluate your progress again next Earth Day.
Save Green by Going Green
Minnesota Waste Wise specializes in helping Minnesota-based businesses reduce waste and conserve resources. It’s never been easier to save money by improving environmental performance. Call or email us today to learn more about how we can help!
When it comes to successful sustainability efforts, employee engagement is a key component. While engagement can take many forms, one hands-on approach that is gaining popularity among businesses is to hold an electronic waste recycling drive for employees or the surrounding community.
Electronic waste (e-waste), made up of things like old computers, monitors, T.V.’s, appliances, and batteries, is a growing category of troublesome waste. As new and updated versions of consumer electronics come online, there is a growing stream of these items headed for disposal. Because they contain some harmful materials, like lead and mercury, and many valuable materials, like copper and gold, these items need to be sent to a certified recycler. Since individuals typically have to pay fees to get these items recycled, e-waste often sits in basements and storage sheds, taking up space and gathering dust.
In order to combat this clutter and foster employee engagement in sustainability efforts, two different Waste Wise members have taken the lead by planning and leading e-waste drives. Their efforts are highlighted below.
Marvin Windows & Doors
On November 13 and 14, 2012, Marvin Windows teamed up with 5R Processors of Ladysmith, Wisconsin to hold an e-waste drive for it staff at three of its locations in Eagan, Grafton, and Warroad, Minnesota. During the two-day event, an estimated 11.5 tons of materials were collected and recycled. “We experienced recycling at its finest as many grateful people cleaned out their basements and other storage areas to take advantage of this,” commented Wayne Pearson, Waste Management Supervisor who coordinated the event for all three Marvin-owned facilities. Marvin employees appreciated the chance to support company recycling efforts while clearing their homes of unusable electronics and saving the cost of landfill fees.
Wayne Pearson, of Marvin Windows, contributes a printer to their e-waste drive
Sappi Cloquet, LLC
In October of 2012, Sappi Cloquet, LLC held an e-waste drive for employees at its Cloquet, Minnesota mill. Over the course of the drive, an estimated 19 tons of recyclable materials, ranging from computers and fish finders to televisions and welding tools, were recycled through John’s Twin Ports Recycling of Duluth, Minnesota. Further analysis by Waste Wise was able to help Sappi estimate the quantities of precious and hazardous metals, along with other materials, that were diverted from a landfill. The drive was such a success that Sappi is considering expanding the effort in coming years.
The trucks sit full from Sappi’s e-waste drive.
Waste Wise wants to congratulate both Marvin Windows & Doors and Sappi Cloquet, LLC on their exceptional recycling efforts. These e-waste recycling events were very effective in getting company and employee materials recycled while also providing a valuable resource to the local community. If you want to hear more about their successful efforts, let us know and we can get you in touch with representatives from each company.
If your company is interested in coordinating an event similar to these, contact Waste Wise for assistance. We will be happy to help get you started and can assist with the planning efforts.
Want to give electronics recycling a try on a smaller scale? Waste Wise offers a free program to recycle small electronics, including cell phones, laptops, and printer cartridges. When you sign up, a pre-paid shipping container will be sent to your workplace. Once it is full, you can send it back and get a new pre-paid box. Call2Recycle also offers a similar program for recycling a wide variety of batteries.
Waste Wise would like to welcome guest blogger Julie Warner, marketing manager for Warners’ Stellian, a Twin Cities appliance retailer, and new Waste Wise member. In the following blog post, Julie describes her company’s extensive efforts to reduce its environmental impact and conduct its operations in a sustainable way.
Warners’ Stellian has responsibly recycled appliances for years, and our warehouse facility built in 2005 includes photo-sensing lighting, an energy-management system and an “economizer” cooling system. But in the last few years, Warners’ Stellian took the initiative to address a less-obvious, yet huge environmental concern within appliance retail operations.
Appliances come with tons of packaging – literally. Plenty of cardboard still cradles refrigerators and washers for safe shipping. But more frequently manufacturers wrap appliances in Styrofoam. This nonbiodegradable material gained such ubiquity, it accounts for about a quarter of landfill waste, according to the Sierra Club. And worse yet, it doesn’t decompose. Robert Warner, Warners’ Stellian vice president and director of operations, estimates the Styrofoam accounted for 85% of our waste.
Styrofoam packaging makes up a large portion of Warners’ Stellian’s Waste Stream
Moreover, additional packaging such as plastic wrap, wooden pallets, steel banding and even the steel screws add up to a whole lot of potentially reusable material that — for the majority of companies — ends up in our waste stream. Plus, waste of that volume requires constant shipments, which means plenty of fuel consumption and labor.
Appliance and cardboard recycling have been a part of our mission for many, many years — but we wanted to do more, Robert said. “We’re moving beyond recycling pop cans. Whatever we generate that we can recycle, we’re doing.”
