Many organizations are realizing that in order to compete, they must follow the triple-bottom line model: people, planet and prosperity. Under this ideology, these leaders contribute to their communities by creating a sustainable business plan that helps to redevelop their cities as well as strengthen economic value in the area and increase the health and wealth of its people.
Even before this particular business ideology became known, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic introduced a sustainability plan on Earth Day 2009 called Greenprint for Akron. The purpose was to create an environmental partnership to foster a sustainable, eco-friendly community through education and leadership. Since that time, the city has not only been setting and achieving its own sustainable goals, but its partnership with Summit County has encouraged local businesses and nonprofits to do the same.
The City of Akron, Summit County, the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce and ReWorks were eager to join this environmental forum, along with Keep Akron Beautiful, as founding partners of the Summit of Sustainability Awards.
In order to broaden the spectrum of organizational involvement, the idea for the SOSA program was conceived to not only recognize Summit County organizations that have taken up the sustainability challenge, but also to share the award winners’ best sustainable business practices with all businesses, nonprofits, schools, governments and civic organizations in Northeast Ohio.
These practices can then be emulated by organizations that may not know how to begin a sustainability plan. This is the third year that the winning applications, with coordinating professional videos, are displayed on the program website www.summitofsustainability.org.
This year, the planning committee added a Sustainable Medal category for those applicants whose overall submission did not place first in their respective category, but whose sustainability data did warrant recognition in a specific program area. Of the SOSA 2014 applications, Omnova Solutions Inc. displayed an amazing ability to conserve water, while Habitat for Humanity of Summit County is leading the way in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified residential building practices, using energy-saving appliances.
SOSA 2014 program applicants were judged on their implementation of business sustainability plans and the significance of their results and metrics when evaluated against the organization’s size and available resources.
Esteemed judges reviewed each applicant’s energy, building, waste and water management, chemical management, purchasing program, environmental awareness and green innovation. Over the following pages, we are proud to recognize the 2014 winners, with a tie in the Nonprofit/Community category, whose efforts embody people, planet and prosperity.
Winner, Small Business Category: Salsbury-Schweyer Inc.
Working with the earth
Reconnecting people to the natural harmonies of the earth is what Salsbury-Schweyer Inc. is all about. As a landscape design and development group, it is familiar with the benefits of being environmentally friendly.
For more than 20 years, this Akron-based company has utilized the complexities of nature’s systems to create earth-minded landscapes, which when well-designed, can be portals to a sustainable world.
The company has made notable strides in stormwater management and other green infrastructure practices.
For instance, it was the company’s hope to reduce half of its waste by diverting waste from landfills through repurposing and recycling. Salsbury-Schweyer surpassed this goal with waste reduction of approximately 95 percent.
The company is always looking for ways to provide the most current green infrastructure practices to its clients. It works to maximize energy saving options, such as no-mow lawns and planting trees for optimal shading, all while minimizing energy expenditures by reducing toxic emissions from power plants and using only LED low-voltage lighting in its landscape designs.
To conserve water, the company employs natural infiltration systems that capture the first inch of stormwater from rainfall when project parameters permit, and installs low-water-use landscapes that reduce watering requirements.
By using more waste material rather than a nonrenewable resource, Salsbury-Schweyer endeavors to reduce half of its topsoil usage. This year, the company reduced topsoil use by approximately 95 percent by replacing it with compost for landscape beds and other projects.
Winner, Nonprofit/Community Category: Goodwill Industries of Akron
Good for the community
Recycling has always been a core value for Goodwill Industries. The organization sells used clothing and other goods, diverting thousands of tons of materials from landfills and donating the proceeds from its sales to employment services.
Recently, Goodwill Industries of Akron has been working toward a more sustainable community. This year, the nonprofit has committed to improving its operations for energy efficiency and fuel conservation to reduce its environmental footprint.
For years, Goodwill has minimized the disposal of donations not sold within its stores. In 2013 alone, approximately 7.7 million pounds of material were recycled through its salvage programs. Goodwill was also able to divert 433,940 pounds of electronic waste from landfills.
Goodwill Akron’s facility is also going green. It has reduced its electricity consumption by 28 percent, and 95 percent of its janitorial chemicals are nontoxic. Further, the agency recently earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star certification and rating of 85 for its Waterloo Road facility. The 52-year-old building not only meets the strict energy efficiency performance levels established by the EPA, but also performs in the top 25 percent of similar facilities nationwide for energy efficiency.
