Adapting for the greater good Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009

The elimination of paper and Styrofoam coffee cups at Jergens Inc. was not a popular move when it was first made. But a year later, employees have adapted by using ceramic coffee mugs, and few can even remember a time when disposable cups were used for their hot beverage.

The initiative was just one of many plans developed by “The Hybrids,” a team of slightly more than a dozen employees at Jergens who are committed to finding new and innovative ways to practice sustainability.

The group is just the latest in a long line of insightful initiatives developed at Jergens under the leadership of President Jack Schron and his team. It was 20 years ago when the company eliminated lead-based steel, 15 years ago when Jergens started shredding its cardboard waste and 10 years ago when drink cans began to be recycled.

The proceeds from this recycling benefit local burn centers.

The Hybrids, also known as the “Green Team,” have played a large part in making even more progress toward sustainability. The team meets once every six weeks to discuss such things as reducing consumption, increasing utilization of renewable resources and increasing recycling.

Paper consumption was reduced 75 percent after the team raised awareness of the often unnecessary printing of reports and e-mails. Paper usage was tracked and compared for the first nine days of January and February 2008 and about 4,500 less pages were printed.

Recycled supplies are used whenever possible, including for employee scratch pads.

On a larger scale, Jergens initiated a four-day, 10-hour workday for all manufacturing personnel. By eliminating a day each week in which they would have to travel to work, gasoline consumption was substantially reduced.

At the same time, Jergens saved 16 hours each week and 832 hours a year of electricity usage by not having to run power on the manufacturing floor for off-shift operations. Electricity is further conserved by the start of the Adopt-A-Switch program, in which an employee in each area of the company is responsible for shutting off the lights in their department at the end of the day.

HOW TO REACH: Jergens Inc., (216) 486-5540 or