Two Firms Are Among 20 Nationally To Go Green

June 13, 2002
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Cascade Engineering and Steelcase Inc. are putting their money behind their corporate values of environmental stewardship.

The Grand Rapids-area corporate icons have joined 18 other companies, universities and communities nationwide who have agreed to purchase a portion of their electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initiative is designed to boost the market for zero-emissions “green power.”

Participating in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership will increase Cascade Engineering’s annual electric bill by $15,000 to $20,000 annually, Chairman Fred Keller said.

Keller considers that as money well spent. The additional cost, he said, is an investment that will help the fledgling renewable energy industry grow and ultimately reduce the cost to produce green power, which presently tends to cost more than electricity generated from the burning of fossil fuels.

“It’s a reasonable investment in the future,” Keller said.

Participating in the program as a “founding partner” helps to demonstrate Cascade Engineering’s view that “what’s good for people and the environment is good for business,” Keller said. The investment also blends with Cascade Engineering’s philosophy to invest in ecologically friendly ventures that can help sustain the company in the future, he said.

“We believe in the long term that’s a sustainable business strategy,” Keller said.

Cascade Engineering, a plastics-molding firm that serves the automotive, furniture, container and consume products industries, is committed to buying 2.3 million kilowatt-hours, or 4 percent of its annual electricity use, from renewable energy sources to power its Michigan facilities.

While Cascade Engineering has yet to decide where it will buy its green power, Steelcase plans to sign on to a just-announced program by Consumers Energy Co. that will allow customers to buy a set percentage of their electricity from renewable energy sources. Consumers Energy will launch the program Oct. 1.

Steelcase will buy 3 percent of the electricity needed for its corporate headquarters on 44th Street from green power sources, said David Rinard, director of corporate environment, health and safety. That equates to 363,000 kilowatt-hours annually.

Although it represents only a fraction of the electricity Steelcase uses each year, participation in the voluntary program is “a great start” toward the further use of green power, Rinard said. If successful, Steelcase would look at expanding its use of green power in the future, he said.

“If it meets our goals and the capacity becomes available, we would absolutely look at it,” Rinard said.

Steelcase opted to become part of the EPA’s Green Power Partnership as a way to show its long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship, he said.

“It was an opportunity for us to do something that adds to the demonstration of that value by putting something into practice,” Rinard said.

The 20 companies, cities and universities involved in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership have committed to buying a collective 280,000 megawatt-hours of electricity over the next year from renewable energy sources, which will prevent 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is s a major contributor to global warming.

“A growing number of organization realize that green power is increasingly available and offers the next logical step in environmental responsibility,” EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said in a prepared statement. “By choose green power sources for their electricity, these groups are leading the way toward a cleaner future.”

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