With the support of our customers and staff, Warners’ Stellian made a significant investment in a machine that compacts Styrofoam into 1/20th of its original size while processing it into a reusable format. Consequently, the compacted packaging takes up far less air space, so it uses a fraction of the fuel to transport from our facility. This compactor is one of only two in the state. (Additionally, our fleet vehicles automatically power down after only 5 minutes of idling to further reduce our fuel consumption.)
An employee loads styrofoam into the machine’s hopper.
Our recycling program’s success relied heavily upon support from every area of our company, from sales associates educating customers, to delivery crews keeping packaging materials separate after uncrating appliances, to warehouse staff cleaning and processing the material.
The Styrofoam compacting process requires intense labor. The material must be completely devoid of all cardboard, tape and staples, so staff must dedicate time to picking all of these items off the Styrofoam before it can be loaded into the compactor.
“It’s very labor intensive to sort, and it’s not a profitable endeavor — especially at this point — for us,” Robert said. “But the motivating factor is doing the right thing.”
The machine puts out logs of densified polystyrene
Scrap metal and cardboard are recycled through Waste Management, in addition to the replaced appliances. Plastic wrap is collected en masse and donated to Merrick, Inc., a nonprofit providing vocational opportunities to adults with disabilities. Merrick sells this material to a company for reuse.
Warners’ Stellian now recycles 85% of the waste we generate, exceeding the goal we set of recycling 75% of our waste. To put it in perspective, Warners’ Stellian previously hauled our 40-year roll off waste container three or four times per week. Our recycling program reduced those collections to only three or four times per month!
Our volume of packaging material isn’t rare among our peers, yet our resolve to reuse it still is. Executives from leading appliance brands learn about our recycling program and see the processes first-hand when touring our facilities. A visiting vice president of Frigidaire/Electrolux commented that only two or three facilities on par with ours existed in the independent network of appliance retailers nationwide.
The logs of polystyrene are then loaded onto pallets and sold to processors that make them into new materials
We’re proud to blaze a trail in our industry nationwide, but we’re also hopeful our efforts to promote our program educates customers on the impact purchases have on the environment and the value of supporting sustainable business practices. We also hope this knowledge increases consumer demand and motivates other small- to medium-sized businesses to realize no business is too small to take steps to decrease its environmental impact.
We aren’t aware of other retailers — certainly none of our size — meeting the challenge of nonbiodegradeable packaging as we are, and we hope to serve as an example of what local business can do to lessen the environmental impact we have on our communities.
A video of Warners’ Stellian’s Styrofoam compacting process can be viewed at: http://is.gd/fduWm.
Warners’ Stellian Appliance Specialists locations include:
· Apple Valley Cedar & 42
· Edina Across from the Galleria
· Maple Grove 494 & Bass Lake Road
· Minneapolis Outlet Diamond Lake Road & Nicollet Avenue
· Rochester 1318 Apache Drive SW
· St. Paul Snelling & Larpenteur
· Woodbury 494 & Valley Creek Road
WARNERS’ STELLIAN: Warners’ Stellian is Minnesota’s retail appliance and grill specialist. Family owned and operated for more than 50 years, Warners’ Stellian provides an unmatched shopping experience with incomparable services. For more information, please visit www.warnersstellian.com.
In the past few months, it has been exciting to see growing news coverage related to waste and recycling in the Twin Cities Metro. Among others, The Pioneer Press ran a great series of articles about composting, Finance & Commerce featured a great story about business recycling.
For the past couple of months, KARE 11 partnered with Rethink Recycling to take this coverage to the next level with The Great Green Challenge. The 11-week series on KARE 11’s 5 pm Tuesday night broadcast followed the station as it implemented a variety of efforts to reduce waste and conserve resources at its headquarters, while encouraging other businesses to commit to doing the same by taking Rethink Recycling’s Pledge. Each week of the series focuses on a different facet of waste reduction and resource conservation, including:
Week 1: Finding a Champion
Week 2: Looking in the Bin
Week 3: Reducing Waste
Week 4: Troubleshooting Recycling Programs
Week 5: Donating Unwanted Items
Week 6: Making Meetings Green
Week 7: Composting!
Week 8: Buying Green Products
Week 9: Making Landscaping Eco-Friendly
Week 10: Training Staff
Week 11: The Emily Program
No matter the size of your business or where you are in your sustainability efforts, Minnesota Waste Wise can help you with any of the topics listed above, and many more. If you want to learn how you can reduce your business’s footprint, contact us today.
For a dose of good news on a Friday before a holiday week, today we are sharing a success story from a business that worked with us with through a partnership with Ramsey County. This particular case shows how a bit of creativity and a lot of follow-through on the part of a business owner led to substantial cost and waste stream savings.
