Green Business: Utah companies that are walking the walk when it comes to sustainable business
Providing unique experiences for employees and investing back into the community are values baked into Clearlink’s mission. With those objectives in mind, the company launched a Clean the Air with Clearlink campaign in 2015 to engage employees in projects that would improve air quality in Utah.
Clearlink employees cleaned up trash and debris from Big Cottonwood Canyon and performed ranch work for three animal sanctuaries in Utah County: Hoofbeats for Healing, Courage Reins and Friends in Need. The campaign culminated in a tree-planting event, where Clearlink partnered with TreeUtah to plant a single tree for every employee, for a total of 1,400 trees.
Trees provide enough oxygen for two people, so Clearlink’s trees will bring clean, fresh oxygen to 2,800 residents in the Salt Lake Valley. According to TreeUtah, a mature tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide each year, truly helping clean the air along the Wasatch Front.
The company has organized many community giving events for its employees throughout the years. Jessica Jones, vice president of people and brand for Clearlink, says the projects are tailored to the interests of employees. “There is just a genuine passion in our workforce for these efforts,” she says. “We’ve seen an evolution of the things we get involved with as employees become engaged and learn more about community issues.”
As a brand, Subaru has devoted itself to green initiatives. In fact, all Subaru of America vehicles are built in zero-landfill plants. Mark Miller Subaru is following that lead with its own initiatives to conserve water and energy, and reduce and recycle waste. As a result, Mark Miller Subaru’s two dealerships each earned Subaru Eco-Friendly Dealer status and are the only dealerships in Utah with that designation.
Mark Miller renovated its dealerships in 2011 and used that opportunity to improve the facilities with 76 percent post-consumer recycled carpet, low VOC paint and sealants, high-recycled content flooring material and exterior panels made with 85 percent recycled aluminum. The roof has a white roof membrane that reflects more of the sun’s energy back into the atmosphere, reducing cooling needs. In the car wash, 75 percent of the water is recycled, saving about 75 gallons of water per wash. The lighting system is complete with sensors that detect daylight levels and adjust the electric lighting as needed.
Joshua Goldsmith, culture director at Mark Miller Subaru, says employees are proud to work at a company that is making such a huge investment in green initiatives. But more importantly, it has motivated them to make changes in their own lives. The company isn’t resting on its laurels—it plans to add solar panels and is looking at ways to become a zero-landfill dealership.
Finding innovative technical solutions to environmental challenges comes naturally to the engineers and technicians at Boeing Salt Lake. The site is constantly looking for new ways to make its products and operations more environmentally friendly, says Larry Coughlin, general manager of Boeing Salt Lake. “Every time we get to mess with a building, our engineers have fun with it,” he says.
For example, the new state-of-the-art paint hangar includes a rooftop solar thermal system that uses sunlight to help heat the facility’s water. The site has incorporated LED lighting for increased lumens on the factory floor and reduced energy consumption. Boeing Salt Lake’s recycling rate is an impressive 77 percent, with most of the rest going to “waste to energy” facilities. In fact, in 2009 Boeing Salt Lake became the first Boeing site to send zero manufacturing waste to landfills.
Employee participation is key to the success of Boeing’s recycling efforts. “It takes everyone on our team to fulfill that endeavor,” says Coughlin. Employees have even developed a composting program that lets them take certain waste materials home for composting.
Boeing, which celebrates its centennial this year, has a vision to be “an enduring global industrial champion,” says Coughlin. “Every day we’re looking for innovation.”
Leadership in Sustainability
David Brems’ entire career has been centered around sustainable design, both as a designer of revolutionary structures and as a teacher and mentor to those in his profession. He earned his Master of Architecture degree in the 1970s and launched his first practice in 1983, founding it on principles of design excellence and environmental responsibility.
But it wasn’t until the 1990s, he says, that sustainable design began to sweep through the industry. One major turning point was the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City. Brems chaired the sustainable building committee for the Olympics, helping develop standards for the new facilities that would be built for the games. In fact, his firm, GSBS Architects, designed the Speed Skating Oval, one of the very first LEED buildings in the world. More recently, GSBS provided the design for the Salt Lake Public Safety Building, one of the world’s first large net-zero buildings.
Brems’ impact has been industry wide. He chaired the national AIA Committee on Design in 2006, uniting that committee with the AIA Committee on the Environment to develop a collaborative vision, “The Architecture of Sustainability.”
