by Gary Garrahan, STIHL Inc. Manager of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health
Andreas Stihl founded our company on principles of action, not words. As you may have read in our blog post “The Road to Green is Orange” we take seriously our dedication to socially responsible environmental stewardship. In addition to focusing on the products we manufacture we also work to continuously improve our manufacturing processes and operations here in the U.S. all with the goal of reducing our overall impact on the environment.
As a manufacturer we know that one main area of focus has to be our energy consumption. The group tasked with addressing this is our Energy Task Force, an inter-departmental group of STIHL employees with different technological and scientific backgrounds. Our broadest and most successful project so far has been changing out light fixtures and bulbs, adding reflectors, reducing the number of bulbs per fixture, and switching to energy-efficient fluorescent ones that require 63 percent less energy. We ended up replacing over 1000 fixtures. We also installed motion sensors to make sure we only use electricity when we need it. Because of this project we were able to save around 250 kW per hour. When you work three shifts around the clock 7 days a week, that adds up to some significant savings.
We recently completed construction of our newest green roof on a 55,000-square-foot addition to our accessories manufacturing facility. This is our third extensive green roof; roofs that are covered in plants and require little maintenance. Though initial investment in a building with a green roof is higher than a traditional roof, the benefits are significant. Our green roofs help reduce energy used for heating and cooling, help filter storm water runoff, and help reduce outside noise (which for us is a big plus since we are located very near a Naval air strip). Overall we have planted 200,000 Sedum plants over 158,700 square feet of roof.
We are always on the lookout for new technologies that can help us generate, harness and even return power to the public grid when possible. One example is wind turbines. We installed two on the roof of one of our plants in late 2011, and the test was so successful that we installed another four on the roof of one of our warehouses.
Each turbine is eight feet tall and produces an average of 2.25 kW per hour. The turbine itself weighs 241 pounds (110 kg) and has an increased operating span over traditional turbines starting with winds as low as 0.5 mph (0.2 m/s) winds and an auto shut-off at 38 mph (17.0 m/s). Although the generated energy is not yet enough to be fed back in to the local grid, it does help reduce our overall consumption.
Landfill waste has a major impact on the environment. Recycling is the principle way to reduce this waste. This past year we started a “Zero Waste” project with the goal of completely eliminating all of our solid waste going to landfills. We are addressing one recycling approach at a time, continuously improving our program. We have already made significant progress including:
- Cardboard: We discovered that 40 percent of our solid trash consisted of cardboard. In just 6 months we reduced this percentage to less than 5 percent.
- Paper: We are currently recycling more than five (5) tons of paper per month. For every ton of recycled paper, we help save 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 4,100 kWh of energy, five (5) cubic yards of landfill, and eliminate 60 pounds of pollutants.
- Plastic bags and shrink film: We separate and recycle plastic bags and shrink film at our assembly lines and other areas throughout the manufacturing facility, reducing our waste by several hundred pounds of trash per shift.
- Polymer (“plastic”) parts: We take excess polymer from the manufacture of components like handles and trimmer guards and grind them up to be reused in the production of non-equipment items like trimmer line spools.
- Battery recycling program: We started a battery recycling program with the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC). Containers are installed throughout our campus and employees can drop off rechargeable, non-rechargeable and non-RBRC batteries for recycling.
- Recycling of electronic devices: STIHL also teamed up with Goodwill Industries of Virginia enabling our employees to donate their unwanted and unusable electronic equipment. Goodwill either disposes of the unusable electronics in the proper way or uses the donated equipment in the repair or reconditioning of other electronics.
Recently all of our efforts paid off when two of our buildings, our Finished Goods warehouse and our Export warehouse, received the EPA’s EnergyStar rating which recognizes superior energy efficiency. Buildings with this rating use 35% less energy and produce 35% less greenhouse gasses than similar buildings across the nation.
And we will continue to work towards reducing our environmental impact and increasing environmental awareness in our vendors and business partners. After all, taking care of nature is the very basis of everything we do.