2017 Green Business Awards
“Growing up in the construction industry, I know how much steel and wood and recyclables have been generated for decades and have ended up in landfills,” says Forrest McNabb, president of the Mountain West Region for Big-D Construction. That’s why it now fills him with pride to visit Big-D worksites and see dumpsters filled and labeled for recycling—and to see how buildings the firm has constructed, like the Salt Lake City Library, the Matheson Courthouse and the Natural History Museum of Utah, have become instant icons of sustainability.
Through McNabb’s leadership, Big-D Construction has become a top player in the industry’s sustainability movement. The firm’s corporate office, completed in 2004, was the first LEED Gold Historic Renovation in Utah. Now, Big-D boasts a portfolio of more than 70 LEED projects and its staff includes 65 LEED accredited professionals.
The firm is committed to learning, practicing and teaching sustainability, says McNabb. And that commitment starts with Big-D’s executive team. “If leadership doesn’t support it, it won’t happen,” he says. Big-D has adopted a goal to incorporate best sustainable building practices into all of its projects, whether the project is seeking LEED certification or not. A lasting legacy of McNabb’s efforts is the culture of sustainability that has permeated the organization. “When our people embrace that, and you see it every day, it’s a powerful thing,” he says. “They’ve got it now. They own it.”
The leadership at Dell EMC has set some lofty sustainability goals for the company. They call them their “Legacy of Good” goals, and those company-wide goals are making waves not only in Utah, but everywhere the largest privately held IT company reaches.
“While we want to be green and sustainable in Utah, it’s not a Utah-specific phenomenon for Dell EMC,” says Vance Checketts, vice president and general manager, Americas Centers of Excellence. “It’s a corporate initiative for the world.”
Those company-wide goals are, in part, Dell EMC’s desire to demonstrate 100 percent transparency in their supply chain, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and water usage by 20 percent, as well as energy usage by 80 percent. Dell EMC is recovering 2 billion pounds of used electronics, to be recycled, reused or properly disposed of. The goals are quite detailed: Checketts boasts that Dell EMC packaging is either recyclable or compostable—or even edible.
“It’s not exactly recommended,” he laughs. “But it’s a material made of mushroom, and we have some recipes you can use with it.”
In Utah, Dell EMC encourages UTA ridership by subsidizing eco-passes, and the company’s new building is LEED Silver certified. Dell EMC has been recognized as a Utah Clean Air Champion, and has saved 496.1 tons in CO2 emissions.
From its founding, environmental sustainability has been a core philosophy of the Salt Lake Brewing Company. Director of operations James Soares says turning the founders’ philosophy of “closing the loop” into a reality has become a driving force in the company.
Consequently, Salt Lake Brewing Company was one of the first companies to sign up for Momentum Recycling’s glass recycling program. The company also installed motion-activated lights in its restrooms, as well as efficient LED lighting, waterless urinals and water-wise toilets. The company is part of Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky program, and its Salt Lake City locations are members of the Green E2 Business Program. The company recycles, turns its frying oil into bio-diesel and, most importantly, says Soares, it acts as an ambassador to the business community as a whole.
“The important thing is that we don’t just implement our programs, we then go out into the business community and become ambassadors and educate others,” says Soares. “We do this because it’s not just financially important for the business community, but it’s responsible toward the planet that we live on.”
That education, he continues, is just as important as implementing sustainability initiatives within. “As our company grows, so does our responsibility to the community.”
The Goldman Sachs Group
Global financial services firm Goldman Sachs released its Environmental Policy Framework in 2005, after the firm realized that “environmental stewardship was becoming an integral part of our business and how we operate in the communities where our employees and clients live and work,” says Cindy Quan, global head of environmental, social and governance for the firm. As part of its environmental framework, Goldman Sachs pledged to achieve carbon neutrality and to use 100 percent renewable power across its operations by the year 2020
To achieve those goals, the firm has emphasized sustainability throughout its operational facilities—including its offices at 222 S. Main and 111 S. Main. These two offices house a combined total of 2,300 Goldman Sachs employees. The firm achieved LEED Gold certification for the fit-out of eight floors in the 222 S. Main building. It renovated another floor in 2014, earning LEED Platinum certification for that project. And Goldman’s operations in 111 S. Main are on target to attain LEED Platinum certification for commercial interiors. When that happens, Goldman Sachs’ LEED portfolio in Utah will encompass 292,000 square feet of commercial space.
Goldman Sachs considers itself a peer to other companies that are striving to achieve sustainability goals, says Quan. The firm hosted a Project Skyline presentation at 111 S. Main earlier this year in order to share its best sustainability practices with the Salt Lake business community.
