Waste Not, Want Not
Berkshire businesses shrink their ECO footprint
Photo by Interprint
From the very beginning, Barrington Brewery owners Gary Happ and Andrew Mankin were committed to sustainability. They started recycling in 1995, expanding their efforts in 2008 with a solar-heated water system. Last year, they put in 480 solar panels in an adjacent field to provide electricity.
“It costs us money, but we feel we’re doing the right thing,” says Happ. Business owners who have taken such measures typically agree it’s a win-win move—good for the environment and for business.
Interprint in Pittsfield invested $2 million in 2016 toward a one-megawatt solar array on its roof, projected to provide 20 percent of the company’s annual energy consumption. The company’s director of communications Peter Stasiowski says that the impetus for installing the solar array was the technology catching up to the company’s needs.
“When our factory was built in 2004, solar panels were too heavy for our roof,” Stasiowski says. “In the decade since, the panels have become quite a bit lighter, to the point where engineers figured out that our roof would indeed support them.”
The printing company also converted from propane to natural gas last fall, partnering with Berkshire Gas Company to run a gas main from Route 20 down Route 41. Interprint’s portion of the investment was $360,000, which will be offset by a cost saving as well as cleaner energy and the ability to run the ink-drying process more efficiently.
“The fuel itself is slightly more efficient than propane, the delivery is more efficient, but the real savings is that it allows us to use less fuel to achieve the same result,” says Stasiowski.
And the company is continually working to upgrade its water-treatment process. It also has converted all of its lighting from incandescent to LED, projected to save 5,000 kilowatt-hours per year and one of the simplest efforts a business should make.
“Every business has lighting, so making sure your lighting is as efficient as possible, that’s pretty low-hanging fruit, easy opportunities worth looking at,” says Lorenzo Macaluso, director of client services for Pittsfield-based Center for EcoTechnology (CET), a nonprofit that helps people and businesses save energy and reduce waste.
Maura J. Hawkins, whose Berkshire Environmental Consulting inspects businesses and advises on environmental improvements, says that many start the process because of regulations and the desire to avoid trouble and be a good neighbor. The top three areas in which companies look for improvement are water consumption, air emissions, and volatile organic compounds. “Everyone’s concerned about their CO2 footprint, and that includes combustion sources, but there are a number of other sources that are much higher in global-warming potential than CO2,” Hawkins says, “like sulfur hexafluoride [SF6], which is used in transformers and switches.”
Williams College has a massive, ongoing effort to temper its carbon impact, with funds dedicated each year for that purpose. This has resulted in stepped-up efforts to weatherize the buildings and also replacing lightbulbs with more energy-efficient choices—a seemingly simple fix, but for a place like Williams, it’s a complicated process to switch over.
“Our exterior lights go on once it gets dark and go off in the morning once the sun comes up, so that’s a lot of energy that goes into those,” says Amy Johns, director of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiative at Williams College. “Switching over is very worthwhile both financially and environmentally.”
The college has also made sure its efforts benefit Williamstown. Williams College is the primary owner of the town transfer station and has invested in a solar array there. As a result, town buildings receive their electricity at a lower price.
Another area where the college is moving forward, and one that many believe will be a focus of the food businesses, is food waste. “It often goes into an incinerator, so you have emissions from that,” says Johns. “Or if it goes into a landfill, it decomposes and creates methane, which is a very potent greenhouse gas.”
The college already composts, but also has an ambitious dining-services project to reduce pre-consumer waste. Using a system of specialized scales, staff members weigh food waste and enter a code marking the reason it was thrown away. This will help them adjust portions or adopt less-wasteful food-prep techniques.
“The next frontier is working on what’s called post-consumer waste, which is food that people take and don’t eat,” Johns says. “We’re trying to do a similar system of weighing and trying to get a sense of what they’re wasting and why they’re wasting it.” Food waste is part of a significant effort for CET. It has partnered with Big Y to prevent wastefulness and has helped Pine Island Farm in Sheffield set-up its anaerobic digestion system, in which food waste is liquified and put through a process to create methane for heat and energy.
“They’re one of a handful of these across the state,” says CET’s Macaluso of Pine Island Farm’s new system. “They’re taking food waste and running the digester to produce a significant amount of renewable energy. They put their manure through the same system where it’s combined with food waste for a renewable-energy source all in one shot.”
CET has also been working with restaurants in Lenox to create a program to reduce food waste through a town-composting effort that’s almost ready to go, and has started the same process with Williamstown restaurants. Barrington Brewery is a key part of that effort, and owners Happ and Mankin believe it’s the way of the future.
“I think the state is going to mandate reducing food waste in the next five years, and we wanted to figure it out and get it done in 2018,” says Macaluso. “People are finally waking up and saying we’ve got some issues here, and we’ve got to work to solve them. No matter what the coal and oil and gas companies are telling us, we’re moving towards renewables. There’s no question it’s happening.”
STATS––The Center for EcoTechnology served 114 Berkshire businesses in 2017. That resulted in these total savings:
Electricity kilowatt hours
Natural gas therms
The energy use and waste reduction savings combined with incentives added a total of about $230,000 to the bottom line in 2017 and removed approximately 700 tons of carbon from the environment—equal to removing about 180 cars from the road for a year.
Checklist––Areas where energy efficiency opportunities may be found for businesses
- Installing or maintaining components of steam systems to ensure these are operating optimally, e.g. condensate recovery and steam traps.
- Insulating pipes used for moving steam or hot water around a building, for heating or for manufacturing processes are a major source of heat loss and therefore wasted energy.
- Installing or updating equipment to prevent heat from escaping a building (e.g., heat recovery systems), and to purposefully redeploy the heat elsewhere in the building.
- Updating older equipment that runs on energy generated by natural gas.
- Installing or updating automated control systems that provide management of energy for the building or manufacturing processes.
- Installing energy efficient lighting, such as LEDs and motion controls.
- Replacing old equipment motors.
- Replacing old equipment compressors.
- Installing automated control systems that manage when to turn electricity drawing devices on/off.
Source: Center for EcoTechnology