“Architecture consumes more energy than any other thing. That presents a huge opportunity,” says Brems. “Designing a nice looking, attractive building isn’t enough anymore. It must be designed for energy efficiency. Net zero buildings are the future.”
When Okland Construction crafted its own headquarters building in Tempe, Arizona, the firm seized the opportunity to create a structure that embodied its own values. The building, finished in 2010, received LEED Platinum certification for features like computer-controlled external shading that maximizes natural daylight while controlling glare and heat gain.
Okland Construction has built some of the Intermountain West’s most iconic sustainable buildings with projects ranging from the 111 S. Main office building to the LEED Platinum, net-zero Salt Lake Public Safety Building. Many of the newest sustainable buildings on the campuses of the University of Utah, Brigham Young University, Salt Lake Community College and Arizona State University were built by Okland Construction.
While Okland has an extensive portfolio of LEED certified buildings, the company works with clients to incorporate sustainable features and strategies into any project, whether or not it is seeking LEED certification. The company encourages its employees to become LEED Accredited Professionals and now boasts over 50 LEED APs within its ranks. Additionally, it has formed an alternative energy group that focuses on solar arrays for projects ranging from small rooftop systems to large solar farms.
The Utah Clean Air partnership, or UCAIR, is a statewide clean air organization helping individuals, businesses and communities make small changes to improve Utah’s air quality. Its mission is threefold, according to Executive Director Ted Wilson: educate, partner, and provide grants and loans.
“Our air quality is so bad that it can be very injurious to people, particularly those who have respiratory problems, pregnant women, the elderly and the young. The health concern is number one. The second thing is the bad effect on our business climate,” says Wilson. “Our mission is to educate the public about things they can do to help with the air quality. We give out grants—in the three years I’ve been here we’ve given over $750,000 away, all privately raised, in about 32 different grants.”
UCAIR is housed at the Department of Environmental Quality, where Wilson says they work hand-in-hand with scientists who help select projects with the greatest potential impact for grants. UCAIR is a non-policy organization, which Wilson says makes others more immediately receptive to their message.
“Air quality is ambient. It’s everywhere. It’s coming from multiple sources any day of the week. Every one of us contributes to air pollution,” says Wilson. “So anything you can do to make the solution apparent, you have to! It won’t be solved any other ways.”
Water is the No. 1 ingredient in all of Swire Coca-Cola USA’s products—so protecting it is also the company’s No. 1 priority in its sustainability initiatives. “We recognize that’s where we have to be environmental stewards,” says Mike Bernier, director of sustainability and environmental affairs.
To that end, Bernier says the plant has a metric: they measure how much comes through the door in the manufacturing plant, how much goes in the product and how much goes down the drain. Through that water usage ratio, the company works hard to improve efficiency with strategies like water reclamation, sending water that would normally go to a wastewater treatment plant to non-product activities instead. Since 2006, these strategies have helped the company avoid the use of over a billion liters of water.
Another major initiative for the company is its Replenish project, geared toward protecting natural water resources. Swire Coca-Cola has partnered with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy and Coca-Cola North America. The company estimates its projects return in excess of 275 million liters of water to nature every year.
“One of the things that’s important among the Coca-Cola system is maintaining the resilience of not only our company, but the communities around us,” says Meagan Knowlton, sustainability and environmental specialist. “One way to do that is the maintenance of resources that keep everyone healthy and living a long life. We are members of our community.”
When entering the University of Utah College of Architecture + Planning, students in any of the departments—be it Multi-disciplinary Design, Architecture or Metropolitan Planning—quickly become well versed in the college’s mission of social and environmental responsibility.
“One thing we try to hit is the idea of environmental stewardship. We word it as responsibility to past, present and future generations. We have ‘4 Rs’ of our commitments (responsibility, resilience, respect and response), and that’s the first one,” says Dean Keith Diaz Moore, Ph.D. “What we try to do is have them do what we call triple bottom line thinking: people, planet and prosperity are all connected. The DesignbuildBLUFF project works with the environmental features, but also social and economic implications.”
DesignbuildBLUFF is a graduate program focused on giving students an immersive experience with cross-cultural community engagement. For the past 12 years, the program has worked in Southern Utah, creating a dialogue between students and the local Navajo population and the population of Bluff. The 2016 DesignbuildBLUFF project, Cedar Hall, is an 850-square-foot multi-use space that includes rainwater collection and was built from 70 percent recycled materials.
