Lansdowne Place

Green power at the mall: Lansdowne Place works to offset its footprint on the planet

Lansdowne Place is like a village without housing, with an infrastructure system to match.

The mall is home to more than 100 retailers and fast food outlets, a department store and the city’s biggest supermarket. Approximately 1,000 people clock in for work every day.

It is also, and this might surprise those who equate shopping malls only with consumerism and rampant consumption, greener and more environmentally aware than most communities.

Cigarette butts are typically an eco-disaster, either as toxic, smelly litter or nasty additions to a landfill site.

At Lansdowne Place cigarette butts are collected and shipped to Terracycle, an innovative company that claims to be able to recycle anything.

“It’s the most disgusting smell. If you ever want to encourage somebody to give up smoking send them here and let them smell the bins,” says Diane Camelford, the mall’s general manager.

“UPS hates pickup days,” adds Mario Serracino, Lansdowne Place operating manager and, along with Camelford, its environmental conscience.

Every bit of material in the butts is recycled, Camelford says: plastic from the filters, paper, even cigarette packaging.

Lansdowne Place pays to ship the butts. In return it gets a volume-based credit that can be donated to a local charity. Just under a year into the program the credit has reached $70. It’s a token amount. The payoff comes from diverting those toxic butts from the landfill.

Regional Organics, just east of Lindsay, is another recycler Camelford and Serracino deal with.

Wet, heavy coffee grounds used to add considerably to the weight of mall waste trucked to Peterborough’s landfill. Now the grounds, primarily from Tim Hortons and McDonald’s, go to the mall’s Recycling Organic Room to be dried for weekly pickup. Regional Organics hauls away about 32 tonnes of grounds a year and uses it in a soil mix sold under its Sustainable Potting Soil label.

Coffee grounds are handled separately because they are too fine to be processed in the mall’s signature green waste program, the ORCA aerobic food digester. ORCA (not to be confused with the local flood management agency) is a composting system manufactured and marketed by Totally Green, another enviro company.

Food prep workers in the food court kitchens put all scraps into plastic bins about a foot wide, two feet long and four inches deep. Kitchen staff carry full bins to a room in the mall’s cavernous maintenance area, slide them into a rack and take back an empty one.

Mall staff weigh and record each bin then dump them into the ORCA, a shiny metal box about the size of one of those old metal soft drink dispensers where the bottles hung suspended from a grid. As the food scraps break down into odourless sludge, liquids are pulled out and flushed into the mall’s waste water system. Last year the mall shipped 23 tonnes of green waste to Totally Green.

The focus on sustainable operations is in part driven from the top down. Lansdowne Place is owned by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), which has a “green” mandate. HOOPP hired 20 VIC Management Inc., which has experience in sustainable practices, to run the mall. Camelford and Serracino work for 20 VIC.

But a bottom-up component is also necessary and the two managers foster that relationship.

“These programs wouldn’t be as successful as they are without our tenants. And they are motivated too, they know that that’s how we roll,” Camelford says.

There are tenant reward programs, including for top contributors to the ORCA digester, and tenants get regular green tips and reminders through the mall newsletter.

Waste management is one part of a program that includes equally comprehensive focus on cutting water and electricity consumption and the use of sustainable building materials. As a result, Lansdowne Place was the first retail mall in Canada to earn a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver designation.

There is more to come. Food court customers will soon take their trays to a central waste spot where mall staff will sort every item. Camelford thinks that could double ORCA’s green waste output. Longer term, she and Serracino hope for a grey water system that uses waste water to irrigate the mall’s exterior gardens and plantings.

And as changing technology brings other new options, they expect to stay at the front of the curve.

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 Saturday, April 9, 2016.