Although long engaged in eco-friendly practices, Ingersoll Paper Box’s (IPB) latest green initiative could bring its sustainability focus to a whole new level of commitment. The major feature of this effort is a solar-panel array to be installed on the roof of the IPB plant. “Our goal is to be a more environmentally responsible company,” explains managing director Sarah Skinner. “It’s an ambitious effort, but it’s definitely worth it.”
The array will feature photovoltaic cells that look to generate up to 10 kilowatts of solar energy, which will be cycled back into the regional electrical grid for public-power distribution. Following a seven-year payback period for the array’s installation, IPB will actually generate a profit in its sale of solar energy to the grid.
THE WORD ON GREEN
IPB’s managing director, Sarah Skinner, has been instrumental in bringing sustainability to the forefront of her company’s agenda. Here, she talks about how other companies can motivate their workforce for a similar purpose.
Advantage: What steps can be taken to find and strengthen renewable-energy sources in Canada?
Sarah Skinner: By getting the word out, informing people about how our society currently generates energy, and how it affects our planet. We can then compare that to the alternatives available to us. Solar, wind, and geothermal are all sources that can turn on our lights and heat, and can cool our homes with little to no carbon footprint.
How can we encourage people and companies to be more sustainable?
For us, we feel that it’s the small things that count. We can all compost our kitchen waste and recycle paper, plastics, and glass in our homes. We can participate in our municipality’s special drop-off days for getting rid of household hazardous waste. We need to become more informed about programs that government and businesses are doing locally and globally.
“As a society, we need to break our dependence on fossil fuels,” Sarah says of the motivation behind the project. “We’re doing our part by utilizing the sun as an alternative—and dependable—energy source.” Eventually, she hopes to capitalize further on Ingersoll’s solar effort. “We’re exploring using panel energy for heating and air-conditioning purposes,” she says.
Along with the panels, IPB is seeking to increase recycling efforts throughout the plant. “For example, we have a battery-diversion program,” Sarah says. “Employees are being encouraged to drop off their used batteries within plant-recycling collection bins. By doing this, we can help reduce one source of highly toxic material in our landfills.”
Installation of high-efficiency lighting also figures prominently in IPB’s 2012 green plan. “This will reduce our energy costs and increase quality lighting throughout our facility,” Sarah says.
Being green is nothing new at IPB. The company has long collected its waste paper and cardboard for recycling purposes. More recently, the company became Forest Stewardship Council certified and Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified.
“This is a chain-of-custody certification that lets us purchase board, manufacture it, and sell it to a customer that has been certified by the same program,” Sarah explains. “These programs ensure that all forest-based products are farmed in an ethical manner.”
In many ways, IPB’s environmental sensitivity is an outgrowth of its commitment to the community. Started in 1922, the family-owned company has long been one of the largest employers in Ingersoll, Ontario. “We’ve had generations of townspeople work with us,” says David Skinner, IPB’s president (and also Sarah’s father). “Because we know and appreciate these people, our employees want to do the best job possible.”
In the past, those customers were largely aftermarket automobile manufacturers. Today, many Ingersoll clients are leading pharmaceutical and healthcare companies.
Given IPB’s strong community ties, it wasn’t a far reach to consider the local environmental impact—and opportunities—possible in furthering the company’s green focus. “We felt it was a matter of corporate responsibility to further our sustainability plans,” David says. “The technology is there—why wouldn’t we do something substantive to benefit our town in this way?”
“Everything we are doing is meant to set an example,” Sarah adds. “We are trying to show our staff, as well as the entire town, that every effort—no matter how large or small—can make a difference in improving our environment.”