Posted: July 07, 2014
Green Colorado 2014
50 businesses striving for a smaller footprintMaria Martin & Nora Caley
The aphorism, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” is doubly true of businesses dedicated to preserving or improving the health and wellness of the planet. These companies not only positively impact the environment; they encourage others to do so, and a growing number of them go well beyond recycling paper and turning off the lights.
“I think nationally you are seeing a lot of big corporations say they are becoming greener because they know it is popular,” said Lyn Halliday, president and CEO of Environmental Solutions, a Steamboat Springs firm that provides sustainable business coaching and certification.
Halliday says sustainable initiatives can range from switching to more efficient light bulbs to constructing living buildings that essentially create no waste. “There are a lot of great commercial spaces that are much more efficient, and I think that’s what is going to drive it,” she said.
Colorado companies are not only making commercial spaces green; they’re helping make their communities more sustainable. ColoradoBiz unearthed businesses and the clever, creative and cost-effective ways to save energy, water and paper, and the high-tech methods to measure progress.
“We look for companies that understand how they run their businesses,” said Lynette Myers, administrator of the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program of the
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We look at companies that are continually improving.”
Myers — one of the panelists who helped evaluate businesses for the Green Colorado issue — adds that she is not devaluing companies’ recycling efforts. Of course, that’s a commendable start, but many companies are going above and beyond the basics with pioneering programs to help the planet. For example, one best practice is to encourage the public to engage in sustainable efforts. “What are you doing as a company and what are your employees doing to reduce that carbon footprint?” she asked.
The other panelists:
Kim Riether Coupounas, director of B Lab Colorado, which certifies businesses for meeting standards of transparency, accountability and performance. She also co-founded and serves as he chief environmental officer of GoLite, an international outdoor clothing and equipment company based in Boulder with her husband.
Jeff Hohensee, director of strategic partnerships for the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, which runs the Alliance Center, a multi-tenant nonprofit center for organizations working on sustainability.
David Payne, an instructor at the Center for Education on Social Responsibility at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado. Payne teaches MBA courses such as Topics in Sustainable Business and Socially Responsible Enterprise.
Nick Sterling, director of consulting and research at Natural Capitalism Solutions, where he consults with the food and beverage, outdoor, energy, and education sectors, and works on strategy, stakeholder engagement and communications.
Read on to discover the 50 Green Colorado companies committed to sustainability.
Metal stamping, heat treating, finishing
Metal manufacturing is an energy-intensive industry, so in 2011 Qualtek set goals to reduce its electricity and natural-gas use. The company – named a Silver Member of the 2013 Colorado Industrial Energy Challenge - created an executive position, director of E. (Energy, Efficiency and Environment), and established the E-Team, which runs projects from battery recycling to the Qualtanic Garden, which composts coffee grounds and vegetable waste.
Qualtek installed a 30-kilowatt solar array on its office/warehouse building in January 2012, and the system supplies 100 percent of electricity needs. The water used for cooling in the Heat Treat Department is diverted and reused, saving roughly 100,000 gallons of water.
The manufacturer was named a Silver Member of the 2013 Colorado Industrial Energy Challenge, and in 2013 Qualtek’s Director of E. and CEO served on Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach’s Sustainability Advisory Committee. qualtekmfg.com
United Technologies Corp. Aerospace Systems
Carbon brake disks for aircraft
Carbon brake disks help aircraft achieve energy efficiency and fuel savings. Also, the UTC Landing Systems Pueblo Carbon site refurbishes or reuses more than 100,000 pounds of carbon and recycles approximately 2.3 million pounds of carbon, metal, oil and other materials each year. In 2013 the site reduced energy consumption per pound of carbon produced by 5 percent, and reduced natural gas consumption per pound of carbon produced by 13 percent.
United Technologies Aerospace Systems has Gold Leader status in the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). utcaerospacesystems.com
High-efficiency air conditioners
Coolerado’s air conditioners work without chemical refrigerants and use 90 percent less electricity than traditional units. The environmental impact of saved energy and avoided carbon emissions would be the equivalent of planting 715,000 trees and taking 6,000 cars off the road during the last ten years, according to CEO Tom Teynor. The company projects those figures to increase to the equivalent of 12.5 million trees and 103,000 cars in the next five years. coolerado.com
Metal packaging and aerospace
Ball Corp. provides metal packaging for colossal foods and beverages companies such as Coca-Cola, Miller Coors and others. According to Director of Sustainability, Bjoern Kulmann: “From 2011 to 2013 we reduced our absolute energy consumption by 3 percent. That is pretty significant in terms of costs and environmental footprint, as we make 65 billion cans a year.”
Ball achieved its 10-year goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, so the company set a new goal: Reduce emissions by 10 percent against the 2010 baseline by 2015. By the end of this past year, it achieved a 7.9 percent reduction, according to Kulmann.
In 2012 and 2013 Ball spent $18.5 million on energy efficiency projects in its plant. The systems included heat recovery, efficient lighting and energy management. The manufacturer also has software to collect energy-related data. By the end of 2013, 33 of Ball’s 61 plants worldwide sent zero waste to landfills. That was 20 more plants than in 2011.
The company also looks at the entire lifespan of the aluminum cans it produces and is trying to reduce that carbon footprint by 10 percent from 2010 to 2020. Those efforts range from light-weighting to making plants more energy-efficient to encouraging the increase of beverage can recycling rates. The current rate of aluminum recycling in the U.S. is 67 percent, according to the Aluminum Association. ball.com
SmartWool — which makes socks, base layers and other clothing — has a different outlook on sustainability, according to Jeff Snow, digital marketing manager. “It’s not just environmental, but also a lifestyle component,” he said.
Employees are urged to use alternative transportation to commute to work. If anyone rides more than President and General Manager Mark Satkiewicz, an elite triathlete, employees earn cash or a stay at Vail Resorts.
SmartWool recently renovated its Steamboat Springs facility and used recycled materials and energy-efficient appliances. The clothing makers also participate in the city’s Spare the Air campaign, which puts up signs asking FedEx and other delivery drivers not to let their vehicle engines idle. The brand also sources its merino wool from sheep ranchers in New Zealand and traces wool to each farm, making sure the animals are well treated. smartwool.com
Maria Martin and Nora Caley are freelance writers.