Local waste Fighters

What some area businesses are doing to keep it green

When the TCBN asked, we received – dozens of emails about what you and your businesses are doing to keep Traverse City the oasis it is. Here is a sampling of what is green in Traverse City and ideas you may well want to, well, reuse, you might say.

Room service

In 2010, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa set a goal to reduce the amount of landfill waste by 10 percent in one year. They partnered with nonprofit Bay Area Recycling for Charities to help recycle items that the other major trash haulers would not accept, and to compost food waste. They began composting food waste in March 2011 and have since composted over 25 tons.

In addition, they've diverted over 40 cubic yards of #3-7 plastics from the landfill. "We've met and exceeded our 10 percent goal and decreased our waste stream by an astounding 40 percent in less than one year!" says PR manager Michael DeAgostino. "After we started these programs, Bay Area Recycling for Charities was flooded with calls from smaller hotels in our area who wanted to start these programs at their properties. They said, 'If the Resort can do it on such a large scale, then why can't we?'"

Check, please

Northern Michigan Veterinary Hospital recycles paper and plastics like most businesses, but Kara Peck, practice manager, notes that they do little things that count, too. When a vendor mails them a statement with a return payment envelope, they often pay by credit card online and instead use the envelopes for in-house items and memos. "Employees might get their paycheck in a Verizon envelope, but what do they care, as long as their paycheck is inside!" Peck says.

Step on it (again)

Floor Covering Brokers and Cash n Carry Flooring in Traverse City both offer recycling of carpet and padding to their customers and the public. "By recycling the carpet and pad we add zero waste to our landfills locally," says Tim Hyland, owner of Cash n Carry, which offers free recycling to customers. There is a minimal charge to the public to drop off their own carpet or pad.

Floor Covering Brokers partners with CLEAR (Carpet Landfill Elimination and Recycling), a recycling facility in Wisconsin, for processing and re-use in new carpet and cushion, park benches, car parts, sound barriers and more.

FCB accepts used carpet and cushion, for a fee, from homeowners, commercial property owners and even competitors, in the interest of keeping these materials out of landfills. "Over four billion pounds of carpet per year are dumped into our landfills, creating roughly 3.5 percent of all waste," says FCB's Dennis Lauterbach. "This represents nine million barrels of oil."

Light it up

Batteries Plus in Traverse City opened in October and is already a leader in green business. It recycles all rechargeable batteries, such as automotive, cell phone, computers and cordless tool batteries, for free. In addition, for a small fee, they recycle alkaline batteries and light bulbs (many of which contain mercury). They provide energy-saving advice and sell a variety of energy efficient light bulbs, as well.

And it's not out of the question for the staff to head out to a location to sort, box and label large stockpiles of used fluorescent lamps, arrange pickup and delivery to a certified bulb recycler. And they practice what they preach.

"At our store we run only energy-efficient fluorescent lighting and use it to demonstrate to customers the cost-savings potential of relamping," said Tom Drainville, co-owner.

On a roll

TART Trails, Inc. has one of the smoothest re-purposing ideas around: their Recycle-A-Bicycle Program. Gently used donated bicycles are refurbished and given to people in need for transportation purposes. Qualified applicants receive bikes through a partner organization such as Father Fred, Women's Resource Center, Child & Family Services, Goodwill, area schools, Help Link and others.

Lunch on it

Oryana Natural Foods Market is a name synonymous with "green" in Traverse City. Their recent addition includes a café that's all about reuse. The addition was designed and built using LEEDS protocols and includes recycled materials such as: old patio doors for windows, gymnasium flooring for wall paneling, and recycled doors for tables. They also integrated natural lighting and low-flow toilets, as well as hot water solar panels.

They took it outside too: The old concrete floors and walls were removed from the building and are now pavers and benches on the patio, while rainwater is collected from the roof and used to water the gardens that feature native plants. Each day, customers enjoy natural goodies on compostable, reusable or recyclable cups, plates, bowls and cutlery. And, bonus, they offer a 5 percent discount to customers that get to the store by alternative means.

Fine print

Village Press handles the responsibility of its paper and ink business with care, and, sometimes, a little pizzazz – such as their "cyclone" system, which vacuums the paper waste from each machine and creates large bales for efficient recycling.

For their customers, they offer the choice of Forestry Stewardship Council certified paper stock. This is a "chain-of-custody" certification which verifies that all of the suppliers who have manufactured or handled this paper – all the way from the forest to the paper company to the printing company – have very specific standards of conduct, said Dave Moore, VP president.

Village Press also offers ways for clients to split shipping costs, resulting in fewer shipments, fewer cartons, and a smaller carbon footprint.

Staying on track

SEEDS, a nonprofit organization fostering local solutions to global issues, makes a point of measuring its carbon footprint via greenhouse gas emissions each year. In 2011, it was accountable for releasing 508 metric tons of CO2 equivalents (mtCO2e) into the atmosphere (63 percent of which were due to transportation). They were able to offset 18mtCO2e by using black locust trees instead of treated lumber for projects.

SEEDS also tracks who it makes purchases from. "We can definitively say we primarily use vendors who are real people or businesses owned by local people. Seventy-five percent of our expenses are posted to real folks within 100 miles of TC, and this does not include fuel nor big box store purchases," says Sarna Salzman, executive director.

Setting the tone

Northern Office Equipment has a number of green efforts in place to help the environment and has been lauded by Grand Traverse County Resource Recovery Council for its recycling program. "At large toner-consuming customer locations, recycle bins are provided for customers to dispose of waste toner and toner bottles from copiers and printers," says Steve Rozanski. "We either pick up these containers or provide free shipping back so they can be recycled. In addition, all old office machines no longer operational are picked up to be recycled."

Healthy measures

Since fans are the number one energy drainer in most buildings, Munson's Surgical Services Renovation Project incorporated drives and premium efficiency motors to power fans that move air and control operating room temperatures.

Elsewhere in the hospital, Environmental Services uses microfiber mops on patient floors that use less chemicals, and Munson has implemented a new process that assures that pharmacologically-active substances are not disposed of in such a way as to enter the environment and contaminate water and soil.

Cleaning it up

The Cherry Tree Inn purchases BeeKind shower products that come in paper tubes that can flatten to take up to 95 percent less space than a plastic bottle. The packaging is biodegradable and a portion of the proceeds goes to the University of California-Davis and its research of bee pollination. It also recycles its unused soaps. "We fill large totes with the unused soaps from our departed guest rooms and send them to a company that sanitizes them, melts them down, re-cuts them and distributes them to impoverished areas of the U.S. and other countries," says GM Jonathan Pack.

The no-waste zone

Northwestern Bank is no stranger to being green. In addition to recycling paper, plastic and metal at each of its 28 offices, one of its offices is LEED-certified and certification is underway at others. Twice yearly it hosts electronic waste drives that keep thousands of pounds of e-waste out of landfills. But it has taken green to the next level by investing in the Stoney Corners Wind Farm near Cadillac and the Garden Township Wind Farm in the U.P. "Stoney Corners is one of the most significant wind projects in the state with 29 turbines at an installed capacity of 60 megawatts," says Doug Zernow, marketing director for the bank. BN