Going Green, Not Red

Finding Business Success in Environmental Stewardship

By Linda Norris-Waldt | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 07.11.16 – Feature, Lifestyles, People & Places

Back in the mid-1980s, during the infancy of the recycling movement, a group of nursery school teachers was touring Linganore Winecellars near Mount Airy. The teachers were fascinated by potassium tartrate, a byproduct of the winemaking process that wineries often sell to spice companies to make cream of tartar. But the teachers had another idea: use the tartrate to make play clay for their young charges. Ever since that tour the teachers have been getting their dough from the excess tartrate at Linganore Winecellars.

“I couldn’t figure out why in the world other people wouldn’t be doing this,” says Anthony Aellen, president of the family owned winery. He notes that on trips to visit European wineries he discovered that creative use of byproducts are a routine part of doing business.

Aellen doesn’t like the term recycling. He says it just doesn’t fit, and prefers to say he is repurposing when he and his employees decide what happens to anything in the winemaking process that doesn’t become wine. At Linganore, he has chosen wind power to be the source of all energy; hungry deer are lured away from vines by putting spent pulp in the woods in lieu of fencing; energy-efficient practices such as solar panels are employed; and electric-vehicle charging capability is available for the visitors. “In the long run, with green practices, there isn’t really a difference in cost; it’s just a different way of thinking.”

With the availability of more and more technologies, products and opportunities, businesses in Frederick County are increasingly looking to integrate sustainable practices into their everyday operations. Are they saving money? What is their motivation?

The Cheerleaders

Donna Corbus spends her days helping businesses figure out ways they can reduce the amount of waste they generate. Frederick County’s business recycling coordinator says a workplace using sustainable practices usually has a “cheerleader” on site, and it may not necessarily come from top management. It usually starts with one employee who has a passion for the environment, and may evolve into company policy or a “Green Team” to develop programs and encourage employees.

AstraZeneca Biologics Manufacturing Center in the Ballenger Creek corridor was recently awarded a Frederick County sustainability award for its environmental practices, which include 2,100 LED lights in manufacturing areas that reduce annual site electricity usage by 331,916 kilowatt hours and a Green Team to promote sustainable lifestyles to employees, including on-site delivery of fruits and vegetables and collection of employees’ personal electronics at the site’s annual electronic recycling event—last year 3,899 pounds of electronics were donated for recycling. The company also installed two solar-powered car charging stations for employees who use electric vehicles. “It’s education; you start small and share some of the facts about the environment. When [employees] know the facts, they’re motivated to do what they can to help,” says Michelle Hall, a member of Astra Zeneca’s Green Team.

At Fitzgerald Auto Mall on Baughman’s Lane, J.D. Meinders, recycling and safety manager, works to maximize recycling of waste materials—of which only 18 percent currently heads to landfills or other facilities for disposal.

The company chooses wind power as its energy source and employees are encouraged to recycle, whether at their desks, in the showroom or in the service bays—capturing scrap metal, antifreeze, used oil and oil filters, scrap tires, batteries, and the plastic wrapping on large car parts for a total of 176,000 pounds per year of recyclables.

In 2014 the company built a new showroom and arranged for the construction waste to be sorted and recycled to minimize landfill disposal and the company’s green team switched to recyclable cups in all its dealerships when customers disliked the Styrofoam cups found in waiting rooms. Meinders has even set up an onsite recycling program for employees who don’t have curbside pickup available at their homes.

“Financially, sustainability does turn out to be good for the company, but I believe [Fitzgerald CEO] Mr. [Jack] Fitzgerald has a passion for the environment that goes beyond business savings,” says Larry Branche, corporate environmental officer. “He doesn’t make me calculate for the company what is the business benefit or cost of the programs.”

The Bean Counters

Shannon Moore, Frederick County’s director of sustainability, says businesses are discovering  a solid  bottom line and sustainability measures are more aligned than they originally realized. Moore’s office often helps them connect businesses to financing or grants for clean energy systems. “Businesses are more and more coming to realize they can make money and impact their bottom line by being sustainable,” she says.

The Frederick Keys’ Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium currently recycles 31 percent of its trash, generated both by fans in the stands and “back of house” in the kitchens and prep areas, says Dave Ziedelis, the team’s general manager. Although the stadium was already saving significant dollars by installing LED field lighting in 2008, an energy audit completed in 2015 turned up an additional $53,000 that could be saved from LED lighting improvements around the stadium.

Any financial savings are considered a bonus by Earl Pindar of Natural Fusion Hair Studio in Frederick, recent recipient of a county sustainability award. Pindar’s business has worked to find recycling markets for its unusual wastes—- everything from hair to coloring foils and product bottles—with limited success. Recently, though, he discovered Green Circle Salons, a recycling company specializing in waste from beauty salons. Now, Natural Fusion packages hair, foils, bottles and even the leftover hair color in a 30-pound box each month.

It costs about $400 to belong to Green Circle. “They recommend passing it along as an environmental fee, but I refuse to do that; instead of jacking up the price, we take it out of profits,” Pindar says. “It’s the way I want to run my business and live my lifestyle. We want to create the smallest carbon footprint we can.”

That wasn’t always at the top of Pindar’s mind. He began looking at sustainable practices when he first opened salons a couple decades ago—by choosing products that used less chemicals as well as being potentially recyclable—to help his employees; he learned the potential dangers of chemicals, coloring, perming, straightening and even shampoo and conditioners. “A lot of that came from chemicals we use on a daily basis over and over again,” he says. “As a client you only have to endure it a few hours.”

When he began carrying the natural shampoos, sprays and other products, an interesting thing began happening: Not only did stylists looking for an employer who cared about their health come knocking, but he has become a specialty green salon for customers who are allergic to chemically based hair and beauty products. The result has been personally satisfying, he says. “I made a bigger, badder impact on the end result not only for employees, but for the people we serve,” he says.

The Employees

It’s not unusual for businesses to find their efforts at sustainability have an effect on their employees, says Lisa Shuster, a Frederick human resources consultant who operates Work More Human. “It’s a cultural thing, especially for Millennials coming into the workplace,” she says. “It’s important to have green practices and an opportunity for employees to volunteer to feel your company allow them to connect outside the workplace.”

At Fitzgerald, Branche says the company is proud of the dedication of employees who volunteer outside company time on local environmental groups and stream cleanups. Shuster says it has become even more common for employers to organize in-house community involvement opportunities or for companies to provide employees time to volunteer on community projects.

Bruce Zavos’ employees at ZA+D (Zavros Architectural & Design) find engagement and fulfillment, not only in their sustainable practices but in the core work they do: designing workforce and affordable housing, Zavos says. The company has been part of many local projects, from Hood College’s Athletic Center to the Bernard Brown Center and the affordable housing project planned for 520 N. Market St.

But the firm also focuses on passive solar housing, which reduces heating and cooling loads through energy-efficient methods using solar energy to supply those loads. ZA+D is now the lead architectural firm in the Frederick area for passive solar buildings, and is one of a few in the region.

With buildings consuming 40 percent of the world’s energy, Zavos says, “We realized as architects we were creating climate change. Passive houses provide the best standard to impact climate change.”

His employees, who munch on salad picked from the company’s own garden grown behind its Patrick Street offices, support the commitment to sustainable design, he says. “Some people have come here to interview because of their interest in sudstainable design” and have relocated to Frederick from metropolitian areas, Zavos says. “Having a focus on sustainability has helped us to recruit good employees; one of the criteria we look for in potential staff is commitment to sustainability.”