Sometimes, the solution to one problem can have a domino effect. For Aqua-Yield, a quest to make fertilizer more efficient has resulted in significant water and cost savings for both it and its customers.
“I got an interest in crop nutrition and agrichemicals, and the one thing that became glaringly obvious as I worked with all these materials … is they’re very inefficient,” says Clark Bell, CEO and co-founder of Aqua-Yield.
Bell’s family has run a sod farm since 1979, so he comes by his knowledge of fertilizer’s limitations honestly. In mass-produced fertilizer, only a third to two thirds of nutrients typically make it to the plant, he says, and the rest is runoff that can cause unintended consequences downstream. The technology and processes developed and patented by Aqua-Yield is more efficient, and Bell quickly found those gains in efficiency had positive side effects.
Because plants grow faster, they require fewer days of watering, and yield also increases. For garden giant Del Monte, that meant a 75 percent reduction in water and a 30–64 percent increase in yield. For a sod farm in Georgia, growth cycle was cut by more than half, saving millions of gallons of water.
“When we started this, it was just to make fertilizer more efficient so you could use less. Now we are almost four years into it, and here are all these other things we’re doing,” he says. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Power plants put out a lot of heat. Greenhouses need heat. As they say, waste not, want not.
In 2016, California-based Houweling’s Group built a new greenhouse next door to Rocky Mountain Power’s natural gas-fired Currant Creek plant, a culmination of almost three years of planning and development in the collaborative effort between the two companies.
“So you look at it and say, ok, you have this power plant here and one of its waste things is heat, and what we need is heat,” says Casey Houweling, proprietor of Houweling’s Group. “That gives us the right kind of footprint we want, and you’re doing it without the need for natural gas or carbon to heat the facility. We tied it into the stack of the power plant to provide CO2 for the plants and also heat.”
A significant portion of the heat from the Rocky Mountain Power plant is redirected to water, which runs through pipes to heat the greenhouse, and CO2 emissions are used to enhance plant growth. The partnership not only reduces emissions from the power plant, but cuts down on emissions and costs the greenhouse would have incurred by having to heat up the place itself.
It’s not a new idea, Houweling says, just an underutilized one due for a rebirth. “It’s not genius. It’s kind of a no-brainer, when you have an industry that has a waste product that another industry has to go out and create,” he says. “It’s dumb not to marry the two together, I think.”
If you’re trying to grow plants in the desert, water is always an item for concern, and it’s one Albert Wilde, owner of Croydon-based Wild Valley Farms, has been toying with for a while. His solution is from an unlikely source: sheep.
“I knew wool held water, and I used it in some of my wife’s plants, and it worked well, so then the plants also grew well,” he says. Wilde comes from a long line of sheep ranchers, and raises sheep himself. Wool’s success as a natural additive to help aid in water retention was one thing—wool can hold up to 20 times its weight in water—but Wilde also found that it added significant nutritional value to soil, as well.
Wilde partnered with Utah State University and the University of Florida, as well as a consultant from Michigan State University, for his research and development of the idea. The finished product uses wool in the form of pellets to mix in with soil, and reduces the need for watering by up to 25 percent. It is currently being marketed to commercial growers, but Wilde hopes to expand sales to consumers. As for his business, it’s growing wild. “Just because of the benefits it’s had, we’ve had a lot of really good response,” he says. “We’ve been growing really fast.”
Starting an in-office recycling program or switching out light bulbs for LED lighting is all well and good, but for CBRE, conservation and ecological responsibility are attitudes to foster as a corporation.
“As an organization that has offices around the world, there’s a great sense of community we have and responsibility that we carry as an industry leader for the places in which we work and live,” says Mark Bouchard, senior managing director and co-head of the Southwest Market area for CBRE.
That culture gets down to the individual employee during CBRE’s Green Week, which started a decade ago as a single day of ecologically minded activities but has expanded to fill a solid week and has been adopted by the office globally. For Green Week in Salt Lake, CBRE employees have done activities like taking a Green Bike tour downtown with someone from the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency and touring a local landfill to learn what can be done to reduce waste.
While it may have started as a one-off activity, Green Week—and the spirit and practices the event supports throughout the year—has become part of CBRE’s DNA. “It’s very much a culture at the office as a whole and it’s very much engrained in the employees,” says Kathleen McMillan, marketing manager for CBRE in Salt Lake. “I think a lot of the employees are drawn to CBRE because this culture exists. It’s not like we have to brainwash or indoctrinate our employees—they’re already on board.”
PlanSource Financial Services, Inc.