But sustainable awareness and efforts should happen organically, not top-down. That’s why Goodwill of Akron assembled its Green Team with a mission to encourage sustainable practices agency-wide.
By optimizing its current processes, Goodwill of Akron has made a positive and significant impact on the environment. It continues to exemplify environmental leadership while contributing to the economic health and sustainability of Summit County.
Winner, Large Business Category: Summa Health System
Creating a sustainable workplace
Health is always on the forefront at Summa Health System. With multiple hospitals and patient access locations, Summa seeks to provide the highest quality care for its patients.
It is more than just body health that is on its agenda, however. This past year, Summa has made strides in sustainability to improve the health of its buildings.
Summa is on a mission to better manage its waste stream processes, and the organization involves all its departments in this endeavor. With its waste and resource management programs, the organization investigates current practices and identifies ways in which it can reduce and extend the useful life of its resources and equipment.
One practice the program improves upon is recycling. With a target of recycling 900 tons of paper and cardboard, Summa exceeded its goal by recycling 911.04 tons.
New light fixtures and lighting controls in its ACH parking deck resulted in a reduction of 422,695 kilowatt hours or 49.7 percent less than its 2012 usage.
The St. Thomas Hospital Campus saw a 16 percent water consumption reduction from 2012 to 2013 when water loss was discovered and repaired in the cooling water lines.
Summa’s leaders have also addressed the amount of regulated medical waste it produces. In 2002, medical waste volume was in excess of 1.3 million pounds per year at the St. Thomas campus. Between 2011 and 2013, the organization has reduced that waste to 600,000 pounds.
By reducing and recycling its waste, Summa has become a better healer of the environment without sacrificing safety, health or comfort.
Winner, Nonprofit/Community Category: St. Hilary parish and School
Shepherds of the environment
As a faith-based community, St. Hilary Parish members believe they are called on to take care of God’s creations.
It wasn’t until April 30, 2008, however, that St. Hilary Parish became aware of how much work was needed. The church hosted Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, who spoke about “Climate Change: A Vision for the Common Good.”
The event sparked motivation for St. Hilary Parish members to do more. In the fall of that year, they formed the Creation Care Ministry, a volunteer-based ministry seeking to understand how their actions impact the world, both spiritually and environmentally.
The Creation Care Ministry is committed to achieving a sustainable campus. It believes in the importance of educating the parish community on environmental issues and opportunities to improve its environmental footprint.
The ministry understands that implementing sustainable change helps the environment as well as the parish. It works to improve its plans in energy management, water management, waste management and other areas.
It’s also spreading the word to future generations by ensuring each student recycles his or her lunch waste daily and by including paper recycle bins in each classroom.
This past year, the team reached its halfway goal of an 80 percent reduction in solid waste and now has an annual $12,000 reduction in its trash pickup bills. Since 2008, the parish has recycled more than 438 tons of paper.
With 7,488 members, 611 students and 98 employees, everyone is involved in the parish’s sustainability efforts, embracing their responsibility of being stewards of the earth they were graciously given.
Winner, Public Sector Category: Old Trail School
Teaching sustainability by example
Located in the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Old Trail School always had a reason to be sustainable.
But this year, the co-educational, independent day school for students in early childhood through eighth grade focused its sustainability initiatives on five major areas: operations, facility, recycling, water and food. Through a hands-on curriculum, the school engaged its students by teaching them how to be environmental stewards and advocates.
The program introduced the middle school to new electives, such as Sustainable Shelters, Edible Classroom, Save the Bees and Save Our Planet. Students used recycled materials in art class and maintained a small wetland garden the Old Trail School successfully restored.
Middle school students also presented their efforts and success at the Hudson Environmental Awareness Committee town meeting. Most recently, they participated in Hudson’s Green on the Green Event, exhibiting their knowledge of sustainability.
Together, students also got their hands dirty on Earth Day, planting milkweed in the hopes of assisting the growth of the monarch butterfly population. In addition, a student Environmental Action Committee was formed, which included a first grade presentation during an all-school assembly.
One of Old Trail School’s many successes was the reduction of 75 percent of its overall harmful chemicals. One switch involved using vinegar-based cleaners in classrooms. Produced by the students each year, these green cleaners are distributed and utilized in every classroom.
The Old Trail School is forging a path in teaching a new generation to be committed to the environment.