Siemens is cutting its carbon footprint, locally and abroad

Sometimes, meeting a green goal is a simple as handing out a coffee mug.

Not just one mug, though.

Three years ago, an in-house team at Siemens that works to ensure the environmental footprint laid down by the Technology Dr. factory is as small as possible realized that their cafeteria went through a lot of paper cups.

“Employees were using a lot of paper coffee cups, and they were bringing them into the facility from Tim Horton’s etc., so we handed out reusable coffee mugs,” recalls Lori MacLeod, the plant’s environmental, health and safety manager.

“We also went a step further and said, ‘If you’re going to buy coffee in the cafeteria and use your reusable mug you get five cents off the coffee.”

Each of the 325 employees got a thermal mug. The result: in addition to whatever dent they made in paper cup consumption at local coffee shops, the cafeteria now buys 60 per cent fewer cups.

Similar employee participation initiatives help the local Siemens plant meet energy and waste reduction targets it gets from its national head office. But the impetus for green performance is ultimately driven by the international parent company.

Siemens AG, based in Germany, has 350,000 employees in 187 countries. One of its goals is to be the first world’s first major industrial company to reduce it’s output of carbon – the primary source of climate-change inducing greenhouse gas – to net zero.

The target date for a zero carbon footprint is 2030.

Scott Hoy is the facility and maintenance manager at the Technology Dr. plant. Since coming to Siemens from GE-Hitachi eight months ago he’s been responsible for a project to replace the large air handlers that heat and cool the 180,000 sq. ft. building, along with some of the rooftop HVAC units, with more energy efficient equipment.

“We can recover heat within the building, too,” Hoy says. “A lot of our processes give off heat, which would just be sent outside. We’re looking at a recirculation method and heat recovery to reduce that so we won’t have to use the gas fired heaters as much.”

Smaller efficiency measure are often suggested by employees through the company’s 3i program – ideas, impulses and initiatives.

“We had one employee up in the offices and one employee downstairs put in a 3i idea and I’ve approved it and it’s going through. It’s putting in motion sensors in the copy room and the coat room upstairs,” Hoy explains.

The sensors will turn lights on and off depending on whether someone is using the space.

“We could do that in the kitchen, too,” Macleod says, adding one more entry to the 3i file.

Macleod notes that the ubiquitous wooden pallets that arrive when equipment and supplies are delivered had been a problem.

“We had a real struggle finding someone who would use and recycle them. In the last two quarters we’ve actually diverted six tonnes of wood scraps into recycling.”

The skids are now recycled in Lindsay, an arrangement set up by Greenspace Waste Solutions, a Brampton based company that for the past year has mangaged the waste from the plant.

Following an extensive renovation of the plant’s offices, Greenspace is finding a home for less conventional “waste” that would otherwise end up in a landfill, Hoy says.

“We’re working with Greenspace and another company called CSR Ecosolutions. They will come in and take all the old office furniture, refurb it, fix it up, and then they donate it to charities that need it.”

Projects like that have helped push the plant’s waste diversion rate up to 73%, Macleod says. Ten years ago that figure was 61 per cent.

In January the plant received this year’s Environmental Excellence Business Award from Otonabee Conservation, recognizing Siemens employees for having planted 1,200 trees and shrubs around the city and county over the past five years.

Workers get paid time off to take part in those Earth Day tree planting projects, another example of Siemens’ commitment to a green agenda.

This is one of a series of articles commissioned and paid for by Sustainable Peterborough and published in partnership with The Peterborough Examiner. By Jim Hendry, Peterborough Examiner, original article published Monday, May 23rd, 2016.