While Utah is known for its stunning vistas and plentiful outdoor recreation, it’s also known for its frequent bad air days. PlanSource Financial Services is doing its part by encouraging—and rewarding—employees for reducing the amount they drive. The company provides employees with a transportation reimbursement benefit for using public transportation, including Green Bikes. Employees and departments are also rewarded with gift cards for consolidating or reducing trips during the annual Clear the Air Challenge.
In addition to helping employees create a smaller carbon footprint, PlanSource has transitioned to being almost completely paperless, and promotes recycling of trash, electronics and paper.
“As a healthcare technology company, our goal is to provide our clients with an automated online process that relieves them and their employees of having to use paper to complete their benefits enrollment. We want to ensure our internal culture and processes reflect our goal for our clients,” says Jagdish Chugani, vice president of human resources at PlanSource. “We started participating in the Clear the Air Challenge through the city to encourage our employees to promote the use of biking, walking, public transportation, and carpooling, and reduce our community’s carbon impact. PlanSource is a responsible employer and we and our employees care for our planet and act in a sustainable way.”
When Vestar bought The Gateway and set aside $100 million to revitalize the shopping center, part of its plan was always to make the 15-year-old outdoor mall a little more green. In the year or so since, The Gateway’s carbon footprint has shrunk dramatically, and it is on track to reduce more emissions in the future.
“It’s part of our corporate culture, because we’re part of the community and we believe that improving the community is part of that [responsibility],” says Edie Trott, marketing director for The Gateway.
These changes include replacing the light bulbs on The Gateway’s bulb-lit signs and in its parking garages with LEDs, which has drastically reduced not only energy costs but the frequency with which the bulbs need to be replaced; installing electric vehicle charging stations; and new, more efficient hot and cold water loops. The changes have reduced the center’s overall kilowatt hour usage by more than 20 percent and will eliminate more than 900 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
The attitude behind implementing the changes is one shared among all of Vestar’s properties, Trott says, and it’s long since proven to be economically sage as well as ecologically friendly. “I think whenever you can combine something that’s good for the environment, visually pleasing and cost-saving, you should do it,” she says.
Park City is so committed to its sustainability efforts, the city has laid out goals that are considered the most ambitious in North America—and one of the most ambitious by any city in the world. Park City plans to have net zero carbon and use 100 percent renewable electricity by 2022, and intends for those goals to be adopted community-wide by 2032.
“Every sustainability goal that we’ve passed in the past two years has been passed unanimously by City Council. Once we set these ambitious goals, it made the path clear of what we need to do,” says Luke Cartin, environmental sustainability manager for Park City Municipal Corporation. “When you’re on this tight of a timeline, everyone gets it.”
Park City has already rolled out several plans toward its goal. Its electric bike share program—the nation’s first— opened July 19 and, one month later, already has logged 5,000 bike trips and over 19,000 system miles. Park City is bolstering its electric city buses with an electrified bus route to Kimball Junction and has pledged to only purchase electric buses in the future. The city has also set a net-zero standard for all new public buildings.
There’s plenty more going on in the city’s plans, says Cartin, and sustainability efforts will only grow stronger as that 2022 deadline approaches.
Increasingly, cities across the country are taking on climate change, and that’s because they are uniquely positioned, at a micro level, to make a difference. “A lot of times, that’s where decisions are made about resources or policies,” explains Tyler Poulsen, sustainability program manager for Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City recently established Climate Positive 2040, a platform for the city to document its progress on some pretty ambitious goals. Through a Joint Resolution proposed by Mayor Jackie Biskupski and adopted by the City Council last November, the city resolved to achieve 100 percent renewable energy for the community electricity supply by 2032 and to achieve an 80 percent reduction in community greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
The goals are ambitious, but Poulsen believes they will be achievable through the city’s partnership with Rocky Mountain Power and other collaborations. And because the city will be purchasing increasingly large amounts of renewable energy from Rocky Mountain Power, Poulsen says they hope the effort will catalyze development of new renewable energy sources.
Climate Positive 2040 encapsulates a range of programs, projects and collaborations intended to address climate change and other environmental challenges. “Investing in renewable energy, clean transportation systems and sustainable food programs not only reduces carbon pollution, it also builds an identity for our city and hope for the future,” says Mayor Biskupski.
Almost 50 percent of Utah’s air pollution is connected directly to our tailpipes. Utah Clean Cities Coalition exists to help support organizations in their quest to reduce their emissions and contribute to clean air through partnerships, grants, incentives, planning tools and school curriculum materials.
“We’ve reduced 51,000 tons of CO2, which is equal to 13 wind turbines, 1.35 million trees or reducing 120,000 barrels of oil,” says Tammie Bostick-Cooper, executive director of Utah Clean Cities Coalition.
