Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and a senior White House staffer visited a Milton business last week to learn how to replicate energy-saving measures back in Washington.
The exemplar was Husky Injection Molding, Milton’s largest employer and the world’s leading plastic mold system manufacturer. Welch and Michael Boots, acting chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, visited Husky on May 2 for an overview of how the company saved $2 million in energy costs over 10 years.
“They’re really pushing the limits,” Efficiency Vermont’s Greg Baker said. “They’re trying to do more than just capital improvements.”
Boots and Welch saw this firsthand last Friday. Boots, President Barack Obama’s principal adviser on environmental policy, spent the previous day in southern Vermont viewing Tropical Storm Irene recovery efforts and ventured north to see a company putting Obama’s priorities in practice – and has been for more than a decade.
“Husky was into recycling before recycling was cool,” said John Ferraro, Husky’s global director of environment, health and safety.
Husky’s main product is a hot runner, a machine used to make molds for plastic products, anything from pipettes to shampoo bottle tops. It will even make a part to mold the forthcoming iPhone 6, Plant Manager Geoff Glaspie said. The company, with manufacturing facilities in Vermont, Luxembourg, Austria and China, has reach.
“Wherever you are in the world, chances are, four out of five times, you’re drinking out of a bottle that was made on a Husky system,” Glaspie said.
Husky officials outlined the company’s sustainability practices over muffins and Green Mountain Coffee. Presenters and guests each wore a lanyard with text reading, “I used to be a bottle.”
The Husky plant recycles 93 percent of waste, from steel to food scraps, producing just one compactor load of trash per month, said DeWayne Howell, Husky’s manufacturing technology manager.
That’s pretty impressive for a plant with 350 employees that has grown in production. At the same time, Milton’s Husky has cut kilowatt consumption to its 2005 use levels, a 38 percent savings in a decade.
“There’s all the altruistic reasons to do the energy conservation, but there’s compelling business reasons,” Howell said.
Baker said Husky achieved this with more than just switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs; it meters and monitors every machine and part of the manufacturing process to dial down energy use. Simply shutting down unused machines helps, too, Howell explained from the plant floor.
Husky shares its successes with eight other businesses in Efficiency Vermont’s continuous energy improvement pilot program. It’s surprising what a ski resort can learn from an equipment manufacturer, Baker said.
“All businesses have the same barriers – it’s at the end point, they’re making something different, but everyone has a process,” he said.
Welch, wearing a loaned pair of safety goggles, said there’s more than flipping a light switch to saving energy.
“A lot of these things have a good payback that you have to invest in,” he said. “We’ve gotta clone Husky.”
Boots said Welch is a leader in pushing the federal government to invest in some of these changes, though he admits bureaucracy means barriers.
“Broad policy only gets implemented if you find champions within each of these agencies, who are the facility managers,” Boots said.
Welch mentioned the federal energy savings performance contracts, awarded to private companies that audit government buildings and design products that pay for themselves within 25 years. He said Husky is a great example of a company that has already identified the needed steps to achieve those goals.
“For me to get a concrete example of how a company is actually saving money is the best and most persuasive argument I can make … whether it’s a congressman from a red state or a blue state,” Welch said. “That is the language of bottom line.”