Sustainable businesses aren’t the rare unicorn they’re fabled to be. From the urban puzzle of Highland Heights to the tranquil landscape of Kirtland, Northeast Ohio's businesses are living their passions alongside their values — and those values affect the surrounding environment. Progressive Insurance, for example, recently hired a sustainability program manager to enhance an already aggressive sustainability approach. Lakeland Community College went from being critically behind the European Union’s energy standards to having the best energy footprint per square foot of any community college in North America. Here are six corporate leaders pitching in for Cleveland’s water, air and people.
Great Lakes Brewing Co.
“You can’t brew great beer without great water,” says Adam Ritterspach, Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s multimedia specialist. To protect this resource and others, GLBC sources produce — like pumpkins for Pumpkin Ale — from Oberlin Food Hub, Ohio City Farm and its Pint Sized Farm in the Cuyahoga Valley, fed by Tilth Soil. Solar panels installed in 2017 rule the Ohio City brewery’s roof and motion detector lights illuminate 2020’s new canning facility. Unused beer goes to soups and sauces; leftover grains feed local livestock. Additionally, since 2001, GLBC’s Burning River Fest has raised $680,000 to sustainable causes like Drink Local. Drink Tap. Inc. and a study on microplastics in the Great Lakes.
Lakeland Community College
Before Lakeland Community College’s $6.4 million revamp in 2008, roughly $1.7 million was spent on energy. But in 2022, expenses plummeted to $700,000. Replacing archaic boilers and pumps was merely the start of Lakeland’s 49% gas and electric reduction. In 2018, the Health Building was renovated with a green roof, geothermal well and triple pane glass windows. Mike Mayher, executive vice president and treasurer, explains most energy waste happens when conditioned air escapes — exactly why Lakeland’s T Building sports a 20,600-square foot Solex roof. In fall 2023, construction starts on the new manufacturing center, which Mayher says will likely see solar panels.
Pint Sized Farm: Courtesy Great Lakes Brewing Co.
As the U.S. speeds toward green energy, some estimates say the country needs millions of new electric vehicle charging stations. This Cleveland-based centurion manufacturer of welding products, which found EV chargers are a much simpler technology than its welding equipment, is set to be a major player in the EV landscape. "There's not just a lot of public sentiment but a significant market opportunity," says Steven Sumner, Lincoln Electric's vice president of corporate innovation, "to add a significant amount of value with our experience in building reliable, rugged outdoor equipment." The company is also well-known for its 443-foot-tall wind turbine in Euclid.
Amid Highland Heights’ busy corporate jungle, Birch Cafe stands its ground. Bolstered by its local supplier (Green Paper Products) just six minutes away, the vegan shop uses all sustainable wares at its restaurant, from silverware to straws, napkins and bags made of recycled paper, to sugarcane takeout containers and sandwich boxes. “We were very fortunate to find someone locally who had all the products we need. Especially because during the pandemic we did so much takeout and curbside,” says owner Roxanne O’Brien Troke. “We have a lot of customers now who take their containers with them to put in their compost piles at home.”
Progressive Car: Courtesy Progressive
Mitchell’s Ice Cream
While savoring another spoonful of toasted pistachio at Mitchell’s in Ohio City, a mischievous cloud stifles the sun. Daylight sensors, art gallery-like LEDs along the wall, relight the space and dim when the sun's rays return. Mitchell’s Ohio City, Westlake and Strongsville locations also harvest non-potable rooftop rainwater, using it for toilet water and irrigation, thus reducing sewage overflow into Lake Erie. Plus, Mitchell’s uses permeable pavers in several parking lots to reduce pollutant runoff. “It’s about all of us together doing things that make sense, making a difference,” says co-owner Mike Mitchell.
A wave of 4,000 solar panels crest the land east of Interstate 271, feeding Progressive Insurance’s Campus 2 in Mayfield Village 2,300 annual megawatt hours. The company contracts 55,000-70,000 annual megawatt hours of power from the Casselman Wind Power Project in Pennsylvania. “We’ve been able to reduce our electric consumption by over 40%,” says Erik Rasmussen, Progressive’s sustainability program manager. In 2021, the company’s recycling program salvaged 548 tons of waste from its more than 300 offices. Currently, an EV pilot program is being assessed.