Tom Johnson, owner of A. Johnson & Sons Florist on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, scheduled a basic site visit when Minnesota Waste Wise staff stopped by his business to introduce services under the Ramsey County contract. At that time, A. Johnson & Sons had a recycling program for cardboard and employees were taking some plastic, glass, and metal containers home with them to recycle. However, there were no convenient options to recycle the largest part of the business’s waste stream—organic materials made up of stems, cuttings, and pieces of plants and flowers sold at the store. Waste Wise conducted a waste and recycling evaluation focused on those materials, in order to establish a recycling program.
Waste Wise evaluated A. Johnson & Sons’ facility and current systems in order to determine the best way to establish an organics recycling program and identify other opportunities to get materials out of the dumpster. Because all of the organic materials produced at the business could be classified as yard waste, Waste Wise recommended contacting Walters Recycling and Refuse, their current hauler, and a Waste Wise member, to see if the materials could be included in their residential yard waste pick-up program. In addition, Waste wise recommended switching their cardboard dumpster to a single-stream dumpster that could accept cardboard, paper, and mixed containers together. To complement these changes, Waste Wise recommended adding signage and training staff in new procedures.
Within a week of receiving their recommendations, A. Johnson & Sons worked with Walters to establish the first commercial yard waste pick-up that the company had ever contracted. In addition, they switched their cardboard dumpster to single stream, enabling them to divert all paper, along with metal, plastic, and glass containers from their dumpster. Walters helped A. Johnson & Sons to reduce pick-ups from their trash dumpster, which decreased those bills and the associated taxes. While there were costs associated with establishing the additional recycling options, A. Johnson & Sons is still saving about $600 on their waste bills while recycling an estimated 22,000 pounds of organic materials per year. According to business owner Tom Johnson, the changes have already been beneficial: “We are actually seeing a savings in our billing as trash is taxed 70% and compost is not taxed. Thank you for your help in coming up with these ideas. Everyone here is excited for this change.”
If you are interested in finding ways to reduce waste or save energy at your business, please contact Minnesota Waste Wise today!
Minnesota Waste Wise is proud to announce Will Steger as the keynote speaker at our Annual Meeting on October 2 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Will is an educator, explorer, and environmentalist whose groundbreaking expeditions have taken him tens of thousands of miles by dogsled, foot, canoe, and kayak. Steger joins Amelia Earhart, Robert Peary and Roald Amundsen in receiving the National Geographic Society’s prestigious John Oliver La Gorce Medal. In the following blog post, he outlines his long history as a businessperson and provides a brief introduction to his latest venture: an off-the-grid sustainability retreat center. He will be providing more detail, along with a formal announcement of the project, at Minnesota Waste Wise’s Annual Meeting on October 2.
The Intersection of Business and Environment
By Will Steger
Polar Explorer, Founder: Will Steger Founation
Many people know me as a polar explorer, educator and champion for sustainability and environmental action, but behind much of this work, I have long been a businessperson. Over the years, I have built my passions for education and exploration into businesses that have engaged millions in the preservation of polar regions and wilderness areas and made my achievements in exploration possible. As someone who has long sought to do business in a sustainable, socially-responsible way, I am excited for my upcoming keynote speech at Minnesota Waste Wise’s annual meeting on October 2, where I will be speaking about my experience as a business person, and announcing my newest venture.
My business roots began as a means to enable a self-sufficient life on my homestead and fund expeditions into the wilderness. When I was 25, I packed up and moved to the woods outside of Ely, MN, in order to build my capacity for outdoor education and exploration. In 1980, I founded Lynx Tracks, an outdoor school that focused on dogsled-based exploration. Over my career, I have led some of the most significant polar expeditions in history, including a seven-month, 3,741 mile crossing of Antarctica by dogsled. While these expeditions were primarily noted for the extreme conditions and physical challenges, they also carried extreme financial and logistical challenges that necessitated the agility and precision of a skilled business manager.
As I successfully completed expeditions, I began building a bigger dream—an off-the-grid conference center and sustainability education model that would use a wilderness setting, along with skilled facilitation, to inspire leaders in business, government, and academia to tackle the challenges facing them. I designed this conference center as I was crossing Antarctica and, for the last 20 years, have built it the old way, using re-used, recycled, and sustainably-sourced building materials, and completing fabrication and construction in my small wood shop on-site. Once it is completed, it will be almost completely self-sufficient, employing a mix of the latest sustainable technologies for building design, energy efficiency and generation, food production, and sanitation. I envision it being a strong community, and a model that decision makers can look to as inspiration for their business, government, or nonprofit organization.
