Green Stage: Businesses Seek Cost Savings Through Environmental Sustainability
Green is the new black when it comes to the bottom line.
Ed Belanger, operations manager at the Munson plant, said the establishment of an energy conservation team there in 2008 paved the way for both environmental and economic savings.
“Our initial natural gas and electricity consumption score was 23 out of 100,” he said. “It was the worst quartile.”
He said the health complex had worked on and updated a number of areas of concern, including upgrading LED lighting, fine-tuning boilers, switching to eco-friendly cleaning products environment and the installation of time and occupancy sensors in operating rooms.
“It was a big deal,” he said of the operating room sensors.
To maintain a sterile environment, the air in the operating room is constantly under pressure.
“We have 20 air exchanges per hour. It takes the air away from the sterile environment,” he said. “When there’s no one in there, we cut it down to six. This saved a ton of energy.
The construction of the LEED-certified Cowell Family Cancer Center in 2016 also took these concerns into account, incorporating elements such as the use of electrically charged water in the cleaning of floors, which means that no additional chemicals are necessary.
The result of all these ongoing efforts?
“In 2019, we were ENERGY STAR certified,” Belanger said, referring to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s long-standing energy conservation program. “We went from 23 to 78. We’re in the top quartile of hospitals in the Midwest for energy use.”
Given its size relative to Munson, energy gains for Mitchell Graphics in Petoskey and Traverse City were more modest. But they still impact company bottom lines and shape company culture, owner Gary Fedus said.
“It’s been an integral part of our culture from the start,” he said.
For the printing company, one of the main concerns has been to recover and reuse all products that would otherwise go to landfill.
So they partnered with Emmet County, helping to develop its waste management and recycling program, he says.
“We recycle just about every part of our waste, from carpets and plastic to personal use – my Kind bar wrapper is recycled every day,” he said.
This green mindset also affected a recent office renovation.
“Everything we had, we reused, recycled or donated,” he said.
The company has been in business for 50 years and Fedus has been in charge since 2006.
“Since I’ve been running it, (care for the environment) has been more front and center,” he said.
The company has also joined the program offered by Petoskey to supply electricity produced by renewable sources. Fedus said it will be used up to 50% of its electricity consumption, although it admitted it is slightly more expensive.
When it comes to that electricity, the region’s largest power company, Consumers Energy, is trying to do its part.
“Most important is our clean energy plan,” said Josh Patrick, media spokesperson for Consumers, referring to the company’s plan to phase out coal by 2025.
He said using a combination of solar, wind and hydroelectric power will ultimately be both more affordable and more stable than using fossil fuels. The utility’s plan is to generate 8,000 megawatts from solar power by 2040.
“It’s a stable cost,” he said. “There are more fluctuations in the (current) market.”
He said consumers’ use of energy-saving products and practices – from LED light bulbs to hydroelectric power supplied by the Ludington Pump Storage Facility – offers opportunities for energy savings. costs for the utility as well as for its customers.
“We’re one of the only companies in America that wants people to use less of our product,” Patrick said. “It puts less strain on the electricity grid.”
In Frankfurt, the owners of Stormcloud Brewing Company have retrofitted the building they purchased with LED lights and launched an employee commute program that rewards them for not driving a car or truck to work .
“It’s part of our core mission,” said Rick Schmitt, who opened the brewery with Brian Confer in 2013.
The couple have since opened a new brewing facility east of town. Not only did they install LED lights and an 8 KW solar power system, but the facility was designed with light tubes that channel daylight into the facility. Schmitt said most of the time they didn’t even have to turn on the lights. There is even a car charging station.
There are several car charging stations at Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa.
“More and more people are using our chargers,” said Jim MacInnes, owner of the resort with his wife Chris. “I can go 40 miles for $1. It’s a good thing to do these days.
It’s just one of the ways the resort strives to minimize its carbon footprint, according to MacInnes, an engineer by trade.
“When we built our last building, we used a closed-loop geothermal heat pump” for heating and cooling, he said. The five miles of pipe is reminiscent of what he did for snowmaking, where bigger pipes mean less friction and more snowmaking with less power.
And yes, lots of LEDs. MacInnes said it installed 300 LED lights in the Crystal Conference Center.
“We saved enough to power a Chevrolet Volt 200,000 miles a year,” MacInnes said.
At TentCraft, decisions made to directly benefit the company and its customers have also had an environmental benefit.
“The biggest thing is that since 2018, we’ve been manufacturing everything in-house,” said Andrew Dodson, the company’s head of content marketing and public relations.
He said this means the company can control the quality of all of its components and processes.
“Our competitors import tent frames from China with different levels of quality,” he said. “We hear customers all the time saying they’re tired of throwing their tents away because they break too easily.”
This commitment to quality and recycling extends to its own waste. TentCraft’s partnership with PriorLife, a division of Britten, allows its overprinted vinyl to be used for tote bags.
“We’ve recycled 50,000 pounds of metal since 2019, resulting in a return of over $12,100,” Dodson said.
Most of the metal is aluminum, which they claim is almost infinitely recyclable. Kelly Yauk, digital marketing manager, said TentCraft only sources aluminum from suppliers who use at least 70% recycled material.
TentCraft is also piloting a logistics program for outdoor retailer REI. Instead of purchasing a new tent for each store opening, TentCraft holds tents after use and then ships them to the next new store.
Programs like this and the fact that its tents last so long means that those companies or customers won’t buy as many tents from TentCraft.
“But (our customers) make our best sellers,” Yauk said.
On the east side of Traverse City, the new headquarters of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC) will be equipped with many green features, including high-efficiency insulation, a geothermal system to heat and cool the buildings, and smart electrical panels that reduce the load when the buildings are not in use.
Other innovations include collecting runoff from the roof, filtering it, and then using it to flush toilets and irrigate native landscaping and the on-site greenhouse. The solar panels on the ground are sized to completely compensate for the expected energy consumption. As an added benefit, the panels will provide protection from the elements for the small herd of goats that will inhabit the land when not in other reserves managing invasive species.
David Foote, GTRLC’s facilities manager, hopes the many upgrades to the Conservation Center will offset both energy consumption and costs. The goal is to achieve net zero energy expenditure, he said.