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Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009 09:47 am

Bunn leads the way to green business

Company shares expertise at Sustainable Springfield Business Forum

Bruce Bradbury with Bunn's trash compactor. The company's recycling efforts have decreased the amount of trash by about 10 semi loads a year.

Posted everywhere — hallways, offices, break rooms — at the Bunn Corporation’s Springfield manufacturing facility on Stevenson Drive is a placard with a stylized logo of a green plant that says “Respect Earth” and reads:

Recognizing that our business operation impacts the total environment, “Respect Earth” reflects BUNN’s continuing focus on preserving the earth for future generations throughout our supply chain. We are driven to continually identify ways to incorporate this respect for our natural resources into our daily business practices and products.

“Respect Earth” is what environmental sustainability is all about.

The process of integrating environmentally sustainable methods and practices in the manufacturing and distribution of their commercial beverage equipment has been, for the past two years, a prime goal of this business.

Founded by George Bunn in 1957, the company’s products, manufactured under the name of Bunn-O-Matic, have been synonymous with its coffee makers, which are a Springfield trademark. The commitment to sustainable business practices prompted the company’s current CEO, Hy Bunn, and the board of directors, to create the position of “vice-president for sustainability” as an integral player on the company’s corporate management team.

Bob Kobylarz, a manufacturing engineer by profession, is the current holder of this position and his enthusiasm for the job knows no bounds. With the blessings of the corporation, he now wants to share his company’s sustainable practices by forming a group geared specifically for Springfield businesses. The idea first sparked when he and Wynne Coplea, the city’s recycling coordinator, brainstormed about how Bunn’s successes could be shared with other businesses.

The group that resulted, to be called the Sustainable Springfield Business Forum, will function under the auspices of the not-for-profit local environmental advocacy group, Sustainable Springfield Inc. (SSI).

Formed on Earth Day in April 2007, SSI is an information-sharing network that holds monthly public presentations, conducts field trips and maintains an informative Web site (www.SustainableSpringfield.org) and blog. It acts as a clearinghouse for local environmental groups by publishing a monthly calendar via e-mail. The adoption of a forum that promotes environmental sustainability for businesses is a logical function of its mission.

Bob Kobylarz is vice president for sustainability.
“We are willing to share Bunn’s experiences and accomplishments with recycling and other practices to help the initiative get started,” Kobylarz says. “A lot of the green movement has been focused on bike paths, refrigerator recycling, homeowner practices, etc. Now we need to focus on priorities for businesses.”

To many, sustainable business practices mean maintaining a well-run and profitable concern. “The business model and the environmental model should be connected so that both can be successful at the same time,” says Kobylarz.

Bunn has implemented many sustainable practices. While it is an industrial manufacturer (a rarity in Springfield these days), many of its practices can be easily implemented by any kind of business: service, retail, institutional, governmental, manufacturing. They can apply to offices, stores, warehouses, clinics or other workplace settings.

One key element to the success of Bunn’s green practices is the involvement of its employees. According to Bruce Bradbury, Bunn’s facilities engineering supervisor, the 50 or so “quality work groups” are responsible for starting many of company’s sustainable initiatives. Made up of four to five employees each, they have become “green teams” and each is charged with coming up with one green project each year. “The trash collected to be transported to landfills from work stations and break rooms is a fraction of what it was in previous years,” Bradbury says. “The employees have bought into the program very well.”

The Bunn Springfield Operations recycles office paper at 72 percent recycle efficiency. They go to the extent of weighing all incoming mail, and then weigh all mail that is to be recycled to keep track of what is sent to the landfill. All paper, cardboard and plastic that is to be recycled is bagged and sent to Midwest Fiber Co. in Decatur. There were 218 tons of paper and cardboard recycled in 2008, resulting in a savings of 3,709 trees, 82,916 gallons of gasoline/oil and 1,527,400 gallons of water.

Bunn recycles used batteries, and accepts dead dry cell batteries from its employees for shipment to a recycling center in California. There were 177 pounds of dry cell batteries (3,540 batteries) recycled in 2008, and 209 pounds have been recycled between January and July 2009.

All scrap metal used in the production of product is recycled, as are all used electronic items, circuit boards, computers and other electronic devices. Aerosol containers and other non-production metal that is scrap are sent to Mervis Co. in Springfield.

The amount of trash taken to the landfill is substantially less than in previous years. The company’s recycling efforts have resulted in a reduction of 38,000 cubic feet of material sent to the landfill (approximately 10 full semi loads).

Ninety percent of all container shipping is now done using corrugated cardboard in lieu of styrofoam blocks or peanuts. Given the amount of packaging undertaken by Bunn, this ecological benefit is huge. All onsite drinking cups are now biodegradable paper, not styrofoam.

Another program popular with the employees is the compact fluorescent bulb disposal. These bulbs must be disposed of properly as they contain a small mercury content and shouldn’t be broken or sent to a landfill. The company pays for employees’ bulbs to be disposed. They’re included with the company’s own bulbs and sent to the Safety-Kleen Co. in Champaign. An item of nonperishable food is accepted by the company for each bulb to be disposed by an employee, and is donated to a local food bank.

Bunn’s energy use is monitored and calculated for both consumption and carbon footprint. Monitoring includes calculations for the consumption of electricity, natural gas, water, sewage and diesel fuel. The company is working closely with utility companies to audit energy consumption and install changes to become more efficient.

In the past year light bulb and ballast replacements have been changed to more efficient fluorescent lighting. Metal Halide lighting is now replaced with energy-efficient F-Bay fluorescent lighting in the production areas. Computers, monitors and other workstation electrical equipment is turned off at end of the day.

Bunn now has generator sets installed in long-haul trucks to significantly reduce engine idle time. Also 11 percent biodiesel fuel is now consumed in its truck fleet.

The company participates and supports local initiatives involving energy conservation and environmental practices, including CWLP’s Commercial Solutions Forum, a group comprising the top energy consumers of the local utility. Bunn also supports CWLP’s Energy Forums, the Mayor’s Cool Cities Climate Initiative, and has helped to organize the Illinois Department of Agriculture Community Garden at the State Fair.

With the establishment of the business forum, there is “an opportunity to increase the level of understanding of sustainability within the business community and improve the scope and efficiency of existing initiatives,” according to Kobylarz. “It will create new ideas which can leverage improved environmental responsibility and make a measurable positive difference.”

The Sustainable Springfield Business Forum will analyze the elements of the sustainability movement so business leaders understand developing environmental initiatives and requirements. The organization will identify actions to manage or minimize the impact on businesses, and emphasize opportunities for both environmental and commercial success. It will stress efforts between businesses and employees to share learning, experiences and knowledge. The forum will share bulletin/information boards and other communication tools among participating businesses, and create a shared library. Recycling opportunities will be identified and new ones established.  Members will learn how employee participation can be accomplished by the creation of “green teams.”

Additionally the forum will share information regarding energy audits and carbon footprint calculations, which is the total measure of natural gas, water consumption, sewage and company gasoline/diesel fuel usage. Grants or other financial assistance available for energy efficiency investment will be catalogued.

Jim Johnston, a Springfield architect, is founder and president of Sustainable Springfield Inc.
He can be reached at jimjohnston9@comcast.net. 

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