And so now, I move into the next phase of my career, working with companies across Minnesota and around the world to build a model for environmental and social sustainability in the Minnesota wilderness. I am in the final stages of completing my business plan and will be bringing my idea to the public to seek partners, sponsors, and investors, much like so many early-stage entrepreneurs. I see the homestead as a venue where businesses across industries can showcase their products and companies, and how they fit into a sustainable economy. I have long believed that businesses are tremendous engines capable of solving problems and enriching lives, and I am excited for the opportunity on October 2 to engage the business community in order to build economic strength through environmental responsibility.
The root cellar keeps our food cold in the summer and unfrozen in the winter.
Every winter since 1967, we have harvested ice off of the lake to stock our ice house. This keeps the root cellar cool through mid-September.
A group of teachers meet at the homestead for a retreat on the role of science in education
View from the 4th floor, inside the conference center.
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.
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.
Earth Day 2011 – April 22nd – is quickly approaching. Since the very first Earth Day forty-some years ago, this one day each year has provided an opportunity for companies to hold environmentally-focused celebrations, to launch new programs, to encourage employee participation in service projects. Admittedly, this day just like so many other days, has tended to become commercialized, perhaps sometimes to the point that it becomes a turn-off, especially to those who tend to be skeptical about “green” in the first place.
The reality is that we should be thinking about our environmental impact year-round, not just for a single day. This isn’t to say that we all will identify with being a “greenie.” In fact, many of the world’s most successful companies recognize environmental impact as an integral part of their business operations, but they don’t really think of themselves as being “green.” Environmental sustainability is practical, really practical, for business, and the environment is just one part of the triple bottom line, “people, planet and profit” that defines true sustainability.
So, back to Earth Day 2011. This day is an opportunity for businesses to empower employees through education, training, creativity and connectedness. Employees who feel connected and valued contribute, both as employees and citizens. Earth Day also provides an annual opportunity to reassess the authenticity and impact of current environmental sustainability initiatives, to establish new goals and evaluate the past year’s achievements. Celebrate the day as a stepping stone to the year to come. Happy Earth Day 2011!
During Earth Month 2011, consider making contributions to your favorite nonprofit environmental organizations. Waste Wise helps businesses save money through environmental sustainability. Your contributions are appreciated to help us continue our mission of servicing businesses throughout Minnesota.
Donate to the Waste Wise program today!
Green. Ten years ago this was just a color associated with nature, Kermit the Frog, and an integral part of a rainbow. The word didn’t mean very much alone. Now, the word “green,” in and of itself, has a powerful (and often misleading) implication of being environmentally friendly. This could be a product, a service, a company or even a person.
Sustainability – people, planet and profit – is an integral part of business operations. As a result, “green” products and services have saturated the marketplace. As business and consumers have recognized the benefits of sustainability in general (it’s not all about the environment) many companies have moved to consider environmental impact into their purchasing procedures. But where to begin? Why is authenticity important? And how can purchasing green negatively affect a company?
There are many shades of green. Environmental purchasing policies generally place priority on green products that perform equally or better than their non-green counterparts. It is crucial – as a business and consumer – to make educated. Consider these factors when selecting green products and services, and choose the shade of green that meets your goals.
Cost: Why does green cost more and are you spending more on a product that doesn’t have any positive environmental impact? There are many products that have green features but aren’t even marketed as such…..and they don’t cost more.
Where and how is it made? Here’s the simplified reality: China is buying a lot of our stuff and recycling it into new stuff. We buy that stuff, which continues the cycle. Buying local can be important for many reasons such as decreased transportation impacts and supporting local jobs.
But the reality is that we live in a global marketplace and generally speaking, the majority of our purchases have multiple components that come from multiple places.
What is your goal? Global impact, addressing a bigger picture such as greenhouse gases? Looking at one factor, such as post-consumer recycled content? Packaging? Chemicals – health impact and/or environmental impact? Disposal – the reality of whether a product can actually be recycled? And into what?
As I’m sure you’ve already heard – it’s Give to the Max Day in Minnesota. Generous folks across the country are donating to their favorite Minnesota non-profits through GiveMN.org (http://givemn.razoo.com/story/Minnesota-Waste-Wise-Foundation). GiveMN has been helping Minnesota non-profits raise money for several years. Last year, donations totaling over $14 million dollars poured into worthy causes across the state. Check out the Star Tribune article about Give to the Max Day: http://www.startribune.com/local/108044464.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUvckD8EQDUs.
Of course, we would love to have your financial support. Your donation would go directly into programs and resources to help businesses and organizations across Minnesota. And it’s tax deductible: http://givemn.razoo.com/story/Minnesota-Waste-Wise-Foundation. But if not Minnesota Waste Wise, then please consider donating to another non-profit or charity – we could all use a little help these days if you’re able. Thanks.