Green Field Trip: Method’s ‘Southside Soapbox’ & Lakeshore Recycling Systems
Dec 16 2016
This December the SCARCE education staff got the opportunity to visit two environmental sites that had been on our list. We came back from each field trip excited to integrate what we learned into our teaching.
Method‘s “southside soapbox” factory in the historic Pullman neighborhood of Chicago was our first field trip destination. As soon as we heard about their new North American manufacturing headquarters, we had to get in for a tour. Method extends it’s eco-friendly practices into this facility. We were given a tour by Barbara (who is one of the stars in the ‘southside soapbox’ video) and Shannon, part of the leadership at the facility.
From Barbara, we learned how well Method takes care of it’s employees and how enjoyable it is to work there. Method made a concerted effort to hire their employees from the local neighborhood, and most of them are, including Barbara. From Shannon, we learned that considerations for the environment were a big part from the very beginning, including the location for the factory.
What we learned
You can read the LEED details from the architect here – we won’t go into all of them, just some things that really stood out to us.
- Method chose Chicago because it’s a rail and transport hub that can’t be beat – fewer stops and transfer of goods means less energy used in transportation (Detroit was a close runner up but the transit couldn’t match ours – it would stop in Chicago for a reload most likely!).
- LEED Platinum Certified – the first manufacturing facility to receive this level in it’s industry
- There are tons of windows in this factory! It’s full of natural light – great for worker morale.
Renewables and more renewables!
- Their wind turbine is a rebuilt decommissioned turbine from Europe retrofitted with new mechanicals in Rockford, IL.
- The wind turbine is one of the two biggest in northern Illinois. Testa Produce, also in Chicago, has the other, and depending on how you measure it, each can claim the #1 spot
- Their solar trees in the parking lot follow the sun, like a sunflower, so that they can generate as much energy as possible throughout the day.
- They manage all stormwater on-site. When it rains, all the water goes to a rebuilt wetland. There, it can slowly filter back through the soil and into Lake Michigan. (In contrast, Chicago’s sewer system sends rainwater and wastewater to be treated and then, ultimately, down the Mississippi River)
- “Water Neutral” certification received through a partnership with the Nature Conservancy. Sending on-site rainwater back to Lake Michigan doesn’t foot the bill when it comes to water use at the factory so they got creative. Method helps fund programs through the Nature Conservancy in Michigan. The programs help farmers to conserve water and send water back to the Great Lakes. This means for every drop they take out of Lake Michigan, they send another drop back to the Great Lakes somewhere else. Think of it as the water equivalent of carbon offsets.
Waste & Recycling
They’re on top of it!
- Almost zero landfill – currently only about 1% of their waste goes to landfills. Method’s factory could be zero waste now, however, they do not believe in incineration of waste. Their practices include shipping back empty crates from suppliers
Now this is truly on top of it.
- At the time it was constructed, they had the world’s largest rooftop greenhouse at almost 2 acres (75,000 sq ft)
- The King and Queen of the Netherlands came for a tour!
- From the start, Method wanted a greenhouse but the sheer size of the space kept most organizations from taking it on. After much searching, Gotham Greens jumped on board.
- The factory and the greenhouse help to insulate each other.
- You can find the greens and basil in grocery stores around Chicago including Whole Foods stores.
- Fun fact: A Whole Foods is being built kitty corner to the Method plant – I imagine that’s going to be one of the shortest trips from farm to market you can find.
What an enlightening visit! SCARCE thanks the folks at Method for a great tour.
Green Field Trip: Lakeshore Recycling Systems
Lakeshore Recycling Systems is one of many waste haulers in the Chicago area but they’ll tell you what makes them stand apart from the rest, it’s in their name! Lakeshore Recycling Systems owns no landfills – zero. Recycling is the name of the game and it’s in their own interest. It was evident when we went for our tour of their Forest View sorting facility.
- Their facility processes about 36-40 tons of recycling daily.
- At the end of the day, only about 11% of what they receive is not recyclable.
- Because their facility has a separate Construction & Demolition waste operation on site, they can pull out some things that would get landfilled at other facilities and get it recycled next door.
- When a load goes through their sorting line, there’s enough items that slipped through to the landfill pile, they’ll run the load through a second time to capture those resources.
- As far as non-recyclables go, their number one complaint? Plastic bags. Keep them out! It jams the equipment. Take them to a participating grocery store for recycling, instead.
We also discussed some misconceptions around recycling. Many people think recycling is free and that recyclers make a bunch of money. The reality is, we pay for recycling programs through our garbage fees and the market for selling recyclables fluctuates a lot. Recycling companies aren’t rolling in the dough, at least not on a regular basis.
Lakeshore also prides itself in taking care of it’s employees. Despite being outside of Chicago, they pay their employees the same higher base wage and leading up to the holidays, they have drawings each day for some very generous prizes ($1,000 anyone?).
Another fun green field trip! Thanks tons to Vince and Bill for the tour!