Editor’s note: This is part of a series looking at participants in Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Green Workplace Challenge. The second annual contest had a line up of more than 100 participants during the year ended May 31. Large and small firms, nonprofits, universities and government entities competed to see who could save the most energy, waste and water.
More than 30 years ago, a new development in duct work aimed at preventing leaks became the seed of a Charleroi company.
“It’s not very sexy,” said Peter Arnoldt II, whose grandfather Peter John Arnoldt invented a cutting-edge duct flange in 1978 that helped limit leakage in piping.
“From day one in 1978, it’s been a green product offering,” he said. “It reduces leakages, which are a huge drag on energy.”
The company that the product spawned — which, three decades later, still specializes in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) — wants to incorporate the practices it promotes to other businesses into its own operations.
“In the last 10 to 15 years, we decided that rather than talk the talk of sustainability, we should look internally to walk the walk as a sustainability leader,” said Mr. Arnoldt.
Last month, it was named a winner of the Green Workplace Challenge in the medium-sized business category. It is a parent company overseeing several affiliates, including the flagship Ductmate Industries.
The company earned 647 points in its category, more than triple the number awarded to its closest competitor, Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies, a water treatment company with offices in eight U.S. cities. DMI won recognition for water and energy conservation, as well as employee engagement, according to the Green Workplace Challenge website.
At DMI, a point system helps cultivate environmental stewardship, CEO Ray Yeager said. Employees who eat their meals on glass plates, rather than paper, get points. Skipping the elevator and taking the stairs nets people points as well.
“What happens is people start paying attention to what they’re doing, which changes the culture,”said Mr. Yeager.
Mark Smith, business development manager for DMI, said lunch-and-learn sessions encourage healthy habits. The company finds diverse ways of engaging employees, including dumpster dives at headquarters in Charleroi and a manufacturing facility in Monongahela, as well as composting initiatives in Monongahela.
Behavioral programs are often effective starting points for sustainable innovation because they don’t cost much, said Susan Mazur-Stommen, director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy‘s behavior and human dimensions program.
Cultural changes must complement technological upgrades, Mr. Arnoldt said.
Still, equipment upgrades do help. The company’s headquarters in Charleroi are housed in a retrofitted hotel-turned-First National Bank, now a national historic landmark.
A green roof includes solar panels. Old, energy-inefficient lighting fixtures are being replaced with newer models at the company‘s production facilities in Charleroi, as well as Lodi, Calif., and Tulsa, Okla.
Isaac Stanley-Becker: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3775. Twitter: @isb_isaac.