Imagine being able to save your company money, burnish its reputation, and help Mother Earth all in one fell swoop. It’s a scenario that’s not too good to be true: Businesses really can improve their bottom line by being green. Whether it means less energy output, smaller trash bills, or more engaged employees, you can reap the benefits of running a sustainable business. Read on to learn how three Twin Cities companies have done well by being green.
Long before it was in vogue to be green, 36-year-old Shapco Printing found ways to run a sustainable commercial printing business. Company leaders knew it was just good business—and a great way to attract and retain customers.
“As a printer, we’re a large consumer of energy and resources, and our customers are always looking to us to be a leader and have [green] programs in place,” says Vice President Joe Avery. “It’s just smart business to take on some of these practices.”
Minneapolis-based Shapco recycles 100 percent of its paper waste to the tune of 78.5 tons each month. This saves 16,539 trees annually and 2,919 cubic yards of landfill space, according to its recycler, American Paper Recycling (APR). For its efforts, Shapco earns about $100,000 each year from APR after the recycler sells the materials.
Shapco is an enthusiastic recycler of other items too, including 975 pounds of metal plates used for printing every week, as well as 5,705 pounds of corrugated cardboard and 11,420 pounds of plastic each month. The 130-employee company also recycles 450 gallons of ink annually, which is later reused to make asphalt for roads and bridges. In addition, before Shapco’s press rags are sent out for cleaning, the company runs them through a centrifuge to extract 25 gallons of solvents every week, thus keeping them away from natural resources.
Shapco is one of APR’s 10 largest recyclers in the Midwest based on volume, says Ron Hansen, APR Midwest director of sales, adding that his organization also recycles Shapco’s wood pallets, corrugated cardboard, plastic shrink wrap, and more. “They are very diligent about recycling and separating their materials.”
The company’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond recycling, though. Shapco recently spent $50,000 to relight its facility, switching all of its fixtures and bulbs to compact fluorescents. This cut its energy usage by at least 20 percent, which—along with various credits and rebates—will help it pay off the project in less than two years, Avery says.
Shapco was the third printing company in the state to become certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which means that it sources its paper from a socially and environmentally responsible supply chain. Shapco also buys renewable energy credits from Xcel Energy that offset 10 percent of its electricity use, and it encourages conservation among employees by providing an extra 10 cents a mile in reimbursements to salespeople who drive hybrid or fuel-efficient cars.
The company focuses on running a green business because customers request it—and because it’s the right thing to do, Avery says. “It also makes it a good place for people to work. People want to work for a company that is being sensitive to these issues,” he adds. “It’s nice to work at a place that’s pushing the envelope and is not trying to play catchup.”
Lindquist & Vennum PLLP
It’s green power to the people at Lindquist & Vennum PLLP, where employees’ suggestions for being earth-friendly guide many of its green efforts. When an employee suggested that the Minneapolis-based law firm stop offering bottled water to clients and pitch the Styrofoam coffee cups, staff found a way to make it happen.
Lindquist & Vennum has a seven-member sustainable practices committee for its three offices in Minneapolis, Denver, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “The sustainability work provides a good outlet for people to share their ideas,” says Eldri Johnson, committee co-chair and a partner in the mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance practice group. “It’s really helped people to feel like they’re part of what’s happening here, and it’s brought them together.”
Using the Climate Challenge from the American Bar Association and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lindquist launched efforts in 2010 in four areas: green energy, waste, paper management, and energy usage. Of more than 250 participants, Lindquist is among seven firms in the nation and the only one in Minnesota to be named a partner or leader in all four areas.
To save paper, Lindquist encourages double-sided printing. It also increased the amount of recycled paper it uses, as well as the amount of recycled content in the paper. The firm invested in plates, silverware, and cups, ending its use of disposable items and water bottles—which saves $8,900 a year, says Dawn Costa, director of administration. Lindquist also purchases Energy Star appliances and renewable energy credits equal to its last three years of energy use.
As an IDS Center tenant, Lindquist provided input prior to the installation of a new system for the building that shuts off lights during non-work hours. The system dropped its energy consumption 10 percent between 2010 and 2011, but it’s unclear how much money that saved because Lindquist pays a prorated share of the building’s energy bill.
Lindquist also belongs to the IDS green team, which joined Xcel Energy’s Kilowatt Crackdown challenge in 2011. The team captured the “Most Valuable Tenant” award for Minneapolis. “Lindquist & Vennum is a key player on our team of anchor tenants who helped change the culture in the IDS Center,” says Jim Durda, IDS general manager. “The firm is a big part of why we won.”
Lindquist’s 340 employees are fully engaged in green efforts. More than 80 participated in its commuter challenge to carpool, bike, or walk to work for at least 21 days last summer. Others take home used coffee grounds for composting, and everyone makes an effort to use the smallest roll of toilet paper to keep it from being tossed by the cleaning staff.
At Lindquist & Vennum, no green effort is too small, says Johnson, adding: “Really, any change that you make can help.”
For years, Dale Nelson wanted to replace the lighting in the Hilton Minneapolis hotel’s public spaces with more environmentally friendly bulbs. But the technology just wasn’t consistent or affordable enough. Within the past few years, all that changed as bulbs improved and Xcel Energy expanded its rebate program.
Last year, the 800,000-square-foot Hilton replaced 4,116 incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient LED bulbs. The hotel will pay off the $114,514 project in just nine months thanks to a $52,471 rebate from Xcel and experience annual savings of $82,758. Hotel executives are thrilled with the quick return on investment, as well as how great the new lights look in its lobby, restaurants, ballrooms, meeting rooms, and other common areas.
“It’s just a no-brainer. We’re essentially removing one month of utility costs out of the building,” says Nelson, Hilton’s director of property operations. “The LEDs emulate the same lighting as before; it’s what our guests and customers are accustomed to.”
Xcel offers rebates to encourage customers to implement energy-saving projects. But they end up benefiting everyone: the less energy customers use, the fewer power plants the company needs to build, notes Sara Terrell, Xcel’s account manager for the Hilton.
The Hilton’s project resulted in “just over 1 gigawatt hour of energy that we won’t have to produce annually,” says Terrell. (That’s enough to supply about 119 homes with electricity for a year.) “Projects like these are a win-win. It’s good for the environment and it helps [the hotel’s] bottom line because they aren’t paying the energy bill they used to be paying.”
The Hilton is no stranger to green projects. The 450-employee hotel recently converted one of its chillers, used to cool the building, from constant speed to variable speed. That means the hotel uses minimal cooling in non-summer months and saves nearly $30,000 annually in energy costs. The Hilton will pay off the $122,018 project in less than three years. The hotel also installed a remote temperature control system for each guest room, which saves both energy and money—$65,000 a year, Nelson estimates.
The Hilton has long been an avid recycler of myriad materials, from paper and cardboard to cooking oil and soap. Each month it donates four to six tons of wet food waste from its many events and restaurants to pig farmers. This keeps food waste out of landfills, reduces methane emissions, and saves money on trash hauling.
Next up, Hilton will target ways to reduce its water consumption, part of Nelson’s pursuit of more ways to be green. “It’s just good business. For us, we’ve found that these projects really help our bottom line,” he says. “It is work and it does take time, but it really does make a difference.”