The coalition, which has existed in Salt Lake City for 25 years, reaches out to companies and truck fleets to help them understand what impact they can make on air quality. Fleets, says Bostick-Cooper, contribute 20 percent of air pollution, so Utah Clean Cities Coalition is reaching out to fleets to urge and help them go electric or use cleaner-burning alternative fuels. The coalition has also started to incentivize businesses to put in charging stations in their parking lots.
As companies understand their options—and what help they can get—they become empowered to do more. “Utahns recognize there’s a problem. And our stakeholders are saying: ‘How do we address this locally?’ We have shown that we are chipping away at that problem,” says Bostick-Cooper.
Geneva Rock Products
When you think of green innovation, you may not immediately think of an industry like sand, gravel and asphalt production. But local construction services company Geneva Rock Products has been at the forefront of green innovation in its efforts to reduce vehicle emissions and dust pollution. Early this year, Geneva Rock unveiled a fleet of 25 compressed natural gas (CNG) concrete mixer trucks and a CNG fueling station. The $8 million investment was just one part of an overall $30 million investment in clean air initiatives.
In 2013, Geneva Rock built a state-of-the-art, zero-waste watering system at its Point of the Mountain facility; the system reduces the dust created in its mining activities. The system also recaptures and reuses water found on the property, recycling 1.7 billion gallons of water each year. Additionally, the company created an industry-leading conveyor belt system to transport material across the mountain, dust-free, using a gravity-fed design that actually generates energy.
Jim Golding, president of Geneva Rock Products, says the company is committed to its air quality efforts for the long term. “This isn’t a flash in the pan. It’s an ongoing, innovative process in our company and industry,” he says. “We’re concerned about the footprint we’re leaving.”
Wasatch Front Waste & Recycling District operates a fleet of 46 residential collection vehicles that serve 82,000 homes every week, travelling more than 1.3 million miles each year. It’s a big footprint, and that’s why the organization decided to transition its entire fleet to compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. The process took four years, and was completed in August 2016.
The transition to CNG vehicles means the organization is now saving 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide pollution annually—a not insignificant amount in a valley plagued by winter inversions and summer smog. Wasatch Front Waste & Recycling serves seven cities and five townships in Salt Lake County. The board overseeing Wasatch Front Waste, which is composed of elected officials from the communities it serves, set a vision for the district “to be an environmental steward for the community,” explains Pam Roberts, executive director of the district.
Looking to the future, Wasatch Front Waste is working to improve the efficiency of its routing in order to reduce overall miles travelled, says Sean Summerhays, sustainability coordinator for the district. It’s also working closely with other recycling entities in the valley to collaborate and increase efficiencies throughout their systems.
Grocery stores are notorious energy hogs. It takes a lot to light up a big-box store and to keep it warm in the winter and cool in the summer—and to refrigerate aisles of frozen foods and open-air bins of perishable foods. That’s why Associated Food Stores has begun a process of upgrading its stores with LED lighting, lighting controls, and refrigeration updates and controls. The company has already made the changes in eight of its stores and has plans to update additional stores over the next few years.
These initiatives, made in partnership with Rocky Mountain Power, reduced Associated Food Stores’ energy use by 3.9 million kilowatt hours in 2016 alone, which is enough to power 437 homes for a year. And those savings will only increase as more stores are updated with the new lighting and refrigeration systems.
Bill Walley, director of construction management and retail facilities maintenance for Associated Food Stores, says customers notice the changes in the stores and appreciate the environmental efforts. “We want to be kind to our neighbors and help protect the environment,” he says. “Energy conservation helps us save money, but we’re also positively effecting the environment.”
Since its inception in 1979, Chanshare Sod Farms has focused on beautifying the environment while finding ways to conserve water. “That philosophy has driven a lot of the operations, maintenance and research Chanshare does,” says Eric Marble, marketing and public relations director for the company. That meant finding the most drought-resistant strands of sod possible and finding ways to keep the plant growing and healthy without wasting water.
Chanshare has driven its water usage down to 24 inches a year to actively promote growth in its product. The average homeowner uses 50–100 inches of water on just maintenance, Marble says, without understanding how much water is completely wasted. To combat this problem, and with an eye toward helping Gov. Gary Herbert achieve his stated goal of reducing water usage in Utah 25 percent by 2025, Chanshare Sod Farms focuses on education, going to lawn and garden fairs, and maintaining the site waterwiseit.com, which teaches the best turf management practices. People should only use 17 – 24 inches of water a year on their lawns, says Marble.
“As long as you’re using good maintenance practices, it’s easy to maintain a healthy lawn and landscape,” he says. “The principles that we teach and that we’ve learned through 40 years of doing this are really so transferable to every application.”