East County's largest companies collaborate on sustainability
As debate and controversy continues in Salem surrounding cap-and-trade legislation, representatives from some of the largest companies in East Multnomah County gathered to network and brainstorm new ways to incorporate sustainability within their industries.
On Wednesday morning, June 26, about 50 people from more than 20 businesses met at Gresham's Energy Net Zero Wastewater Treatment Plant, 20015 N.E. Sandy Blvd. A few of the companies with a presence included ON Semiconductor, Microchip, Albertson's Regional Distribution Center, Plexus, John Deere's NW Parts Distribution Center, Hyster-Yale, Fuji Film West Coast Processing Center and others.
"Getting all these people in a room together is important," said Gregg Hayward, Gresham's waste reduction specialist. "If these large businesses make small 1% (energy usage) changes to how they operate, it would have the same effects as having all of our small businesses across Gresham making 50% changes."
Collaboration and support were the two key phrases for the meeting, as there was a lot of excitement in the room when it came to generating solutions for the sustainability issues businesses faced. Many were quick to offer ideas that worked for their own companies, and the majority of the two hours was dedicated to brainstorming the best way to move the whole region forward in terms of being green.
The event, which was hosted by the Gresham Green Business program and the Energy Trust of Oregon, highlighted the importance of small changes that can have huge impacts. One of the quick things the industrial representatives heard about was checking for leaks in compressed-air systems. Those easy changes can then snowball into more significant shifts.
Working together helped Microchip form a "Green Team." The company visited Plexus to see how their team operated before implementing its own. The two industrial leaders supported each other's efforts after having connected at a similar event to last week's gathering.
One strategy suggested is having a "treasure hunt." A business can have their employees go around noting things that could be improved, with a focus on reducing waste and optimizing systems. At the Albertson's Regional Distribution Center, this helped identify several issues that had gone unnoticed, including 34 leaks in the compressed-air system. Management estimates fixing the leaks saved about 30,000 kilowatts of energy last year.
"Walking around our center I now notice lights on and doors open, and I think of how we can save more money and energy," said Jamie Hansen, facilities manager at the Albertson's Regional Distribution Center. "We are plucking off the low-hanging fruit."
Other ideas were to incentivize employees when it came to being green; for commercial businesses to pay attention to poorly tuned HVAC systems; and to have better training in shipping and production lines to reduce waste.
"The worst thing you can do as a manager is say, 'That's the way it's always been done,'" Hansen said.
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