It was February 2006 when Harbor Industries formally began its green efforts by forming a “Green Team” to carry out its initiatives, among them to address sustainability in its products and processes. “It was the right thing to do,” says Mike Hurchick, buyer/planner for the POP/store fixture manufacturer. “We wanted to be a leader in our industry and also show our support for the community.”

The Green Team started by looking at materials that were used in its finished products. It also looked at water usage, energy usage and even cleaning chemicals used in its processes and facilities. The goals were to: look for alternatives to the less environmentally friendly materials that were being used; look at ways to reduce the amount of energy being used at corporate headquarters and the manufacturing center, thus reducing the carbon footprint, and reduce the amount of water used in all applications, especially lawn maintenance.

Using the slogan, “Anything’s possible here,” Harbor Industries worked hard to educate employees on ways to implement green strategies and utilize sustainable designs. It says its efforts have been tangible and dramatic: Installing a satellite sprinkler system and monitoring moisture at the Grand Haven and Charlevoix locations lowered water usage 2.4 million gallons a year; installation of an Ecogate variable speed blower on the dust control system reduced average kilowatt hours of electricity by 93,650 a month, and new energy-efficient fluorescent lights in the Charlevoix plant replaced metal halide light fixtures at a net reduction of nearly 50 percent of kilowatt hours for lighting.

In the area of recycling, the company estimates it has diverted 1,195,606 pounds of manufacturing waste from landfills, earning $58,540. Wood scrap from both plants is sent to a cogeneration facility instead of going to a landfill. When company computers and other equipment are obsolete or out of use, the company sends them to specialists in the proper recycling of electronics to ensure they are disposed of properly.

With regard to the products it manufactures, Harbor is investigating alternatives to PVC, such as polypropylene, ABS, acrylic and polyester films. It already has made changes in its substrates, spurred by the California Air Resources Board’s Air Toxic Control Measure, switching its MDF and particleboard to materials with no-added formaldehyde that conform to CARB recommendations.

In February 2008, Harbor invited suppliers to a Sustainability Summit to discuss sustainable business practices, an event that will be ongoing.

Harbor Industries also is a proponent of sustainable design. “We recognize that as much as 75 percent of environmental waste occurs at the design phase of a project,” says Hurchick, “so our Green Team is working on an educational campaign to teach ways to incorporate the seven-step Low Impact Design process into daily thinking.

“The team also is continuing to assess the environmental impact of the products we manufacture,” he continues. “It’s not enough to make green products. We want to know that the products we make will not end up in a landfill in five to six years. A product isn’t green if it ends up in a landfill. We want to produce things that don’t get thrown away, but are recycled.”

For further education, Harbor sent Green Team members to a 10-session manufacturer’s user group at Aquanis College in Grand Rapids, hosted by leaders in the field of sustainability. Team members at both facilities have joined several organizations dedicated to sustainable design and education in sustainable material usage.

Fully involved employees
Harbor Industries’ dedication to green extends to employees, even beyond their work roles, to encourage a total mindset towards conservation. Both the Grand Haven and Charlevoix facilities have recycle centers for employees to drop off recyclables that are not picked up by their home curbside recycling. Last year, the company extended its electronics recycling service to employees, allowing them to bring in anything with a cord or batteries and recycling them with a local firm. It collected 5,940 pounds of recyclables from both facilities.

Other efforts include giving employees trees, reusable water bottles and CFL light bulbs and installing filtered water systems in break rooms.

“We put green suggestion boards at both plants. We have places where we can update people on news and information and we also solicit their green ideas and suggestions,” Hurchick says.

Financial impact and the future
Going green remains an ongoing process at Harbor Industries. The Green Team is working on a Corporate Social Responsibility report, aimed at offering a snapshot of its green activities today, as well as serve as a guide for future initiatives. At the end of 2008, it completed a thermal imaging study of the Grand Haven headquarters and is in the process of designing measures to address heat loss and energy savings. The Charlevoix facility is examining ways to attain LEED certification.

Has the company seen a tangible return on investment for its green practices? “Well, there’s not a lot of money in recycling,” laughs Hurchick. “It is about $20 a ton, and you incur costs sending it.
“We have seen major savings in some areas, such as electricity use, because of our Ecogate system that only activates the dust collection system when a machine is being used,” he adds. “Getting dollar back for dollar spent for our efforts isn’t our goal. Our return on investment is that we know what we are doing is ultimately good for the environment and is helping us meet our needs for a sustainable future.”

Harbor Industries Inc. has been designing and manufacturing custom point-of-purchase displays and store fixtures for more than 60 years. Founded in 1946, it offers interactive kiosks, CD merchandisers, card and basket displays. Its services include engineering, production, prototype development and graphic design, as well as project management and installation. Harbor’s reputation has enabled it to maintain long-term associations with clients, some dating back 40 years. The family-owned company is headquartered in Grand Haven, MI, with a 300,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Charlevoix, MI.

Harbor’s extensive waste management program includes the recycling of paper, plastic, metal and electronic items.

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