“We try to talk about how we can be as close to net zero as we can. How can we live lightly on the land? That’s a theme that the program has,” says Moore.
There are inherent costs to owning a home that many people may not know or forget about when purchasing a home for the first time. For those on a fixed income, this can be a catastrophic discovery to make. To solve this problem, the Salt Lake City Housing & Neighborhood Development (HAND) division decided to think outside of the box.
“We sat down as a group and talked about energy savings and said: ‘Let’s take it to the next level. Let’s look at doing a passive home,’” says Mike Akerlow, director of HAND.
What resulted was the 2,100-square-foot, four bedroom, two-and-a-half bath Emery Passive House, which was completed in late July 2016. The design is indeed “next-level, beyond EnergyStar,” says Akerlow. There is no condenser or furnace in the house; temperature control is done through an exchange of air and incredible insulation. There is a foot-and-a-half overhang on the house that takes advantage of the lower sun in the winter and shields the structure from the higher sun in the summer. Every leak is sealed, and the house has triple-pane windows, a sealed attic space and an insulated basement slab.
Along with the home, HAND also launched the new Housing Innovation Lab, an initiative Akerlow says is to “encourage progressive thinking in home development in the city.”
“I want developers to see that you can build these efficient homes for not a lot of money and save money in the long run,” says Akerlow.
Mike Dalley, Oldcastle Mountain West division sustainability director, says the Staker Parson Companies want to be known as a company that takes care of its customers, employees—and the environment.
“Our environmental principle has been to be the preferred source. We’ve recognized the fact that if you conserve resources and reduce pollution, you’ll be more profitable in the long run,” he says. “Following environmental regulation is not just ‘following’ to us—we want to go above and beyond.”
Staker Parson was a finalist for the National Asphalt Pavement Association’s 2015 Ecological Awards. The company’s Brigham City plant, which became operational three years ago, uses warm-mix technology, which reduces raw material usage by roughly 5 percent. The company also retains all storm water run-off and controls fugitive dust through the paving of surfaces and chemical treatment of roads. The plant participates in Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky program, and Staker Parson purchases 9,000 megawatts of renewable wind power, which translates into an annual savings of 37 tons of carbon dioxide.
“Our environmental compliance program has been turned into an awards program—all the plants are in competition with each other. It’s dramatically improved how well the environmental management system has been perceived by the employee system and plant operators,” says Dalley. “We’ve been able to document continual improvement over the past 10 years of this program that every year, the plants get better and better.”
For Commercial Lighting Supply, going green has been their way of staying ahead of the curve.
“There’s so much competition and it’s the only way we can be successful. It’s the only way we can add value. If you’re not helping your customers save energy, you’re no different than any other wholesale distributor,” says Mark Barton, president of CLS.
The 34-year-old company has focused on eco-friendly lighting since Rocky Mountain Power launched its green-power initiative in 2002. Providing eco-friendly options is good for business in setting Commercial Lighting Supply apart from its peers and giving customers a marketing tool with being able to boast about LEED-certified lighting.
A challenge has come in the rapid change in technology. Because standard lighting remained relatively unchanged, Barton says, stock was more or less good forever. Eco-friendly lighting is quickly obsolete, so it’s unwise to have a glut of it. On the other hand, the company needs to keep enough stock to be able to service customers who might not have upgraded to the shiniest new technology.
Additionally, the same energy incentives that spurred CLS’ foray into eco-friendly lighting options have been the company’s biggest challenge—and advantage, Burton says, due to their complex regulations.
“Once you figure it out, it’s a significant competitive advantage and a little bit of a barrier to entry because it takes competitors a little while to figure that out,” he says.
Vivint Solar is in the business of using sunlight to make energy, and it has worked so well for the company that executives have tried to extend that same principle to their employees—literally.
Over the last two years, Vivint Solar has made a special effort to get employees outside. For Earth Day 2016, employees were encouraged to take a picture of themselves doing something in the great outdoors and post it on social media with the hashtag #brighteroutside. The campaign got nearly 500,000 impressions and reactions, comments and shares.
In addition, the company’s new headquarters in Lehi is LEED-certified, has natural light in every room, is located near a UTA bus stop and a TRAX station, and has a bike locker room to encourage employees to not drive to work. There are also measures to reduce waste and promote conservation internally.
