Winter Workshop 2017

Submitted by: Jim DeVries, Northeast YES! Coordinator

On March 31st teams from Virginia and Carlton participated in a waste reduction winter workshop.  The day started out at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC) where Chelly Thompson, the Associate Director of operations, gave us a wonderful tour.  Over the past ten years the DECC has made a commitment to reduce their impacts on the environment by strategically discouraging waste at their facility.  Part of their mission states: “We will operate our facility with the highest regard for environmental sustainability.”  They take this portion of their mission seriously and it was very evident during our tour.

With thousands of visitors visiting their facility annually, the efforts to reduce waste and energy impacts has truly made serious headway.  Chelly told our group that in the last ten years the facility has reduced their waste stream by approximately 40%.  Internally they have figured out how to recycle almost everything and if there was a product they were using that could not be recycled they found a suitable replacement.  We learned that the key was to have 100% support of the staff and to educate the visitor on proper disposal of each and every item.  One tip was that a recycling bin should be located right next to the trash can, because people are generally lazy when it comes to recycling and if they have to go to another location they simply won’t.

Energy is another area where they have begun to make great inroads.  They have recently installed motion sensors on most of their hallways so the lights are only on when people are traveling in the area.  They have also found innovative ways to save energy in the hockey arena.  The arena was the first LEED certified hockey arena in the country.  One example of how they met this certification is by the placement of the ice plant. Most are located at the far end to reduce noise and congestion, the DECC chose to centrally locate the ice plant so they don’t waste energy transporting the coolant to places that it is not needed.  They worked hard to sound proof the area to keep the excess noise from disturbing the fans.

After visiting the DECC we went to the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) to tour the waste water treatment facility.  At this facility they collect water from a 530 square mile area around Lake Superior. The plant processes over 40,000 gallons of water daily.  One of the innovative features they are planning on installing over the next two years is a biogas generator.  Two 825kW generators are expected to produce 35% of their energy needs. Currently the methane produced from this process is used to heat the buildings in winter and is burned off during the summer.

These two facilities operate on completely different philosophies; however they are both leaders in the environmental / sustainability movement here in NE MN.  The students walked away with a new appreciation of how big business can make an impact with planning and innovative ideas.  All were inspired to head back to their school and begin to implement some of the simple things that can make a difference.

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