April 22, 2021 – As a leader in clean energy solutions, the nature of our business makes us keenly aware of how important it is to protect our planet. We promote sustainable practices in our work and at our offices year-round, but our employees also demonstrate this behavior at our pandemic-driven work-from-home environments and within our communities. On Earth Day, members of our Sustainability Committee are taking a moment to share stories of the action they’re taking to “up their eco-friendly game” and be more sustainable in their home offices, personal lives, and communities.
Marc Prasse – Composting for Urban Dwellers
Since October 2019, Chicago-based Marc Prasse and his wife Kelsey have subscribed to a service called Block Bins. The service allows people to collect compostable waste and dispose of it separately from trash to help reduce their food scrap contribution to landfills, reduce food waste for creatures in the alleys, and produce compost usable as fertilizer – an effort that can be challenging in urban environments. The Prasse’s green bin sits in their alley and is efficiently shared by several users in the neighborhood. “We’ve found that even though we try to reduce food scraps by not overbuying food and finishing our meals, there’s still quite a bit of scrap,” Marc admits. “But even a slight change to your daily routine can have a positive impact on the environment – something that is well worth it!” They highly recommend others explore similar local options.
Silvana Bocaletti-Hernandez – Think Before You Print
When she began working from home over a year ago, Silvana found she really didn’t need to print the quantity of paperwork she was used to printing at the office. Her job entails reviewing legal documents, but she realized printing roughly 90% of her cases didn’t add value to her process. She reduced her printing and discovered multiple benefits. Besides cost savings, security, efficiency, and better organization, the environmental impact means less deforestation and pollution. Additionally, less printing means less impact from ink or toner cartridge usage – ink contains many compounds and heavy metals that can lead to solid and water pollution in landfills, while plastic from cartridges can take thousands of years to degrade. “Think before you print,” she advises. “And if you need to dispose of printed materials, always recycle them. Similarly, always recycle ink or toner cartridges!”
Amanda Marach – DIY Compost Bins
Amanda took a do-it-yourself approach to home composting. She recently built her own compost bin for her backyard using reclaimed pallets. “I also keep a small compost bin in my kitchen that makes it easy to collect food scraps while I’m cooking,” she says. “Then every few days I empty those scraps into my outside compost bin along with any yard waste or cardboard I’ve collected.” Once it breaks down into soil, she uses it as an organic soil amendment in her garden – protecting the environment from the impact of chemical fertilizer.
Ben Johnson – Green Renovations
Ben and his wife Emily bought an old brick building in the West Town neighborhood of Chicago and have been rehabbing it with the goal of making it a more sustainable commercial and residential building. First, they converted all appliances from natural gas to electricity and replaced furnaces with high-efficiency heat pumps. Next, they’ll add solar panels to the roof. Once complete, the building should generate more electricity than it consumes, making it a net-zero energy building. “Many of these steps can be taken on smaller renovation projects, too. And as existing appliances wear out, replace them with high-efficiency electric options,” Ben recommends. His experience shows that taking small steps whenever possible can add up to big changes over time.
Kristin DeGroot – Environmental Activism
Kristin lives in a town that only allows trash bags on the curb on garbage day – no garbage cans. The exposed bags attract hungry coyotes, foxes, and other animals that pick holes in the bags in search of food. Once the bags are torn, the wind carries garbage debris into the streets, animal habitats, and a nearby river. Bins for recyclable items are only two feet tall and don’t have covers, again making it easy for the wind to whisk these items wherever it pleases. Kristin and her son Leo volunteered with a campaign to elect a new mayor who had plans to alleviate this problem using heavy-duty garbage containers with lids for the town’s refuse service. The experience gave Kristin’s son a powerful lesson in eco-activism, and while their mayoral candidate did not win, they’re staying positive. “I hope the impact made from expressing a need for sustainable refuse disposal sheds light on the issue to the mayor now in office,” she remarked.
McKinleigh McCabe – Environmentally Conscious Shopping
When it comes to everyday purchases, McKinleigh diligently focuses on the products he buys, the brands from which he buys, and the overall way he consumes products. For starters, he concentrates on reducing the quantity of his purchases. Sometimes this means going without a specialty tool or even sewing up holes in old pants. “In general, I make an effort to buy thrifted/used products to reduce my footprint on single-ownership items,” he says. “When that’s not possible, I rely on multiple resources to guide sustainable purchases.” When buying clothes, he uses sustainable fashion apps or reports, such as Good on You or Baptist World Aid Australia – Ethical Fashion Guide, to check brands for sustainability impact. If McKinleigh’s looking for a specific product, he goes to a sustainable/ethical online marketplace such as Grove or EarthHero. And If he’s trying to find a brand for a specific niche, he searches the B Corp or Benefit Corporation databases for a company that’s been independently audited to meet certain sustainable and ethical standards.