Nick Hansen, employee experience manager at Vivint Solar, says the company is passionate about practicing what it preaches when it comes to being eco-friendly. That passion has helped build a strong company culture that aids in recruitment.
“It’s really important to us as a company to remind our employees what we’re really doing,” he says. “If [employees] are just at their desks for the full eight hours, it’s easy for them to lose track of Vivint’s mission to make the world a brighter place.”
Waste & Recycling
Catering, by its nature, is not an eco-friendly business. Between the containers used to transport food to the often disposable dishes diners use to the wasted food afterwards, it can be tough on Mother Earth.
Le Croissant Catering is trying to change that. The company has made a pointed effort over the last six years to reduce its waste in general by using china service, rather than disposable dishes, and containers made of bamboo or sugarcane, which are biodegradable, instead of Styrofoam.
“We do what we can to mitigate waste in general. We worked out arrangements with the shelters,” says co-owner Kelly Lake. “We can take food if the client wants us to take any useable food to the shelters. We really like being able to do that.”
In addition, all of the scraps made in the process of cooking are put into a bin and sent with a green waste company to be turned into compost for a variety of places. The company is currently a 94 percent non-landfill destination. Executive Chef Don Sanchez says coming from a corporate culinary setting to one where being green is at the forefront of business has been an adjustment, but one that has been infectious for the staff.
“Are we, as a small business, making that big of an impact? Maybe not. But we have all these employees who work for us who have had their eyes opened,” he says. “They’ve really embraced that and jumped on that lifestyle.”
At the heart of Raytheon Company’s culture is efficiency in engineering and the conservation of natural resources. A few years ago, the company decided to expand that attitude to the rest of its operations. It began an employee education program about what materials could be recycled and placed recycling bins next to trash cans in the break and conference rooms. Now recycling is practically in the company’s DNA, says Tom Armstrong, principal engineering fellow for Raytheon Company.
“Our workforce received the program very well and are quite supportive of the effort, taking extra care to place materials in appropriate bins in our break and conference rooms,” he says. “Today, the program practically runs on its own it’s so ingrained in our behavior.”
Beyond merely throwing paper in the recycling bin, 10 percent of the workforce are members of the company’s Environmental Health, Safety & Sustainability committee, which discusses proper waste management and how to improve processes on the site. The recycling and committee participation run hand-in-hand with other conservation efforts, including reducing emissions and waste, responsibly disposing of electronic and hazardous waste, and a spill response training program that helps prevent waterways from being contaminated should there be a fuel or chemical spill on site.
Orbit Irrigation Products Inc.
Orbit Irrigation Products Inc. has always looked to new technology for smarter water use, and the proliferation of smart devices is no exception. The company’s b-hyve Smart Wi-Fi Sprinkler Timer features traditional timer controls, but adds additional control from a user’s phone, tablet or computer. The app continuously monitors weather and uses that information to send adjustments to the timer. The result saves up to 30 percent of water use.
The timer also builds on the newest standards available from the Irrigation Association by adding a scheduling multiplier that considers movement of water within the soil, increasing water savings even more. In addition, the app factors in the technology of the Irrigation Audit App, which allows it to use extremely accurate values for uniformity and sprinkler precipitation to help craft possible watering schedules. Using these features, users have the potential to get another 20 percent in water savings.
The b-hyve timer is made with global components in Orbit Irrigation’s factory in North Salt Lake, making the device locally made, as well.
For homeowners wanting to build or renovate their homes to utilize some of the market’s green features, it can be tough to get their money’s worth, says David Bollard, marketing and creative director for SecurityNational Mortgage Company. SecurityNational has sought to ease or eliminate some of those frustrations through its specially designed green premium mortgages, which help those eco-friendly upgrades be recognized in the value of the home.
“Energy efficiency is the way of the future, and we feel like at SecurityNational Mortgage we have our finger on the pulse and we want to be that top-tier mortgage lender,” Bollard says.
Part of those efforts are in helping appraisers understand the value features like solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling, and other measures bring to a home verses neighboring properties without those amenities, he says. Home owners and builders can then renovate or build with confidence that their mindfulness will pay off, he says, making green homes more common. SecurityNational also seeks to be green itself—its new office campus will have a number of eco-friendly features.
“That philosophy of being a green lender, we’ve adopted that into the way we operate corporately,” Bollard says.